Didn't you want to fight, weren't ready to fight back?
Let's go back to the beginning of the war. Kurt von Tippelskirch, author of “Stories World War II ", who held a prominent post in the German General Staff on the eve of the Eastern campaign, was sure that the Soviet leadership was taking urgent measures to protect the country:
"The Soviet Union prepared for an armed conflict to the best of its ability."
But our home-grown "catastrophists" cannot be understood by any facts and assessments. In extreme cases, they have a simple move in reserve: "Well, yes, they did something, but that means not enough, since the Germans took Minsk on the fifth day." It is useless to argue with this audience, today I want to say something else. Is there any sense in the very discussion about the "readiness / unpreparedness of the USSR for war"? And what lies behind this most notorious "readiness"?
First, let's ask ourselves the following question number 5... Is the state capable, in principle, of winning a war for which it is not ready?
With sound reasoning, the answer is obvious: in the realities of modern times, of course, no. The total nature of confrontation and the dynamism of hostilities test the strength of all the components of the state mechanism. And, if in a critical situation life support systems have demonstrated the ability to self-development, it means that for this they have an appropriate potential, the state of which determines this very readiness for war.
The clearest example of this is the evacuation of production facilities, their deployment in the east of the country and re-profiling for defense needs. No threats of reprisals or outbursts of enthusiasm were able to provide such amazing results: in the first four months of the war, 18 million people and 2,5 thousand enterprises were removed from the attack of the aggressor.
And don't just take it out.
But also to equip, to employ a lot of people, to launch the production process at the evacuated factories, and even to master the production of new equipment. A country that possesses such an organizational, personnel, transport, and industrial resource and is able to use it so effectively has shown the highest degree of preparation for war.
So if there is a reason to talk about the degree of readiness, then only in relation to the beginning of the war, which in itself means a significant localization of the problem.
But here comes another question - no. 6... And what kind of war was Russia or the USSR ready for? Finnish? First World War? Japanese? Crimean? Patriotic in 1812? North?
I think that the reader will agree - in all these cases it would be, at least, an exaggeration to speak of complete readiness. Perhaps the exception is the Russian-Turkish wars. But in these cases, the theater of operations was located on the outskirts of the empire, and besides, the most brilliant victories occurred in the second half of the XNUMXth century, when the Russian army was the strongest in the world.
Particularly indicative is the example of the First World War, which began in a situation that would seem to be directly opposite to the circumstances of the German invasion of 1941. First, there is no suddenness or impetuosity. On June 28, 1914, Serbian nationalists killed Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Germany declared war on Russia more than a month later - on August 1, and active hostilities began a couple of weeks later.
In the pre-war years, no one had brainwashed the Russian people about the "war with little blood and on foreign territory," although it began just on foreign territory, namely, in East Prussia.
Nobody in the Russian army carried out personnel purges and "bloody massacres" over command personnel. All the generals, the officer corps, all the dear to our hearts lieutenants Golitsyns and cornets Obolensky were available. Moreover, the command of the armed forces of the empire had time to take into account the lessons of the Russian-Japanese war of 1904, which was done as far as possible and resources. And, perhaps most importantly, imperial Russia did not have to wait three years for the opening of the Second Front: Germany and Austria-Hungary immediately had to fight in the west and east.
However, under much more favorable conditions, the Russian army did not manage to achieve positive results for itself: for three years it did not conduct a single major offensive operation against the Germans - I emphasize, it was against the German army. If the Red Army, three years after the start of the Great Patriotic War, recaptured most of the lost territory and began to liberate Belarus and the Baltic states, the Russian army from August 1914 to August 1917 only retreated inland. Moreover, if we compare the pace of this retreat with the microscopic changes in the front line in the European theater of operations, it could well be called rapid.
Perhaps the fact is that the ruthless Stalinist marshals paved the road to victory with corpses, without hesitation, sacrificing thousands of soldiers' lives? Did the noble tsarist generals-humanists value them in every possible way? They may have treasured it, and even regretted it, only in the "imperialist" one for every killed German, on average, there were seven dead Russian soldiers. And in some battles, the ratio of losses reached 1 to 15.
The aggressor starts and wins
Let's set question number 7. But, perhaps, these are the Russians, who are not always ready for war? Then who was ready for World War II?
Perhaps England, whose soldiers fled on fishing schooners from Dunkirk and retreated under Rommel's blows in North Africa? An eyewitness to the outbreak of war, squadron commander of the Royal Air Force Guy Penrose Gibson, in his diary entries, was categorical:
"England was not ready for war, no one doubted that."
“The state of the army was just awful - almost no tanks, modern weapons, no trained personnel ... "
Gibson was disheartened by the state of affairs of the French allies.
