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Most consequential decision of WW2

LAURENCE REES: What was the most consequential decision of WW2?

RICHARD EVANS: Oh, I think the most consequential decision was Stalin’s decision to stand and fight after his initial panic. After the invasion, for a couple of days he retired to his dacha and memorably he said that ‘Lenin gave us this legacy and we f****d it up’, in his usual vulgar way. In absolute despair, and when the delegation from the Politburo came to visit him a few days later they found him kind of cowering on his seat thinking he was going to be arrested. So when he pulled his nerve together and then made his famous broadcast on the 3rd of July 1941 beginning ‘brothers and sisters…’, the Soviet people had never been addressed like that by him before, it was an entirely new note.

They were fighting the war on a patriotic basis, not fighting it for communism or revolution, but instead fighting for Mother Russia. I mean that was the single most consequential decision, allied to the parallel decision to remove Russian industry east of the Urals and take it out of the way of the invading German armies, and bring reserves up and so on. The reaction of Russians at the time to that speech was quite overwhelming I think. Often you know, we like to think of Stalin as being an appalling monster and so he was in many ways, but that decision, I think, was the turning point of the war.