The Axis Power’s invasion of the Soviet Union began the largest land war in history, drawing much of Germany’s power away from the war in Western Europe. Throughout the course of the war, the Soviets had the greatest casualties in both military and overall losses, contributing the most of any side to the Allied victory against the Nazis.
Here are 10 facts about the Soviet contribution to the Second World War and the theatre of the Eastern Front.
1. 3,800,000 Axis soldiers were deployed in the initial invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa
Soviet strength in June 1941 stood at 5,500,000.
2. Over 1,000,000 civilians died during the siege of Leningrad
It began in September 1941 and lasted until January 1944 – 880 days in total.
3. Stalin turned his nation into a war-production machine
This was despite the German output of steel and coal being respectively 3.5 and over 4 times greater in 1942 than in the Soviet Union. Stalin soon changed this however and the Soviet Union was thus able to produce more weaponry than its enemy.
4. The battle for Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-3, resulted in around 2,000,000 casualties alone
This included 1,130,000 Soviet troops and 850,000 Axis opponents.
5. The Soviet Lend-Lease agreement with the United States secured supplies of raw materials, armaments and food, which were vital to maintaining the war machine
It prevented starvation over the crucial period of late 1942 to early 1943.
6. In spring 1943 Soviet forces amounted to 5,800,000, whilst the Germans totalled around 2,700,000
7. Operation Bagration, the great Soviet offensive of 1944, was launched on 22 June with a force of 1,670,000 men
They also had almost 6,000 tanks, over 30,000 guns and over 7,500 aircraft advancing through Belarus and the Baltic region.
8. By 1945 the Soviet could call on over 6,000,000 troops, whilst German strength had been reduced to less than a third of this
9. The Soviets amassed 2,500,000 troops and took 352,425 casualties, over a third of which were deaths, in the fight for Berlin between 16 April and 2 May 1945