"It seems that the French government has had a hand as much as ours in the collapse of the country's defenses."
Gibson's pessimistic conclusions confirmed the course of the German invasion of France in May 1940, when in 40 days one of the largest armies in the world (110 divisions, 2560 tanks, 10 thousand guns and about 1400 aircraft plus five divisions of the British Expeditionary Force) was torn apart by the Hitlerite Wehrmacht, like Tuzik heating pad.
What about Uncle Sam?
Maybe the Americans became an exception and began to beat the enemy, especially since at first they would not have to deal with the Germans? The United States began preparations for war only after the invasion of France by the Third Reich, but started quite briskly.
From June 1940 to April 1941, the Americans built or expanded over 1600 military establishments. In September 1940, a law was passed on selective conscription and military training. But all these energetic preparations did not prevent the catastrophe that befell the US Navy on the morning of December 7, 1941 at the Pearl Harbor Hawaiian base.
Accident? An annoying episode?
By no means - in the first months of the war, the Americans suffered one defeat after another. By April 1942, the Japanese defeated the Yankees in the Philippines, and only in June 1942, after the Battle of Midway Atoll, there was a turning point in the Pacific theater of operations. That is, like the Soviet Union, the US's path from the failed start of hostilities to the first major victory took six months. But we do not see the Americans convict President Roosevelt of failing to prepare the country for war.
To summarize: all rivals of Germany and Japan began their campaigns with crushing defeats, and only the geographical factor predetermined the difference in the consequences. The Germans occupied France in 39 days, Poland in 27 days, Norway in 23 days, Greece in 21 days, Yugoslavia in 12 days, Denmark in 24 hours.
The armed forces of the countries that had common land borders with the aggressor were defeated, and only the Soviet Union continued to resist. For England and the United States, the opportunity to sit out behind water barriers contributed to the fact that the first sensitive defeats did not lead to catastrophic results and made it possible to engage in the development of defense capabilities - in the case of the United States, in almost ideal conditions.
The course of the Second World War testifies: at the initial stage of the war, the aggressor gains a decisive advantage over the enemy and forces the victim of the aggression to exert considerable forces to turn the tide of the struggle. If these forces were present.
Another interesting question - no. 8... Were the Germans ready for war with the USSR?
Not to a successful start, but to bring it to a victorious end? For example, is it possible to speak of such readiness if, when planning a campaign in the East, Berlin proceeded from distorted and sometimes fantastic ideas about the military and economic potential of the Soviet Union? As the German historian Klaus Reinhardt notes, the German command almost completely lacked data on the preparation of reserves, the supply of reinforcements and the supply of troops deep behind enemy lines, on new construction and industrial production in the USSR.
It is not surprising that the very first weeks of the war presented the politicians and military leaders of the Third Reich with a lot of unpleasant surprises. On July 21, Hitler admitted that if he had been informed in advance that the Russians had produced such a large amount of weapons, he would not have believed and decided that this was disinformation. On August 4, the Fuhrer again wonders: if he knew that the information about the production of tanks by the Soviets, which Guderian reported to him, was true, then it would be much more difficult for him to make a decision to attack the USSR.
Then, in August 41, Goebbels makes a startling confession:
“We seriously underestimated the Soviet combat capability, and mainly the armament of the Soviet army. We did not even have an approximate idea of what the Bolsheviks had at their disposal. "
So, the Germans purposefully and thoroughly prepared for an attack on the USSR, but ... they did not really prepare. I believe that the Kremlin did not expect that the German leadership would make incomprehensible miscalculations in assessing the prospects for a war against the USSR, and this, to a certain extent, disoriented Moscow. Hitler was mistaken, and Stalin could not calculate this mistake.
As the American historian Harold Deutsch observed,
"At that time, few people realized that all normal and reasonable arguments could not be applied to Hitler, who acted according to his own, unusual and often perverse logic, challenging all arguments of common sense."
Stalin was simply physically unprepared to reproduce the Fuhrer's paranoid line of thought. The Soviet leadership, obviously, experienced a cognitive dissonance generated by the incompatibility between the obvious signs of Germany being prepared for a war against the USSR and the deliberate senselessness of such a war for the Germans. Hence the unsuccessful attempts to find a rational explanation for this situation, and probing demarches like the TASS note of June 14. However, as we have already shown, all this did not prevent the Kremlin from conducting full-scale preparations for war.
Sun Tzu's formula - "we say Russia, we mean England"
Question number 9... Is there any reason to regard the events of the beginning of the war for the Soviet Union as a catastrophe?
