Soviet troops march through Red Square

The citizens of Moscow had been conscripted into digging anti tank ditches and other defences around the capital.

The situation looked perilous in the Soviet capital, with an army of only around 500,000 facing nearly two million German troops. Only at the last moment had Stalin decided not to evacuate the Soviet government from Moscow. Yet in in his speech to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution Stalin declared himself to be optimistic:

Can there be any doubt that we can and are bound to defeat the German invaders?

The enemy is not so strong as some frightened little intellectuals imagine. The devil is not so terrible as he is painted. Who can deny that our Red Army has time and again put the vaunted German troops to panic flight? If we judge, not by the boastful utterances of the German propagandists, but by the actual position of Germany, it will be easy to understand that the German fascist invaders are now on the brink of disaster.

Hunger and poverty reign in Germany today; in the four months of war Germany has lost four and a half million men; Germany is losing blood, her reserves of man-power are giving out, the spirit of indignation is spreading not only among the peoples of Europe who have fallen under the yoke of the German robbers, but also among the German people themselves who can see no end to the war.

The German robbers are straining their last efforts. There can be no doubt that Germany will be unable to stand the strain for long. Another few months, another half-year, perhaps another brief year, and Hitler Germany is bound to burst beneath the weight of its crimes.

Soviet troops taking part in the parade through Red Square marched straight through to the front line.

On the the 7th November the annual military parade through Red Square commemorating the revolution went ahead as usual. It was a highly symbolic moment suggesting that things were not as desperate as they might otherwise seem. In fact the tanks and troops taking part in the parade were marched straight through Moscow and on to the the defensive lines on the outskirts of the city.

Despite all their losses the Russians were still finding men and tanks to bring into the battle.

See 70th Anniversary Re-enactment

But there were disasters elsewhere. On the 7th November the Soviet hospital ship Armenia loaded with 5,000 wounded from the the southern front and, it is now believed, a further 2000 evacuees, left the Crimea. She was sunk by a Heinkel III torpedo bomber in the Black sea. It was probably the worst single maritime disaster of the whole war. There were only eight survivors.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Horvat November 11, 2016 at 10:12 pm

How accurate was Stalin’s statement that Germany had lost 4.5 million men?

Andrew Shakespeare November 7, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we see that Stalin was right in his prediction that disaster was about to befall Germany, although not so disastrous that they wouldn’t be able to pursue their campaign for another couple of years. I wonder whether Stalin was able to see this at the time, or was simply mouthing off for the benefit of the public.

Of the quotes provided, Stalin was correct that the German public was getting tired, seeing no end to the war, which they thought they’d won in 1940, only to discover that Hitler’s ambitions kept extending (I have read elsewhere that Hitler did at one point ask his generals to prepare plans to invade Afghanistan, back in the days when he was certain of Russia’s imminent collapse — although what threat he imagined that Afghanistan could have presented Germany is anybody’s guess).

On the other hand, the claim that “hunger and poverty reign in Germany,” while true later in the war, was palpable nonsense in 1941. As for “straining their last efforts” and “unable to stand the strain for long,” the Germans were able to continue the war effort for years when conditions were much worse than they were in 1941.

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