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A Soviet junior political officer () urges Soviet troops forward against German positions (12 July 1942) By the autumn of 1940 a had emerged. And its allies dominated most of the European continent. Only the (in the West) was actively challenging and hegemony. Nazi Germany and Britain had no common land border, but a state of war existed between them; the Germans had an extensive land border with the Soviet Union, but the latter remained neutral, adhering to a and by numerous.
For, no dilemma ever existed in this situation. (German for 'Drive towards the East') remained the order of the day.
Net, ya ne v magazine. Net, ne blondin. Eto voenkomat? Tut, govorya t, povestka byla, a ya v eto vremya byl v komandirovke.
This culminated, on December 18, in the issuing of 'Directive No. 21 – Case ', which opened by saying 'the German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against '. Even before the issuing of the directive, the German had developed detailed plans for a Soviet campaign. On February 3, 1941, the final plan of Operation Barbarossa gained approval, and the attack was scheduled for the middle of May, 1941. However, the events in and necessitated a delay — to the second half of June.
At the time of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Red Army had 303 divisions and 22 brigades (4.8 million troops), including 166 divisions and 9 brigades (2.9 million troops) stationed in the western military districts. Their Axis opponents deployed on the 181 divisions and 18 brigades (3.8 million troops). The first weeks of the war saw the annihilation of virtually the entire on the ground, the loss of major equipment, tanks, artillery, and major Soviet defeats as German forces trapped hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers in vast pockets. Soviet forces suffered heavy damage in the field as a result of poor levels of preparedness, which was primarily caused by a reluctant, half-hearted and ultimately belated decision by the Soviet Government and High Command to mobilize the army. Equally important was a general tactical superiority of the German army, which was conducting the kind of warfare that it had been combat-testing and fine-tuning for two years.
The hasty pre-war growth and over-promotion of the Red Army cadres as well as the removal of experienced officers caused by the offset the balance even more favourably for the Germans. Finally, the sheer numeric superiority of the Axis cannot be underestimated. A generation of brilliant Soviet commanders (most notably ) learned from the defeats, and Soviet victories in the, at, and later in proved decisive in what became known to the Soviets as the. The Soviet government adopted a number of measures to improve the state and morale of the retreating Red Army in 1941. Soviet propaganda turned away from political notions of, and instead invoked the deeper-rooted patriotic feelings of the population, embracing Tsarist Russian history.
Propagandists proclaimed the War against the German aggressors as the 'Great Patriotic War', in allusion to the against. References to ancient Russian military heroes such as and appeared. Repressions against the stopped, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle. The Communist Party abolished the institution of —although it soon restored them. The Red Army re-introduced military ranks and adopted many additional individual distinctions such as medals and orders. The concept of a re-appeared: units which had shown exceptional heroism in combat gained the names of 'Guards Regiment', 'Guards Army', etc.
During the, the Red Army drafted a staggering 29,574,900 in addition to the 4,826,907 in service at the beginning of the war. Of these it lost 6,329,600 KIA, 555,400 deaths by disease and 4,559,000 MIA (most captured). Of these 11,444,100, however, 939,700 re-joined the ranks in the subsequently re-took Soviet territory, and a further 1,836,000 returned from German captivity. Thus the grand total of losses amounted to 8,668,400. The majority of the losses comprised ethnic Russians (5,756,000), followed by ethnic Ukrainians (1,377,400).
The German losses on the Eastern Front comprised an estimated 3,604,800 KIA/MIA (most killed) and 3,576,300 captured (total 7,181,100); the losses of the German Axis allies on the Eastern Front approximated 668,163 KIA/MIA and 799,982 captured (total 1,468,145). Of these 8,649,300, the Soviets released 3,572,600 from captivity after the war, thus the grand total of the Axis losses came to an estimated 5,076,700. A comparison of the losses demonstrates the cruel treatment of the Soviet POWs by the Nazis. The majority of Sov POWs taken prisoner by the Axis died in captivity. Out of 5.7 million Soviet POW taken by the German 3.6 million died in captivity.