It would seem that the answer lies on the surface. Isn't the loss in a short time of a huge territory with the corresponding population and economic potential an obvious sign of such a catastrophe? But let's remember that Kaiser's Germany was defeated in the First World War, without giving up an inch of its land; moreover, the Germans capitulated when they fought on enemy territory. The same can be said about the Habsburg Empire, with the amendment that Austria-Hungary lost only a small area southeast of Lvov as a result of hostilities. It turns out that control over foreign territory is not at all a guarantee of victory in the war.
But the complete defeat of many units, formations and entire fronts - isn't that proof of a catastrophe! The argument is weighty, but not at all "reinforced concrete", as it might seem to someone. Unfortunately, the sources cite very different data on the losses of the warring parties. However, with any calculation methodology, the combat losses of the Red Army (killed and wounded) in the summer and autumn of 41 turn out to be minimal in comparison with other periods of the war.
At the same time, the number of Soviet prisoners of war reaches its maximum value. According to the German General Staff, in the period from June 22 to December 1, 1941, over 3,8 million Red Army soldiers were captured on the Eastern Front - a staggering figure, although, most likely, greatly overestimated.
But even this circumstance cannot be assessed unambiguously. First, it is better to be captured than killed. Many managed to escape and pick up again weapon... On the other hand, the colossal number of prisoners for the economy of the Third Reich turned out to be more of a burden than a help. The resources spent on maintaining, even in inhuman conditions, hundreds of thousands of healthy men, it was difficult to compensate for the results of ineffective slave labor, coupled with cases of sabotage and sabotage.
But now the reader has the right to ask the author his own question number 10... And what, then, is the decisive guarantee of victory in the war?
Here we refer to the authority of the outstanding ancient Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu. The author of the famous treatise on military strategy, The Art of War, believed that
“The best war is to smash the enemy’s plans; in the next place - to break his alliances; in the next place - to defeat his troops. "
So, the actual defeat of the enemy's forces is far from the most important condition for victory in the war, but rather a natural consequence of other achievements. Let's look at the events of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War from this angle.
On July 31, 1940, Hitler formulated the goals and objectives of the war against the USSR as follows:
“We will not attack England, but we will break those illusions that give England the will to resist ... The hope of England is Russia and America. If hopes for Russia collapse, America will also fall away from England, since the defeat of Russia will result in an incredible strengthening of Japan in East Asia. "
As the German historian Hans-Adolph Jacobsen concludes,
“By no means“ living space in the East ”... served as the main activating moment; no, the main impetus was the Napoleonic idea to smash England by defeating Russia. "
To achieve the set goals, the campaign needed to be carried out as soon as possible. Blitzrieg is not a desired result, but a forced decision; the only possible way for Germany to defeat the Soviet Union and, in general, to achieve world domination.
"The operation makes sense only if we smash this state with one blow,"
- Hitler asserted and was absolutely right.
But it was this plan that was buried by the Red Army. She retreated, but did not crumble, like the French or Poles, resistance increased, and already on July 20, during the Battle of Smolensk, the Wehrmacht was forced to go on the defensive. Albeit temporarily and in a limited area, but forced.
The numerous "cauldrons" into which the Soviet units fell as a result of the rapid sweeping maneuvers of the Wehrmacht, becoming hotbeds of fierce resistance, diverted significant enemy forces. So they turned into a kind of "black holes", devouring the most valuable and necessary resource for Hitler's success - time. No matter how cynical it may sound, the Red Army, desperately defending itself, wasting renewable resources in the form of personnel and weapons, took away from the enemy what he could not receive or restore under any circumstances.
At the top of the Reich, there were hardly any doubts on this score. On November 29, 41, the Minister of Armaments Fritz Todt told the Fuehrer:
"Militarily and politically, the war is lost."
But the "X" hour for Berlin has not yet come. A week after Todt's statement, Soviet troops launched a counteroffensive near Moscow. Another week passed, and Germany had to declare war on the United States. That is, Hitler's plan for the war - to defeat the Soviets, thereby neutralizing the United States and untie the hands of Japan, in order, ultimately, to break the resistance of England - collapsed completely.
It turns out that by the end of 1941 the Soviet Union had fulfilled two of the three precepts of Sun Tzu, took two most important steps to victory: broke the enemy's plan and, if he did not break his alliances, then seriously reduced their effectiveness, which, in particular, was expressed in Japan's refusal to attack the USSR. Moreover, the Soviet Union received strategic allies in the form of Britain and the United States.
Ivan Sintsov's syndrome
Question number 11... Why was the beginning of the Great Patriotic War so firmly rooted in the national consciousness as the greatest national catastrophe?
First of all, this is the result of the inevitable reaction to these events of their contemporaries - the consequences of the deepest psychological shock that the Soviet people experienced after the crushing defeats of the Red Army and its rapid retreat inland.
