German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact
On August 1939, the German-Soviet Non-Agression Pact was announced. This was a shocking revelation to the world as it was widely known that the two countries were enemies. For one thing, Hitler hated Communism and Stalin was afraid of the growth of German power. However, this pact was signed because it suited both their purposes. This pact stated that the USSR was to remain neutral if Germany attacked Poland and Poland would be divided amongst the 2 countries under a secret agreement. This pact allowed Stalin to gain time and put off the German threat while he prepared the Russian army.
Operation Barbarossa, 1941
Operation Barbarossa was a code name for the German plan to invade the USSR. However, due to problems Mussolini and the Italians were facing, this operation was slowed down and delayed. This proved detrimental to the attack as the delay cost Hitler six weeks of good weather. By the time he attacked the USSR, winter was approaching and he was forced to fight a winter war. The Germans were totally unprepared for this while the Soviets were thoroughly prepared with protective clothing for soldiers etc.
As a result, Hitler was unable to gain the quick victory he needed. At first, Hitler was winning the war against the USSR as the USSR was severely crippled after the Great Purge as a great many experienced generals were removed and replaced. The Germans gained land quickly and the Russians were constantly pushed back. As a result, Hitler grew increasingly confident despite the bad weather conditions. He attacked Leningrad as he hated Communism through and through and wanted to destroy the brithplace of Communism. This attack failed as the Leningraders within resisted with all their might and cost Hitler many German soldiers and war materials.
Furthermore, Hitler was determined to destroy Stalingrad as well. Despite the need to capture Caucasus, an important oil supply, Hitler went ahead throwing soldiers and supplies at Stalingrad in an attempt to destroy the city named after Stalin. Germany's blitzkrieg tactics did not work well as the fighting was pushed into the city itself. Furthermore, their flanks were poorly guarded and this proved to be their Archilles' Heel.
The Soviet general, Zhukov, saw this weakness in the German troops and seized the oppurtunity. This was named Operation Uranus. The Red Army secretly began to mobilize one million troops, 14,000 heavy guns, 979 tanks, and 1,350 aircraft to attack German flanks. On November 19, Soviet forces from the Southwestern Front and Don Front attacked Romanian, Italian , and Hungarian positions. The front collapsed as fast moving soviet troops began encircling German Army Group B from the North and South. This created a panic among the German soldiers, trying frantically to get out of the encirclement. Within four days, the two Soviet armies met 60 miles west of Stalingrad. The German 6th and 4th Panzer armies were completely surrounded, a total of 330,000 men. The Armies tried to break out but failed.
In the months of December and January, the German 6th Army fought a desperate contest against Soviet forces. Hitler ordered that the German Armies may not surrender, that they must fight to the bitter end. Most of the soldiers followed Hitler's orders and fought heroically to the death. Finally, with no food and supplies, the situation for the Germans looked bleak. The Army was on the verge of starvation. Field Marshall Paulus had no choice but to surrender what was left of the 6th Army and 4th Panzer Army. The Casualties in the battle of Stalingrad were catastrophic for both sides. The Germans lost 147,000 men and 91,000 were taken prisoner. The Red Army paid a huge price for victory, some half million men were killed in the battle. The battle of Stalingrad showed to the world that the mighty German war machine was vulnerable. It gave overwhelming confidence and strength to the Red Army. Also, the battle became the turning point on the Eastern Front. The Red Army began to slowly push the invaders out of the Soviet Union.
D-Day, 6 June 1944
D-Day was the day the Allies launched the Second Front that Stalin had been waiting for since mid-1941. However, it was only launched 3 years later. This was a result of the fact that the other Allies wanted to avoid full scale fighting with Germany until they were sure that Germany would be unable to resist. This was a result of the large amount of casualties during World War I when there was full scale fighting.
Another reason for the delay was the fact that the Allies wanted the "two vices" of Europe to fight it out and weaken each other till a point where when they interfered, their losses would be minute, compared to that of the other two sides. These two vices were, of couse, the USSR and Germany. This discredited the Allies greatly and was part of the reason which led to the Cold War later on. However, despite all this, Germany was defeated in the end and the War was ended.
The Peace Treaties and the USSR
Although the USSR suffered many losses during the World War, it also benefitted greatly from the territorial changes made after World War Two as a result of its participation. It regained all the territories in Europed it had lost after World War One. It gained part of East Poland, thus restoring the original eastern border set at Versailles in 1919. It also acquired the three Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. In addition, it secured Ruthenia from Czechoslovakia, half of East Prussia from Germany and the Kurile Islands as well as Sakhalin from Japan.
Communist Russia under Stalin
The Cold War in the West