Stalin’s Wars

I have in my hands a lovely thick book (800+ pages) by a non-Marxist historian – Geoffrey Roberts – called Stalin’s Wars. I can’t wait to sink into it over the next few days while in the bush. To whet one’s appetite, Roberts states his main theses:

First, that Stalin was a very effective and highly successful war leader. He made many mistakes and pursued brutal policies that resulted in the deaths of millions of people but without his leadership the war against Nazi Germany would probably have been lost. Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt – they were all replaceable as warlords, but not Stalin. In the context of the horrific war on the Eastern front, Stalin was indispensable to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Second, that Stalin worked hard to make the Grand Alliance a success and wanted to see it continue after the war. While his policies and actions undoubtedly contributed to the outbreak of the cold war, his intentions were otherwise, and he strove in the late 1940s and early 1950s to revive détente with the west. Third, that Stalin’s postwar domestic regime was very different to the Soviet system of the prewar years. It was less repressive, more nationalistic, and not so dependent on Stalin’s will and whimsy for its everyday functioning. It was a system in transition to the relatively more relaxed social and political order of post-Stalin times.

Plenty to chew on, even with its mix of thorough debunking of some stereotypes and the perpetuation of others.


10 thoughts on “Stalin’s Wars

  1. I’ll read that book. Given Stalin’s military blunders in the Russian Civil War and in the 1920 Polish-Soviet War, I am curious to see what military genius did Stalin depict in WWII.

    1. Deep into the book while away from the world in the bush – all I had was a fire and some cold water and the book on Stalin. Many juicy parts to come in the next few days.

  2. A long time ago when I was a postgrad, and Paul Tillich was in his theological heyday, this item did the rounds.

    Archaeologists were digging somewhere in Palestine when they came across a cave containing the remains of someone who was indisputably that executed rabbi from Nazareth. They communicate their findings to the Vatican, and the Pope, alarmed at the prospect of a falsification of the doctrine of the resurrection, decides to get the advice of the world’s leading theologians. He phones Tillich about the archaeological discovery. When he finishes, there is a long silence, and the deeply sonorous voice with the German accent at the other end says: “You mean, he actually existed?”.

  3. “Indispensable” is quite a statement. It’s saying that the Allies still win if Roosevelt dies in 1941 and Wallace takes over (debatable), or if Churchill is hit by a bus in 1940 and Eden takes over (probably true), but that replacing Stalin by, say, Molotov or Bulganin or _anyone else at all_ inevitably means defeat. Even Zhukov couldn’t have won the war!

    1. Absolutely. Further, bythe time the small diversionary force of British, Americans and Australians landed in Normandy, the Second World War had already been won by the Russians under Stalin. Churchill had initially agreed to a second front with Stalin for 1942, but kept putting it off. Meanwhile the Russians had knocked out the Wehrmacht.

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