German soldiers crossing the state border of the USSR
The successes of the German blitzkrieg
Hitler viewed the USSR's armed forces as poorly organized eastern hordes that could be easily dispersed, dissected, surrounded and destroyed. He was partly right. If in material terms the Soviet Union achieved tremendous success, then in the moral and psychological sphere it was an unstable system in a dangerous period of development. The transformation of Russia has just begun, and Soviet civilization could have been knocked out on takeoff.
Therefore, the Germans tried to destroy the USSR with a blitzkrieg, which was accompanied by a powerful psychological impact on the Soviet people. The Nazis have already successfully tested this strategy in Poland, France and Yugoslavia. The Germans have done a lot for this. They refused total mobilization, but they prepared much better for an attack on Russia than for the Polish or French campaigns.
As a result, we have achieved overwhelming success:
1. We were able to misinform the Kremlin: when the troops were concentrated in the east, the impression was created that the Germans were not ready for war. That they are afraid of an attack by the USSR and are strengthening the defense on the eastern flank.
Indeed, they were not prepared for a long war. Only to a swift offensive campaign, a series of crushing blows from which the enemy must collapse. Then an easy walk, the occupation of important areas and points, agreements with new regimes in the vastness of the collapsed Union. The Germans were preparing not for the classic war of the industrial powers, but for a war to defeat the consciousness of the enemy, for a grandiose subversive operation, the explosion of the USSR from within.
2. Skillful actions of special forces and German agents created hotbeds of chaos and panic in the border areas.
3. They used their new tactics of the air force at full power, showing the wonders of organizing strikes, centralized use aviation, the precise destruction of key points of the Russian defense, the use of communications and guidance from the ground. The Soviet Air Force was virtually defeated, often on the ground. The bombers were left without fighter cover and died in masses. The bombings of Minsk, Kiev and other cities were in the nature of psychological, demoralizing blows. They led to a panic that gripped millions of people.
4. The Germans were able to fully use the effect of surprise, lightning war and a new weapons... They threw into the breakout perfectly organized tank and motorized divisions. German mobile units were inferior to the Soviet ones in the number of tanks, but they were far ahead of them in terms of organization and thoughtfulness of weapons and equipment. Plus skillful interaction with artillery and aviation. The Germans did not bind themselves to the capture of strongholds and nodes of resistance. The Nazis, meeting stubborn defenses, bypassed such areas, easily found weak spots in the enemy's battle formations (it was impossible to cover everything) and rushed forward. The appearance of German tanks in the rear often caused panic, disorder in the "raw" Soviet divisions, and the general defense collapsed. The Nazis went further, did not stop to consolidate the result.
Thanks to this, the Nazis literally crushed the USSR cadre army in the west of the country, staging a mind-boggling military catastrophe in Belarus and Ukraine. They swiftly captured the Baltic States with its ports, paralyzed the Soviet Baltic Fleet. Locked large surface ships and submarines in the narrow Gulf of Finland, dooming them to capture when the German and Finnish divisions take Leningrad. As a result, Berlin secured its communications in the Baltic, through which the Reich received metals from Scandinavia. Success in the southern direction removed the threat of strikes on oil fields in Romania and Hungary. In the wake of the first successes, German divisions broke through to Leningrad, the second capital of the USSR, captured Kiev and ended up at Moscow. In the south, they broke through to the Crimea.
What was wrong with the Fuhrer
The main blunder of Hitler and his entourage is the assessment of the Soviet elite.
She was judged by the example of the Civil War and the 20s. When among the Bolsheviks there were several major leaders, factions, parties, groups. There was a tough struggle for power. Intrigues, quarrels, elimination of the unwanted. But in 1941 everything was different.
The leader was alone. A steel man who went through exile, the Civil War, the fight against the Trotskyists and other "deviations". This was not a typical Western democratic politician who, at the first threat, falls into a stupor and hysteria. Contrary to the myth that was spread during the years of "perestroika" and the democratic "victory" of the 90s, Stalin did not panic and fled the Kremlin in the first days of the war. He retained control of the situation and from the first day of the Great War worked hard to repel the Nazi invasion, overcoming monstrous defeats. The leader's steel will bore fruit.