Here is how Konstantin Simonov describes the state of the protagonist of the novel "The Living and the Dead" in June 41:
“Never afterwards did Sintsov experience such a debilitating fear: what will happen next? If it all began, what will happen to everything that he loves, among what he grew up, for what he lived, with the country, with the people, with the army, which he used to consider invincible, with communism, which these fascists vowed to exterminate, on the seventh day wars between Minsk and Borisov? He was not a coward, but like millions of people, he was not prepared for what happened. "
Mental confusion, bitterness of losses and failures, captured by eyewitnesses of those terrible events in dozens of talented and outstanding works of literature and cinema, continue to significantly influence the idea of the Great Patriotic War among modern viewers and readers, and to this day, forming and updating the emotional image of "tragedy 41 years ”in the minds of generations who have not found the war.
This natural state of fear and confusion of the Soviet person in the face of the greatest threat began to be deliberately exploited in Khrushchev's times as illustrations serving the political goals of debunking the personality cult. Individuals, the army, and the people appeared to be victims of tragic circumstances, behind which, when prompted by official propaganda, one could guess if not Stalin's crimes, then his fatal mistakes. It was the wrong actions or the criminal inaction of the leader that were the reason for a serious test of the strength of ideals, confidence in the might of his country.
With the departure of Khrushchev, the relevance of this approach has faded. But by that time, the theme of the "catastrophe of the 41st" had turned into a kind of valor for the defiant liberals, which they tried to flaunt in every possible way, perceiving it as a rare opportunity to demonstrate their anti-Stalinism. What was previously a sincere and vivid artistic expression of several prominent writers and filmmakers became the lot of an ever-increasing number of artisans. And since perestroika, sprinkling ashes on heads and ripping clothes at every mention of the beginning of the war has become a ritual for anti-Soviet and Russophobes of all stripes.
Instead of an epilogue
We have already noted that the blitzkrieg was the only option in which the Third Reich could gain the upper hand in World War II. It has long been recognized that in 1941 the Red Army thwarted the blitzkrieg. But why then not bring this idea to its logical conclusion and not admit that it was in 1941 that the Red Army, with all the failures and flaws characteristic of it, predetermined the outcome of the war?
Or it is possible - and necessary - to put it more concretely: it was in 1941 that the Soviet Union defeated Germany.
But the recognition of this fact is hindered by circumstances that lie in the field of psychology. It is very difficult to "put" this conclusion in the mind, knowing that the war lasted three and a half years and what sacrifices our army and people had to bring before the Act of unconditional surrender was signed in Potsdam.
Finally, the last one for today question - no. 12... Why, despite the obvious outcome, the war lasted so long and required such an incredible effort?
The main reason is the unshakable position of the Nazi leader. Hitler believed in his lucky star, and in case of defeat, the Fuhrer had the following justification: if the German people lose the war, they are not worthy of their high calling. The German historian Berndt Bonwetsch points out:
“There was no way Germany could win this war. There was only the possibility of an agreement on certain conditions. But Hitler was Hitler, and towards the end of the war he behaved more and more insanely ... "
What could the Germans do after the failure of the Barbarossa plan?
Transfer the country's economy to a war footing. They coped with this task. And still, according to objective conditions, the military-industrial potential of the Third Reich and the countries conquered by it was significantly inferior to the capabilities of the allies.
The Germans could also wait for a gross error from the enemy. And in the spring of 42, they got such an opportunity after the failed Kharkov operation and the defeat of the Crimean Front, which Hitler took advantage of as effectively as possible, again seizing the strategic initiative. The military-political leadership of the USSR did not allow more such fatal miscalculations. But this was enough for the Red Army to find itself in a difficult situation again. Hardest, but not hopeless.
Germany still had to count on a miracle, and not only a metaphysical one, but also on a completely man-made character: for example, the conclusion of a separate peace or the creation of a "weapon of retaliation".
However, miracles did not happen.
As for the question of the duration of the war, the key factor here was the delay in opening the Second Front. Despite the entry into the war of the United States and the determination of England to continue the fight, until the landing of the allies in Normandy in June 44th, Hitler, led by continental Europe, in fact, continued to fight against one main rival in the person of the USSR, which to some extent compensated for the consequences of the failure blitzkrieg and allowed the Third Reich to campaign with the same intensity in the East.
As for the large-scale bombing of the Allied aviation territory of the Reich, they did not cause any noticeable damage to the German military-industrial complex, as wrote by the American economist John Gelbraith, who during the war led a group of analysts working for the US Air Force.
The invariable staunchness of the Russian soldier, the political genius of Stalin, the growing skill of the military leaders, the labor feat of the rear, the talent of engineers and designers inexorably led to the fact that the scales were tipping on the side of the Red Army.
And without opening the Second Front, the Soviet Union defeated Germany.
Only in this case, the end of the war would have happened not on May 45, but on a later date.