The rotten empire vs. Stalin’s strategic genius

John Schindler has written a number of posts on the less known or commonly misunderstood campaigns of WWI, including Isonzo and Galicia. The Soviet take on Russia’s role in WWI, as taught at schools and colleges, was that the war was unnecessary and bloody and the army was incompetently commanded and inadequately supplied. An exception was made for the Brusilov breakthrough, since it was a major military achievement and Brusilov joined the Red Army after 1917.

Yes, WWI was probably as avoidable in the Russian theater as in the others. Yes, the casualty count was enormous, owing to the front line extending from the Baltic Sea to the Carpathian mountains and later, after Romania’s disastrous entry, almost to the Black Sea. Yes, logistics was a mess. The Russian army suffered a terrible setback at the start of the war, at Tannenberg, East Prussia. But, unlike the Red Army in 1941, the Russians, under the supposedly incompetent imperial generals, managed to stop the German offensive without losing much land in 1914. In Galicia, they advanced well into Austrian Ukraine that fall.

In contrast, during WWII the Nazis took Minsk — 400 km from the USSR’s western border — less than a week after they had invaded on June 22, 1941. They occupied Kyiv — the third most important city in the country — less than three months into the war, in September 1941. Also in September, the German army encircled Leningrad, the second-largest Soviet city. On the weekend of October 14-16 there was panic, looting and general disorder in Moscow on rumors that the city was about to be abandoned to the Nazis. The Germans got as close as twenty miles to the Kremlin.

That Red Army lost more men in 1941 than Russia did in all of WWI.


  1. That Red Army lost more men in 1941 than Russia did in all of WWI.

    Blimey. That certainly puts things into perspective.

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