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Soviet Union in WWII

Soviet Union in WWII

Bellamy, Chris (2012) Soviet Union in WWII. Oxford Bibliographies Online. (doi:

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The Soviet Union in World War II is the story of several wars. When World War II started, the Soviet Union had concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939 with Nazi Germany, and was, effectively an ally in a relatively conventional European inter-state war. Although the Germans did most of the fighting in Poland, the Soviet Union occupied the eastern part. Until 22 June 1941, when Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet Union provided Nazi Germany with large quantities of strategic raw materials. Furthermore, the Soviet Union gave Germany access to the far east, and especially rubber, which was brought through Siberia. During this time it also fought the 1939-40 ‘Winter War’ with Finland and, in 1940, with Germany’s complicity, occupied Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and what is now Moldova. However, the Soviet Union expected more technological aid from Germany than it was prepared to give. Hitler determined to conquer the country, in part, to seize its natural resources. The third war, arguably the largest single component of World War II, began on 22 June 1941 when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. Overnight, the Soviet Union became an Ally of Britain and a recipient of lend-lease aid from the United States. The war with Nazi Germany, the ‘War on the Eastern Front’, is known in the Soviet Union and Russia as Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna – the Great Patriotic War. It lasted for 1418 days and between 26 and 27 million Soviet people, mostly civilians, died. Even after the western Allies got ashore in Europe (Sicily) in July 1943, and after D-Day in June 1944, the Soviet Union was still engaging the majority of German forces. Final Soviet battlefield losses were 8.7 million. After the defeat of Germany, the Soviet Union entered the fourth war – the Pacific War, which had begun with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. On 9 August 1945 the Soviet Union attacked the million-strong Japanese Army in Manchuria, which capitulated eight days later. The Soviet effort in World War II, and particularly the dramatic reversal of fortunes which occurred in 1942 and 1943, turned a ’pariah state’ experimenting with a new economic and political system into the successful exponent of the same and a space-bound super-power with the revived trappings of its imperial past. The Soviet nuclear programme, for example, began in 1942. The decisive contribution of its armed forces to the overall Allied victory was underrated and under-analysed in the West during the Cold War. However, the process of reconciliation which began in the 1980s and the break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 changed that. Much new source material became available, permitting fundamental changes to perceptions of what happened and that new material is emphasized in this article. From 2000, however, the flow of newly-released information slowed, and the window which had been open in the 1990s closed again. However, the reunification of Germany in 1990 had also opened former East German archives, and permitted German scholars to reappraise the German side of the war.

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Item Type: Article
Additional Information: [1] Entry appears in 'International Relations' subject module of Oxford Bibliographies Online, edited by Cathal J. Nolan. [2] Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO) is a library of disciplined-based subject modules. In each subject module, leading scholars have produced a literary guide to the most important and significant sources in an area of study they know best. The guides feature a selective list of bibliographic citations supported by direct recommendations about which sources to consult. [Publisher's description].
Uncontrolled Keywords: Growlswar
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:32

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