The Soviet leader for the duration of World War II was Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Communist Party for thirty years from 1922. Stalin was an infamous figure who represented a bleak period in Russian history but he is often credited for astute and cunning leadership during the conflict and a presence that contributed greatly to the allies’ ultimate victory.
Russia and the outbreak of the war
In August 1939, Russia entered into a non-aggression pact with Hitler’s Germany but this wasn’t merely an act of pacifism. Stalin’s intention was to regain some of the territories that had been lost in previous conflicts and he therefore set about regaining areas of Poland, Finland and parts of the Baltics.
Otherwise, Russia stayed away from the conflict but that was set to change in 1941.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that Stalin had agreed with Hitler came to nothing when the Nazi’s invaded Russia in 1941. The Soviet Union had now been drawn into the Second World War and sided with the Allies against the invading force.
It’s widely known that this odd course of action ultimately spelt the end for Hitler and Germany but in the early stages of their invasion, it was clear that they were making some significant inroads against the unsuspecting Soviets.
The Soviet Army was forced back by the Nazis and Stalin’s forces suffered some heavy losses. It’s widely known that Stalingrad was the war’s denouement but earlier battles were significant too in redressing the balance of power.
The two battles of Moscow took place between October 1941 and January 1942 and were codenamed Operation Typhoon by the Nazi forces. This was a hugely significant part of the overall conflict as a successful invasion of the Soviet capital could have effectively dealt a blow to Stalin from which he may never have recovered.
The Nazi’s own pincer movement was however thwarted by three Soviet belts of defence and after the invading forces were finally worn down, the final Soviet counter offensive was successfully launched in December 1941.
The final act
History tells us that the Nazi’s were woefully ill equipped for the harsh conditions that greeted them at the Battle of Stalingrad. Unable to endure harsh winters, the demoralised forces were ultimately defeated and World War II began to draw to a close.
As part of the War’s final act, Joseph Stalin headed the Soviet delegation at Yalta and Potsdam which was to shape the future of Europe after the war. He had been the Russian leader during ww2 but there are conflicting stories as to how much he really contributed.
Stalin relied heavily on military geniuses such as Georgy Zhukov and Aleksandr Vasilevsky, who led the campaign at the battle of Moscow. Meanwhile, it’s claimed in some quarters that Stalin took to ice skating as a means for taking his mind off the terrible conflict.
However, that is also seen by some parties as a hugely unfair comparison. The conclusion therefore is that Stalin’s impact on World War II is very much open to personal interpretation.