The General Staff, government, party and military command worked. Commanders and Red Army men fought to the death. In the occupied cities and regions, pockets of resistance immediately arose, underground fighters and partisans, ready to die for the sake of a lofty idea.
There was no internal explosion either (Why Stalin destroyed the revolutionary elite). Before the war, Stalin and his associates neutralized most of the "fifth column". The remnants of the Trotskyist internationalists went underground, hiding under the guise of devoted Stalinists. Therefore, there were no military revolts, possible Bonapartes were cleaned out.
It is also worth noting that the Germans had to deal with a different society than in the West.
There was no freedom of speech and mass media in the USSR, which the Germans used to spread terror and panic in Western Europe. The Western press and radio were of great help to Hitler and his generals. They turned one or two paratroopers (or there were none at all) into whole airborne divisions, the actions of a few border agents into a powerful "fifth column" of traitors. We found German tanks where there weren't any, etc. As a result, the people turned into a running herd, armies into disorganized crowds. And the authorities, with their hasty, inept actions, only worsened the situation, they themselves broke the control system.
In the USSR, they knew how to deal with alarmists. The radio receivers were seized, which made it possible to avoid the enemy's informational influence on the minds of Soviet citizens. There was no TV or Internet then, and newspapers, newsreels and radio were completely under the control of the Soviet government. The Germans were left with only leaflets and the spread of rumors. But this could be stopped. Thus, panic and hysteria were avoided throughout the country.
Stalin demonstrated the will to fight to the end. The people felt it. And the Germans from the very beginning felt the fierce resistance of the Russians, which did not weaken, but intensified. It was about the steel will of the Soviet leader that the German blitzkrieg broke.
Stalin prepared the country and society for a big war. The people were preparing for labor and defense, for the worst turn of events. The country was saved by the fact that in the 30s, despite all the economic benefits, a new industrial base was created in the east. Developed a new industrial base in the Urals and Siberia. The Ural and Siberian ores were of inferior quality than those in the Donbass. Production in the east was more expensive than in the west of the country. But he was persistently raised. The second oil industrial base was developed between the Volga and the Urals. Created by the Magnitogorsk and Kuznetsk metallurgical giants. In the Far East, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, an aviation and shipbuilding center, was raised. All over the country, backup plants for mechanical engineering, metallurgy, oil refining, chemistry, etc. were created. At the same time, they had to work independently, if possible, at the local raw material base. During the war, when the southern and northwestern industrial regions were lost and the central region was under attack, the Urals saved the entire country.
Before the war, the emphasis was on the development of the regions. In each region, industries are being created that must satisfy its basic needs for fuel, building materials, energy, food, etc. Livestock and vegetable bases are being created around large cities. Gardening is developing. Stalin creates strategic reserves, insures the country against the worst scenarios. And this saved the country in 1941, when we lost the entire western part of Russia!
Why did the war become "unexpected"
The Nazis were able to organize an unexpected strike. They managed to present the pulling together of their forces to the East as a deceit, disinformation. Hitler managed to wage a successful information and psychological war, giving Moscow the impression that he was not going to strike first. This allowed the Wehrmacht to take full advantage of the surprise effect and sweep away the battle formations of the Red Army on the western border (especially in Belarus).
During the years of glasnost, perestroika and the formation of the Russian Federation, the myth of Stalin's "gullibility" was created. They say that the Soviet leader, because of his stupidity and stubbornness, did not heed the numerous warnings about the impending aggression of the Third Reich. Stalin did not believe his intelligence officers, various well-wishers of the USSR and reports from England. Therefore, I am to blame for all the troubles and failures of the USSR. Plus Beria, who played along with the owner and sent everyone who came with bad news to the Gulag.
