An unauthorized photo of Stalin: the moment he was informed that the Germans were about to take Kiev, 1941

An unauthorized photo of Stalin inside the Kremlin shows the moment he was informed that German forces had advanced into Kyiv (August 1941). What you see here is a person who, until a few weeks ago, had complete faith in Plan A, and who no longer has a Plan B.

The picture was taken by the editor-in-chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda. The photographer secretly disobeyed orders to destroy it because it was deemed not to show Stalin in a positive light.

Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union, was the largest military operation of World War II. It deployed thousands of aircraft, tanks, artillery guns and more than six million troops. In addition, it pitted the two most totalitarian regimes in history against each other.

However, in the first few weeks of operation, it didn't look like a clash of two giants. The German advance seemed like an easy summer outing - the Red Army was simply unable to challenge them. Soviet commanders were confused, and state leadership was nowhere to be found.

Stalin's belief that Hitler would not attack was so strong that he was completely bewildered when he learned on the night of 21 June that the Germans were coming. He was shocked when his foreign minister, Molotov, handed him the German declaration of war. At that time only his anger prevented him from falling.

Stalin was undoubtedly influenced by this misinformation. However, he did not believe that in the last resort, Hitler would depart from the traditions of Bismarck's Ostpolitik, which required that Germany should avoid military involvement in Russia while engaged in the West.

At the same time, they had an exaggerated conception of the power and influence of German generals, even to the extent of believing that, contrary to Hitler's specific instructions, they were trying to intensify the war against Russia. Were were

Among the members of the Politburo and the Soviet High Command, there was a firm opinion that the war would be averted in 1941. Zhdanov believed that Germany was taken with a war against Britain and was unable to fight on two fronts.

On March 20, 1941, the head of military intelligence, General Philip Golikov, submitted a report to Stalin on the concentration of German troops in the border areas, but expressed the opinion that the information may have originated from British and German intelligence services.

In early May, Kuznetsov sent a similar report to Stalin, informing him of the imminent war, from the Soviet naval attache in Berlin. Like Golikov, he downplayed the value of the report by saying that, in his opinion, the information was false and was impersonated by a foreign agency.

Stalin was virtually mentally broken for a few months after the invasion, issuing no orders which led to chaos at the front and only accelerated the German advance. He retreated to his dacha and eventually some Soviet generals came to visit him.

When he answered the door he expected to be arrested and executed, however, instead, he begged him to lead them and insisted that no one else could do it. That moment made him realize how much strength he had. Stalin's pure policy worked: they were completely dependent on him and no one had the guts.

Operation Barbarossa opened the Eastern Front, to which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in history. The region saw some of the war's greatest battles, most horrific atrocities, and most casualties (for Soviet and Axis forces alike), all of which shaped history during World War II and into the later 20th century. Impressed. German forces eventually captured some five million soldiers of the Soviet Red Army, most of whom never returned alive.

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