Stalin and the Road to War, April–June 1941

  • Geoffrey Roberts


By the spring of 1941 Germany and Russia were well set on a course to war. In December 1940 Hitler had given the final go ahead to Operation Barbarossa. The early months of 1941 witnessed the beginning of a massive build-up of German military forces along the Soviet border. By April 1941 practically the whole of Eastern Europe was under Hitler’s thumb. For their part the Soviets continued their domestic preparations for war with Germany and took what diplomatic action they could to strengthen their position. Moscow’s efforts to bolster Yugoslavia’s resistance have already been dealt with; in addition the Soviets took steps to secure their southern and eastern flanks. In March 1941 the USSR concluded a neutrality agreement with Turkey.1 This was followed in April by the signature of a neutrality pact with Japan.2 With a German attack in the near future a very definite possibility it was imperative for the Soviet Union to alleviate the danger of a two- or three-front war.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    On Soviet-Turkish relations see G. Roberts, The Unholy Alliance: Stalin’s Pact with Hitler(London, 1989), ch. 14.Google Scholar
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    On this issue see, inter alia, V. Suvorov, Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War?(London, 1990);Google Scholar
  66. G. Gorodetsky, ‘Was Stalin Planning to Attack Hitler in June 1941’, RUSI Journal, no. 3 (1986);Google Scholar
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  68. 54.
    There are various versions of Stalin’s speech which make this suggestion (see Roberts, Unholy Alliance, pp. 259–60, n. 13). The best-known account along these lines is Alexander Werth’s, which was based on discussions in Moscow during the war. See his Russia at War 19411945(London, 1965), pp. 132–3.Google Scholar
  69. 55.
    See L. Bezymensky, ‘What did Stalin say on May 5, 1941’, New Times, no. 19 (1991). Stalin said nothing about a pre-emptive strike but he made it clear to his audience that he had no doubt that war with Germany was coming.Google Scholar
  70. See also, D. Volkogonov, ‘The German Attack, the Soviet Response, Sunday 22 June 1941’, in J. Erickson and D. Dilks (eds), Barbarossa: The Axis and the Allies(Edinburgh, 1994).Google Scholar
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    See V. N. Kiselev, ‘Upryamye Fakty Nachala Voiny’, Voenno-Istoricheskii Zhurnal, no. 2 (1992).Google Scholar

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© Geoffrey Roberts 1995

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  • Geoffrey Roberts

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