However, pretty soon serious military research appeared, which smashed this version to smithereens. Stalin was not a gullible fool. He possessed a gifted mind, an iron will and developed intuition, otherwise he would not have become the leader of the USSR-Russia in a critical era. There were a lot of reports, the dates were different. It was obvious that England wanted to confront the Russians and the Germans again, as in 1914. Therefore, the "warnings" from London were more like misinformation. Stalin really did not want the Russians to fight again for British interests.
It is also worth remembering that Hitler and Stalin were different types of leaders. Stalin is an iron logician, a rationalist. Hitler relied more on intuition, his insights. The Soviet leader knew that Germany was not ready for a classic war of attrition. Intelligence worked well: Moscow knew that Germany had not carried out a total mobilization. The Germans have small reserves of strategic raw materials. The army is not ready for the winter campaign: there is no winter uniform, frost-resistant lubricant for equipment and weapons.
Second front factor
The Kremlin knew that the German generals most of all fear a war on two fronts, which destroyed Germany in the First World War. The Reich had an unfinished England in the west, which had already recovered and strengthened its military capabilities. There were hostilities in North Africa, it is possible that the Germans, after Greece and Crete, will land troops in the Middle East. Or they will storm Malta, and then Egypt. It was all logical and reasonable.
Thus, it was reasonable that Germany would not go to war with Russia until the problem of England was solved. And even without mobilizing the economy. The deployment of German divisions on the border with the USSR could be easily explained. Berlin could have feared a surprise blow from the Russians while they dealt with England. It is logical to prepare a powerful barrier in the East, since the Fuhrer has enough troops now. The Cretan operation acted as a rehearsal for a larger operation to seize the British Isles.
Stalin knew that the British Empire was in a very dangerous position. Hitler could throw the main forces of the Air Force and the Navy against England, increase the production of submarines, disrupt the enemy's sea communications. Really prepare an amphibious operation in England, linking up all the land, air and sea forces of the enemy. Capture Malta together with the Italians. Put pressure on Franco and take Gibraltar. Landing troops in Syria and Lebanon. Strengthen Rommel's grouping in Libya and crush British forces in Egypt with two counter strikes. Then rebuild a friendly regime in Iraq. Drag Turkey to your side, etc. In general, if Hitler wanted a real victory over England, he could well have done it.
The only hope of the British for salvation was the clash between the Russians and the Germans. Stalin remembered very well how France and England saved their empires in 1914-1917, fighting the Second Reich "to the last Russian soldier." And even earlier, Britain could use Tsarist Russia to crush Napoleon's empire. In both cases, the British, with the help of misinformation, deception, bribery, intrigue, loans and a palace coup (the assassination of Tsar Paul), thwarted attempts at rapprochement and alliance of Russia with France and with imperial Germany. Thus, the British saved their world empire. It is obvious that the British did not betray their political principles in the late 30s and early 40s. Together with the French, they tried with all their might to send the Third Reich to the East. True, Hitler first decided to settle the French question.
After the defeat of France, the secret policy of England remained unchanged. The British tried to play off the Russians and the Germans. Therefore, the secret reports of the British about the impending German attack on the USSR were very much like disinformation. For Stalin to succumb to the provocation and hit Germany first.
With these facts before his eyes, the rationalist Stalin did not believe in Hitler's attack in the spring and summer of 1941. For all the logical reasons, this could not happen. The war was expected around 1942, when Hitler would solve the problem of the second front.
The problem was that the Fuhrer was not a rationalist, his thinking was not analytical, but intuitive. Hitler rushed into battle without bringing the country and the economy to a state of full readiness, without sufficient reserves of raw materials, and without even preparing the army for the winter campaign.
True, he had a secret agreement with London that there would be no real second front. Hitler knew that while he was smashing Russia, England and the United States would not interfere.
In addition, there is information that it was not possible to completely suppress the "fifth column" in the Red Army. Moscow, just before the start of the war, brought the armed forces to full combat readiness. But some generals sabotaged this directive. Therefore, the troops of the NKVD and the fleet were ready for an enemy attack, but the units of the Red Army in Belarus were not.
Hence the catastrophe in the central strategic direction, which did not exist at the very beginning of the war in Ukraine.