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Stalin and his generals

MARTINA CARR: Stalin is often criticized for not listening to his Generals at the beginning of the war, and making a lot of military decisions by himself. However, as the year 1942 progresses we can see a change in Stalin’s attitude towards his military leaders, especially during the preparation of Operation Uranus – one of the biggest operations of the war on the Eastern Front. How do you explain this change in Stalin’s behaviour?

KIRILL ANDERSON: In 1941, at the beginning of the war there was certain panic amongst the Soviet generals. Of course the first encounters with the German army had a strong psychological impact on them. In 1941 quite a lot of generals were executed for leaving their positions, leaving the towns to their German attackers. The measures against them were very harsh. And to be honest – most of those that were in the Soviet army in 1941 didn’t have much in the way of military experience. As the war progressed, they learned from their own experience. And as for Stalin himself, he learned he needed to listen to what others had to say – he would listen to their differing opinions and reach his own conclusions. By mid 1942 he concentrated more on political matters and left the military to fight the war. He would still give them tasks relating to what had to be done he but would let them decide how exactly to achieve them. So by 1942 Stalin differed from Hitler who, according to the memoirs of his generals, was interfering more and more with the military and tactical matters.