Kontynuacja odcinka 3

So that the war with Germany planned for July 1941 would not break out too early, the Kremlin ruler required that all obligations of the Soviet Union arising from the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact be strictly respected. It was not just business. NKVD (the People´s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) turned in more than 800 German communists to the Gestapo and the USSR continued procuring war material to Germany. Stalin considered the growing German aggression to be provocation and spy games. When Tupikov, the chief army attaché at the Berlin embassy brought details of German plans in June 1941 and his information was confirmed by ambassador Dekanozov, Lavrentij Berija required permit from Stalin to punish his inappropriately eager subordinates. Berija was the head of the Bolshevik safety apparatus and controlled also the civil and military intelligence. As late as on 21st June 1941 Berja assured Stalin in a letter that his opinion was ‚correct’: “Josif Vissarionovitch, I and my people have very well remembered your wise forecast: Hitler would not attack us in 1941.”

In May 1941 the offensive formations of the Red Army started moving towards the starting points by the western border of the USSR. Defence equipment recently built in these locations was removed so that it would not obstruct the progress of military troops. At the beginning of June 1941 most army air force moved over to field airports close to the western border. The offence was to be commanded by General (later Marshal) Ivan Konev, but the date originally planned for 12th June could not be fulfilled due to logistic problems. Wermacht also failed to fulfill its original plans. In spring 1941 they had to help their Italian ally who got stuck in unsuccessful fights in Greece and Yugoslavia. Germans postponed their attack from May to June 1941. The delay by five warm weeks due to the Balkan crisis probably caused, if not the complete defeat of the Germans, then at least the failure of the first German attack. In spite of the delay Moscow managed to gather almost 80% of their military forces at the bases by the western border.

The Red Army was the strongest power in the world at that time. As of 22nd June 1941 the army comprised 5.8 million soldiers, 117 600 canons and mortars, 25 700 tanks, 18 700 airplanes. On 20th June citizens of the USSR learned from the media that ‚Every day and every hour imperialists could attack the Soviet Union and we have to prevent such an attack by our own offensive act’. The date when this act was to take place was delayed by a month. However, at the break of 22nd June ‚imperialists’ surpassed the Soviet plans.

Everyone was helpless at first. After all commanders were ordered not to respond to any German provocations! Therefore, anti-aircraft defence frequently even failed to shoot at Luftwaffe bombers flying over their troops. Stalin was so shocked that he did not communicate with anyone for many hours. Chief Commanders were completely paralysed at the beginning. The first orders were limited to nonsense sentences such as ‚Drive away the perfidious offender!’ Several days later panic spread around at the battle front as well as at the background. In spite of huge losses soldiers proved to be extremely brave and selfless. Beside the delay in the attack, this was the main reason why Germans failed to conquer Moscow. Therefore, Leningrad was the first Russian city seriously endangered by the war.

At that time many Leningrad citizens had a reason to welcome Germans as liberators. Citizens of the Soviet Union had no idea about the real concept of Nazism, equally brutal and tyrannical as Stalinism. Ordinary Soviet citizens never travelled abroad and they knew Germany only from information provided by their own propaganda. In spite of that many Leningrad citizens remained ‚true’ to Petersburg. They nostalgically remembered the shine of the former tsarist capital even though most of them did not long for the return of the tsarist regime. There was a high number of people who hated bolshevism. Many of them were persecuted by the “red totality” – religious people, members of national minorities, remaining members of affluent middle-class (‚bourgeoisie’ and ‚kulaks’ as addressed in Bolshevik terminology), pre-revolutionary intelligence. Even most members of the new educated class, who approved of Communism, did not reject the regime and supported the victory in the war against the Nazi, hoped for a change. People of free, independent thinking, artists, scientists and yes, also chess champions, all of these hoped for a more dignified way of life. They hoped that the war would result in a more released situation and more civil freedoms. However, enormous suffering came instead of that and, moreover, the Bolshevik government started requiring bloody sacrifice to the ‚altar of the country’.

Zdeněk Vybíral



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