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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: February 2015

3 - Preparing the final showdown

Summary

Heading for victory: Hitler and Stalin see success

On the eve of the twenty-fourth anniversary of the October Revolution on 6 November members of the Moscow Soviet gathered in the Mayakovski Metro Station on Gorky Street. The station was the most grandiose of Moscow’s famous metro architectural projects, but, more importantly, it was also the deepest, ensuring the best possible protection in the event of a German air attack. The contingency proved well founded as a German air raid attacked the city in the early evening. Yet events deep underground proceeded undisturbed as Stalin arrived, to rapturous applause, on a special train at seven o’clock. His speech to the party faithful was broadcast across the Soviet Union and reported throughout the world; it was to become one of the defining speeches of Stalin’s wartime leadership. To begin with Stalin was not inclined to hide the danger his country faced:

I already stated in one of my speeches at the beginning of the war that the war had created a serious danger for our country … Today, as a result of four months of war, I must emphasize that this danger – far from diminishing – has on the contrary increased. The enemy has captured the greater part of the Ukraine, Belorussia, Moldavia and Estonia, and a number of other regions, has penetrated the Donbas, is looming like a black cloud over Leningrad, and is menacing our glorious capital, Moscow.

Having sounded this warning, Stalin insisted that the war had already turned in his favour and that it was Germany that faced the dire consequences of a long, drawn out war: ‘There can be no doubt that as a result of four months of war, Germany, whose manpower reserves are already becoming exhausted, has been considerably more weakened by the war than the Soviet Union, whose reserves are only now unfolding to their full extent.’ Indeed, Stalin’s resolve to prosecute the war against Germany with all necessary vigour alluded to Germany’s own parallel war of extermination:

The Hitlerite party and Hitlerite command … call for the annihilation of the great Russian nation, the nation of Plekhanov and Lenin, Belinskii and Chernishevskii, Pushkin and Tolstoi, Glinka and Tschaikovskii, Gorki and Chekhov, Sechenov and Pavlov, Repin and Surikov, Suvorov and Kutuzov!

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