Stalins Leadership in World War II

The second half of the 1930s saw the continuous campaign launched by Stalin to eliminate all those whom had – or at least were suspected to have – reservations about the political regime. The campaign that would become known as the Great Purge touched off immediately assassination of Sergey Kirov, a highly popular member of the Communist Party. Stalin responded to the assassination with a series of fierce actions. Mere distrust of Stalin or his confidants or anonymous information was used to send the suspect to the forced-labor camps or execute. The Soviet political militia, also known as NKVD, was given practically unrestricted powers, and during only two years from 1937 to 1938, the NKVD led by Nikolay Yezhov executed approximately 1 million of Soviet citizens with another 2 million were sent to the camps and eventually died (Ellman 2002).
Several trumped-up trials that took place between 1936 and 1938 led to elimination of thousands of once prominent, influential and highly experienced leaders. The list of victims included such outstanding figures as Zinovyev, Bukharin, and Rykov whom were executed on concocted charges of conspiring with Germany and Japan. Another process held in 1937 resulted in almost entire elimination of the military’s top-ranking commanders such as Marshal Tukhachevsky: according to the estimates approximately 50 percent of the senior officers had been dismissed (partially executed, partially sent to the camps) before the beginning of the Second World War (Conquest 1990).
Evidently, such actions of Stalin who killed or sent to the camps the most experienced and talented managers could hardly be addressed as prudent in the face of inevitable war with Germany. Although Stalin’s awareness of the inevitability of the war is subject for intensive debates (Rapoport &amp. Alexeev 1985), it is difficult to imagine that a politician of Stalin’s rank and experience could fail to notice the apparent tendency. Even the possibility that Stalin could make the mistake assessing the beginning of war hardly justified such devastating clean-up among the militaries, officials, and political elite of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, a series of conflicts initiated by Stalin in 1939 (Finland) and 1940 (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Romania) clearly demonstrated that the Soviets were confidents of their military power.
Ironically, what might be and probably had to be perceived as imprudence by the absolute majority of Stalin’s contemporaries only adds validity to the claims of those whom give credence to his personal leadership during the World War praising Stalin as the leader and tactician of the highest order. The fact is that in absence of other leaders of note whom had been dismissed, imprisoned or executed during the Great Purge Stalin was forced to make decisions almost solely on his own: even those innumerous specialists whom successfully made it through the terror of 1937-1938 had the illustrative example of what Stalin did to

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