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Suvorov

Suvorov

[soo-vawr-awf, -of; Russ. soo-vaw-ruhf]
Suvorov, Aleksandr Vasilyevich, 1729-1800, Russian field marshal. Suvorov entered the army as a youth and rose rapidly through the ranks. He fought in the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-74, helped suppress the peasant rebellion led by Pugachev in 1775, and was created count for his victories in the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-92, notably at Focsani, Rimnik, and at Izmayil in Bessarabia. In 1794, Suvorov commanded the Russian army that suppressed the Polish revolt after the second partition of Poland by Russia and Prussia. In a swift campaign, culminating in the battle of Praga and the capture of Warsaw, he crushed Polish resistance. Suvorov's reputation reached its peak in the French Revolutionary Wars of 1798-99, in which he commanded Austro-Russian forces against the armies of the French Republic. Sent to oust the French from Italy, he defeated them at Cassano, took Milan and Turin, and routed the French on the Trebbia and at Novi. Having driven the French out of N Italy, Suvorov planned to march on Paris, but instead was ordered to Switzerland over the St. Gotthard Pass to join the forces of General Korsakov and Austrian Archduke Charles and to drive the French out of Switzerland. Before Suvorov could join Korsakov, Archduke Charles and his Austrian forces had been ordered back to the Rhine. Korsakov's troops, greatly outnumbered, were defeated by the French commander Masséna at Zürich (Sept., 1799). Suvorov was still struggling through the almost impassable Alpine mountain paths when news of Korsakov's disaster reached him. Harassed by the French, he succeeded in leading his half-starved and ragged troops to Lindau. He refused to participate in further action with the Austrians, and shortly afterward Russia withdrew from the war. For his exploits in Italy he was created Prince Italiski. Idolized by his men, Suvorov demanded discipline and sacrifice, but his willingness to let his soldiers plunder conquered territory gave Russian troops a bad reputation throughout Europe. One of the great generals of modern times, Suvorov was never defeated in battle; he ascribed his success to the principle of "intuition, rapidity, impact."
Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War?, by Viktor Suvorov (Russian title: Ledokol, Ледокол) is a documentary book, which alleges that World War II started as a result of Joseph Stalin's ploy to "liberate" the working class of Europe and eventually the whole world.

Suvorov's thesis

Suvorov challenges the widely-accepted view that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime attacked an unsuspecting USSR on June 22, 1941 with a much superior and better prepared force. Instead, Suvorov argues that the Soviet Union was poised to invade Nazi-controlled territories in July 1941.

Suvorov claims that Stalin successfully manipulated Hitler into removing the "buffer zone" (Poland) between Europe and the USSR. Suvorov further argues that Stalin's goal was the export of communism to other countries. Once Hitler 'broke the ice', Soviet victory in the large-scale war that followed would enable the USSR to impose Stalinist regimes on most of Europe. In this theory, Nazi military aggression would ironically form the icebreaker for a communist invasion.

Suvorov is often accused (or praised by historical revisionists) of shifting the blame of WW2 on Stalin and thus removing the blame from Hitler; however, the actual content of the book contains no praise of Hitler or justification of his terror. In his later books, Suvorov insists that Stalin was a true evil genius (although unlucky), while reducing Hitler to a grossly incompetent evil.

Suvorov mounts two arguments in support of his thesis. The principal argument is based on analysis of available data on troop numbers, weaponry, locations and behaviour, matched against technical specifications and Soviet tactics. To support the main argument, Suvorov argues that Stalin perceived the outcome of WW2 as a loss.

Marxist theory

In traditional Marxist theory, militarism is normally seen as a form of social control and a component of imperialism, delaying the emergence of a class-conscious international working class or proletariat. Once the first communist regime took political power in the Russian Revolution and survived the Russian Civil War, a major line of debate in the USSR during the 1920s was how the world's first socialist state should relate to other nations.

The view of Trotsky was that a communist revolution could succeed only by continuous revolutionary activity in other nation-states. The notion of socialism surviving in a single nation-state was considered ridiculous and self-contradictory. The remaining capitalist powers would swiftly move to crush the USSR. Since the bourgeois nations would be more powerful, they would probably succeed in destroying socialism. However, if the working classes of these countries could understand that a war of conquest in support of capitalism was not in their class interests, they would not support such a war and socialism would survive through the process of revolution abroad.

