Historians have debated the role of Stalin in the Soviet Union’s victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45. Soviet historians at first highlighted his massive contribution, but as Stalin’s role came under scrutiny during the period of Destalinisation Soviet commentators did cast doubt on his ability as a war leader. Western historians have been more critical of Stalin’s leadership and have placed it in context of the many other factors that contributed to the victory, such as strength of the economy, the mistakes of Nazi tactics and strategy and the sheer bravery and commitment of Soviet Soldiers and citizens. In this essay it will be shown how Stalin’s leadership contributed to the success of the Soviets but it will be made clear it was not the most important factor.
Support of the view that Stalin’s leadership was particularly important: He learned to promote and give scope to skilled individuals such as Marshal Zhukov After initial hesitation, Stalin’s leadership was strong and unflinching. Stalin overcame his initial loss of nerve at the time of the German invasion in 1941 and succeeded in symbolising resistance against Germany. Acted as a figurehead
Stalin made good appointments, e.g. Zhukov, and set up powerful institutions such as Stavka. The unifired command structure, Stavka, run by Stalin, proved effective in directing the war effort. Political, military and economic strategy was coordinated. PEARSON: "At a critical moment he proved himself to be resolute and decisive"
Stalinist propaganda, e.g. appealing to Mother Russia, was masterful. Stalin learned to appeal to patriotism rather than Communism to galvanise popular resistance to the Nazis
Stalin was closely involved in economic and military planning as well as political leadership and diplomacy, exercising wider control and involvement than any other war leader
Foresaw the danger of war and the Five Year Plans prepared Russia’s economy for the clash with Hitler’s Germany. Stalin’s prewar policy of economic planning, particularly the Five Year Plans, proved adaptable to the needs of war and allowed the USSR to engage in total war from the start, greatly outproducing its enemies.
Oversaw the massive reorganisation of Russian industry during the war
Allowed a degree of limit de-Stalinisation, which gave greater independence to military commanders and factory managers. Stalin also gave scope to other able individuals such as Molotov in diplomacy, Khrushchev in administration and Voznesensky in economic planning.
Used harsh penalties to encourage workers and soldiers. Stalin was ruthless in his approach, e.g. in his deportation of ‘suspect’ national groups, but he was also pragmatic when it was called for, e.g. reducing political influence over the army when it was necessary to rely on the professionalism of the soldiers
Over time the GKO did become more formal and bureaucratic in its task of running the struggle against Germany.
Its management of an immense war effort required a substantial supporting staff, as it took over responsibility for entire sections of the Soviet economy from the Council of People’s Commissars.
Created in December 1942, the GKO’s Operational Bureau under Beria’s leadership took responsibility for monitoring and overseeing the Soviet economy’s wartime functioning.
The GKO, again at Beria’s instigation, also managed the Soviet Union’s research into Atomic energy.
The GKO took over direct management of branches of the economy serving the war effort, including weapons, ammunition, tanks, aircraft, chemistry and metallurgy, while the Council of People’s Commissars retained