Joseph Stalin's contribution to victory in World War 2.

Most Dopers would probably agree that, compared to the Eastern Front, the rest of World War 2 - all its other theatres combined, were sideshows. The Germans lost over 2.7 million men against the Soviets, compared to 330, 000 against the western allies.

Stalin is responsible for more deaths than Hitler, but without the Soviets willing to shed blood the western allies would have taken a total pasting. So, what I want to know is - are apologists for Stalin correct in their assumptions that his leadership was crucial for victory?

To be specific, I’m talking about things like his recognition of Stalingrad as what it was - rushing all available troops towards it, moving the factories beyond the Urals, encouraging rivalries among his generals (like Zhukov and Rokossovsky) to achieve faster results and being utterly ruthless when it came to discipline, with the NKVD looking over everyone’s shoulder.

However, he was also completely sucker punched in Operation Barbarossa and was one of history’s most bloody tyrants.

Do the pros outweigh the cons? Could another of the Old Bolsheviks have done a better job, or was Stalin the only man for the job - a textbook case of evil defeating evil?

Well before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin liquidated much of his top military leadership.

He wilfully ignored many indications that he was about to be invaded by the Germans, including detailed information from his top spy in Tokyo.

His miscalculations caused the loss of many men and materials that could have brought the war to a successful conclusion sooner.

Stalin does not get credit for the vast resources and human resourcefulness of his subjects that were instrumental in defeating Hitler.*

So to sum up, a competent leader wouldn’t have plunged his nation into desperate straits in the first place, and would have been able to wage war as effectively as Stalin, using the tools he threw away.

*not to mention that tremendous resources that were provided to him by the West to aid in the struggle.

He did provide an outlet for the majority of German troops to fight against and fought to the bitter end to Berlin. But that was largely due to the Soviet people and Nazi stupidity rather than Stalin’s leadership.

Pretty much what Jackmannii said. Hell, he didn’t believe that the Germans would attack the Soviet Union even after they were already attacking, and IIRC he had a messenger executed for bringing him the initial news that the Germans were attacking.

The Soviets won in SPITE of Stalin, not because of the man. Even during the war he was nearly as bad as Hitler in ordering the military to do stupid shit that got a lot of Soviets killed needlessly.


The OP seems only to be focusing on Germany in WWII. What did the USSR do wrt Japan? I ask this out of honest ignorance, as I really don’t know. Victory in WWII was more than just victory against Germany.

Nothing till the end of the war (about a week before Japan surrendered) when it invaded Manchuria and Korea.

The bombs fell before Soviet boots set foot on Japanese soil, but they invaded Manchuria pretty late on. However, I ask the question in the context of the Great Patriotic War in the Russian mind - which is just against the Germans and their allies, by far the more important fight for the Soviets.

They began their invasion of Manchuria on August 9, three days after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. This took the Japanese completely by surprise as the Soviet–Japanese nonagression treaty was still in force.

Some scholars argue that it was the Soviet declaration of war that caused the Japanese decision to surrender, not the use of the atomic bomb. The Japanese had been attempting to reach a negotiated peace with the Allies through the Soviet government; that was obviously no longer a possibility.

Since the middle has already been answered, I’ll answer the first and last part. The reason most people focus on Germany is that the war in Europe was where the majority of the dying happened. The Soviets lost over 10 million soldiers killed, the Germans close to 6 million, the UK close to half a million and France and Italy close to 300k (there were a bunch of other countries involved too…you can check out the combat deaths here if you like). Contrast that to the 2-3 million Japan lost and the 3-4 million Chinese deaths and you can see where the majority of the causalities were. Also, Germany was considered the main threat. The allies basically talked the US into focusing on defeating Germany first, even though the reason we were brought into the war was the attack by Japan at Pearl Harbor.

You are right…victory in the war was more than victory against Germany, but Germany was considered the main threat at the time, and in retrospect they probably were. Japan was pretty fierce, but they were totally fighting out of their weight class, and were pretty much defeated by the time Germany finally threw in the towel, despite the fact that the majority of the allies effort was against Germany.


I was going to correct you about the treaty. The Soviets had withdrawn from it in April '45. I had never realized that it was still in force until April '46 until just now.

I’m not sure that the Japanese were “surprised” so much as willfully ignorant though. They had seen the troop build ups. There were even reports about when the Soviets would be ready to invade (anticipated in early September). And the Soviets had withdrawn their entire embassy staff from Japan in late July.

The German invasion of the USSR was as successful as it was because Stalin was utterly convinced that a German invasion at that time was the fabrication of an internal plot against him. How the Nazis convinced Stalin of this, or know that Stalin was susceptible to paranoia in this way I can’t say. But had the military not been purged and someone like Zukov been in charge, things would have been very different.

Actually the Soviet Union officially withdrew from the pact on August 5. Theoretically, it was still in effect because all the pact was was a pledge not to declare war on each other and both sides were still free to not declare war if they wished. But in reality, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan three days later.

I think you’re underestimating the casualties of the Asian war. Low-end estimates of the total death count in China (combatant and civilian) were over 10,000,000.

Let’s also not forget that Stalin’s vicious rule also left a lot of the people in Soviet Russia’s western territories so unhappy that the welcomes the Nazis … the FRICKING NAZIS!!! as liberators! Making the Nazi’s job a HELL of a lot easier, I’m sure. Or it would have, except that the the Germans treated the people who’d welcomed them in traditional Nazi fashion leaving them unhappy partisans attacking both sides. But if Stalin had treated his people better, the Nazis might have had a harder time of it in terms of local resistance as well. As it was …

Probably worth noting that this followed their agreement with the Allies to the letter. The Soviets had agreed to attack Japan within three months of the close of hostilities in Europe and this they did, to the very day. The campaign was also almost textbook perfect - the fairly powerful Japanese Kwantung Army was absolutely crushed.

Some “scholars” believe that the world was created six thousand years ago and they’re about as believeable as the unnamed scholars you’d have us consider.

I was only talking about combatants. If you look at the link I gave, you can see the civilian causalities as well. The death toll in Europe was much higher when you start factoring in civilians as well. The Germans killed 6-7 million Jews, Gypsies and other ‘undesirables’ alone, and that doesn’t count the 2-3 million German civilians who died, or the 10-14 million Russians.

I’m not trying to down play how vicious the fighting was in Asia, or take away from what happened there, but the main focus of the fighting and dying happened in Europe…Asia was more a side show for most of the world, unfortunately.


The comparison is not valid. Creationism and biblical literalism flatly contradict so many well-established scientific facts that they can’t be considered viable competitors for conventional scientific theory. In a debate over the Soviet role in ending the Pacific war, there is room for honest disagreement, and nothing which is known to be physically impossible is being proposed. It is entirely plausible to theorize that the Soviet entry into that theater of war was the final blow that ended the war; there is no plausibility whatsoever in a literal interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis.

Stalin also extracted an enormous amount of reparations from East Germany after the war. I have heard 25% of the national GDP went to the Soviets. They also confiscated, among other things, all the remaining steel railroad track from East Germany. The excessive reparations were lifted after Stalin’s death.

I guess it is no secret the Soviet army was instructed to rape every woman in East Germany as the war concluded too. Stalin’s conduct of the war, and the following peace are both cause for criticism.

Instructed? No, the troops were simply out of control, and their officers didn’t much feel like protecting German women. Nobody needed to instruct or order them at all. Russians had very little love for Germans at the end of the war.