Stalin, on the other hand, argued that 'socialism in one country' was feasible if properly managed. His subsequent program of militarizing the whole Soviet economy was simultaneously a means of maintaining his totalitarian power and ensuring the survival of the Soviet state without regard to the internal politics of other nations.

It is important to note that Stalin's approach flew in the face of most Marxist thought up till that point, but that neither the Trotskyist view nor the Stalinist envisioned the use of conventional armed forces to wage aggressive war.

Soviet diplomacy under Stalin

Under Stalin, Soviet foreign policy in the late 1920s through at least 1939 was essentially defensive and very cautious. The USSR sought alliances with Western powers, in particular seeking to re-establish the traditional anti-German alliance with France. For a multitude of reasons, these efforts failed. One of the main reasons was that the USSR was considered a pariah state prior to June 22, 1941, and the other European powers were reluctant to enter into any serious negotiation with the Stalin regime. Also, one effect of the Great Purge was that western militaries came to regard the Red Army as a worthless ally. They were thus not eager to reinstate the traditional east-west coalition against Germany.

Prior to the rise of the Nazis, joint military training facilities existed in the USSR, in which German and Soviet soldiers developed nascent versions of the tactics and weapons that would come to prominence in the Second World War. However, these joint endeavors occurred during a period when Germany was weak, under the Weimar Republic, and were shut down once the Nazis came to power.

The Soviet view was that as efforts to 'surround' Hitler failed, and as the Western powers seemed to allow Nazi expansion in Central Europe (as long as it was not aimed westward), some accommodation had to be reached with Germany in order to buy time. Stalin knew the USSR was not ready to fight Germany, but the massive rearmament and reorganization programs begun in 1939 might begin to bear fruit by 1942.

Historians' views

Suvorov's view that a Soviet invasion of Germany was imminent in 1941 is not shared by the majority of historians.

A noteworthy refutation of Suvorov's thesis is contained in Colonel David Glantz's work Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Glantz views Suvorov's argument as "incredible" on a variety of fronts: first, Suvorov rejects without examination classified ex-Soviet archival material, and makes highly selective picks from memoirs. Glantz points to this as a serious methodological flaw. Further, Glantz argues, Suvorov's thesis is strongly contradicted both by ex-Soviet and German archival material, and the facts do not support the argument that the Red Army was prepared to invade Germany. On the contrary, the appalling lack of readiness, poor training level, and abysmal state of deployments show that the Red Army was unprepared for static defense, much less large-scale offensive operations. Glantz's conclusion is that "Stalin may well have been an unscrupulous tyrant, but he was not a lunatic."

Although Suvorov claims that an attack date of July 8, 1941 had been selected, this is contradicted by the evidence as presented by Glantz and others. There were no stockpiles of fuel, ammunition, and other stores held in forward areas as would have been needed if an invasion was about to be mounted. Major ground units were dispersed into small garrisons rather than being concentrated at railheads, as they would have been had they been preparing an invasion. Units were not co-located with their own transportation assets, leaving, for example, major artillery units immobile. Air Force aircraft were parked in neat, tightly-packed rows along their airfields rather than dispersed. Over 50% of all Soviet tanks required major maintenance on June 22, 1941. If an invasion were being planned, these maintenance tasks would have been completed. Most Soviet armor units were in the process of re-organizing into new Tank Corps; the German invasion caught these units in the midst of this reorganization. Such a large-scale reorganization is inconsistent with an impending invasion.

The origin of Suvorov's thesis may lie in the fact that Marshal Zhukov did suggest a pre-emptive strike on Germany early in 1941. Zhukov recalled this plan later but claimed either that the plan was rejected by Stalin or didn't reach the leader at all. This doesn't sound too convincing, though, as military historian Mikhail Meltyukhov has pointed out. First, it is hard to believe Zhukov's claim that he had given the top secret document to a secretary so that the latter could deliver it to Stalin. Second, the claim by Suvorov rejectors that the document doesn't have signatures really proves nothing. It is known that during those years official military documents were almost exclusively passed without proper formatting.

Further reading

  • Suvorov, Viktor. Icebreaker: Who Started the Second World War? (Viking Press/Hamish Hamilton; 1990) ISBN 0-241-12622-3
  • Glantz, David. Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. University Press of Kansas (May 1998), ISBN 0-7006-0879-6
  • Suvorov, Viktor. The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II. Potomac Books (July 20, 2007) ISBN 1-5979-7114-6

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