Soviet Union in World War II

Chris Bellamy

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Soviet Union in World War II

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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 was effectively an ally of Nazi Germany in a relatively conventional European interstate 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 1939–1940 “Winter War” with Finland and, in 1940, 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 second war did not involve the Soviet Union and was about control of the Mediterranean. 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. That war, 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 1,418 days, and between twenty-six and twenty-seven million Soviet people, mostly civilians, died. Even after the Western Allies got ashore in Europe, 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 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 Japanese Army in Manchuria, which capitulated eight days later. The Soviet effort, and particularly the dramatic reversal of fortunes that 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 into a space-bound superpower with the revived trappings of its imperial past. The Soviet nuclear program, for example, began in 1942. The decisive contribution of its armed forces to the overall Allied victory was underrated in the West during the Cold War. However, the process of reconciliation that began in the 1980s and the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 changed that.

Article.  12186 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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