- Hardcover: 340 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; First edition. edition (June 11, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300107803
- ISBN-13: 978-0300107807
- Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,284,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa First edition. Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
One of the enduring puzzles of World War II is Stalin's dismissal of unmistakable evidence of a looming German invasion, a blunder that contributed to the disastrous Russian defeats of 1941. This engaging study of the Soviet intelligence apparatus helps clarify the mystery. Murphy, an ex-CIA Soviet specialist and co-author of Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War, argues that Stalin knew virtually everything for many months before the attack. Soviet spies in the German government offered detailed reports of invasion plans. Britain and the United States passed along warnings. Soviet agents in Eastern Europe noted the millions of German soldiers heading east to the Soviet border and their stock-piling of weapons and Russian phrase books. Stalin rejected these reports as Western provocations and barred the Red Army from taking elementary precautions, like chasing off the German reconnaissance planes surveying their defenses. Murphy presents a bizarre additional wrinkle in two letters Hitler sent to allay Stalin's suspicions, which claimed that the German armies massing in Poland were preparing to attack England and warned Stalin that rogue Wehrmacht units might invade Russia against Hitler's wishes-a smokescreen that inhibited Stalin's response to the German buildup and initial attacks. Murphy chalks up the debacle to Stalin's clinging to a Marxist fantasy of the capitalist powers fighting each other to exhaustion, and to the paralysis instilled in the Red Army by his purges. Fearful subordinates bowed to Stalin's absurd complacency about German intentions; the one intelligence chief who dared challenge his delusions was arrested and shot. Murphy's well-researched account offers both a meticulous reconstruction of an intelligence epic and a window into the tragedy of Stalin's despotism.
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Top Customer Reviews
Answer: First, Stalin told his aides that the USSR must never be perceived as the aggressor in the "inevitable war" that Hitler would make against the Soviet Union.(Facts about this are contained in Weeks's book.) Second, if Stalin had deployed more Red Army troops than he did for a decisive border showdown (or "Hauptschlacht") with the experienced, war-hardened Wehrmacht, the Soviets would surely have lost the war in the east in the very first month! The Germans had hoped Stalin WOULD deploy the larger part of the Red Army to the frontier. This Stalin refused to do--fortunately!Instead, he prepared for a Kutuzov-like defense.
The USSR and the Red Army were simply not ready for the inevitable, ultimate war with Nazi Germany although Moscow was well aware of Hitler's long-standing plans to enslave the Russians, utterly destroy the "Russian state." Above all, as mentioned above, Stalin reasoned that the USSR would need Western Allied help in defeating the Germans. In fact, only two weeks after the German invasion,. Stalin personally requested that Britain send whole divisions of British troops to help the Soviets defend themselves! In order to guarantee that Western aid would be forthcoming (in the form of Lend-Lease), it was crucial that the USSR be perceived as the "victim of aggression." See more in Weeks's book.
Lord Acton once said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. One of the chief lessons to be learned from David Murphy's "What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa" is that absolute power breeds an absolute arrogance that erodes the critical faculties that facilitated the despot's acquisition of power in the first place.
It is commonly known that the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the pre-dawn hours of June 22, 1941 (Operation Barbarossa) took Stalin completely by surprise. The Soviet air force in the western zone was destroyed on the ground. The Soviet army, from Memel on the Baltic Sea to Odessa along the Black Sea was engulfed in fear and chaos almost from the start. Millions of Soviet soldiers were killed or taken prisoner and hundred of miles of Soviet territory was overrun in the first ten days of the war. As Murphy points out, the tragedy of Barbarossa for the USSR was not just the horrible loss of life and territory but the fact that these losses could have been lessened dramatically (although probably not eliminated) but for the supreme arrogance of the Soviet's supreme leader.
Murphy fleshes this general information out with an exhaustive amount of additional information gleaned from recently opened Soviet archives. Murphy was a career intelligence officer with the CIA and served as its head of Soviet operations before retiring from the intelligence services. As a result of his experience, Murphy is able to cast a practiced eye on the USSR's intelligence gathering operations in the years before the invasion.
Murphy begins with a brief overview of some critical events prior to the invasion, specifically the Stalin/Hitler pact and the brief Russo-Finnish winter war in 1939/1940. The first extended the USSR's territory hundred of miles westward. The USSR never managed to move its old defensive fortifications west and left the old fortifications to crumble. The Soviet army suffered horrible losses to the undermanned Finnish army before finally prevailing. Each event only served to confirm Hitler's notion that he could invade and defeat the USSR in a matter of weeks.
Murphy then proceeds to outline the extensive intelligence gathering information operations of the Soviet military (the RU) and the civilian security apparatus (the NKVD). From cities across eastern and western Europe, from Japan, and the U.S. came reliable information indicating that Hitler had abandoned plans to invade Britain and had set in motion a plan to invade the USSR. Taken together this cumulative evidence represents a stunning indictment of Stalin and his inner circle. Stalin refused to believe any of this information. Rather, he believed the German disinformation campaign designed to convince the USSR that Germany had no immediate plans to invade the USSR. The centerpiece of this disinformation campaign was two (perhaps more) letters from Hitler to Stalin in which Hitler pledged on his honor as a head of state not to invade the USSR. Stalin chose to believe Hitler rather than his own intelligence agencies.
The failure of Stalin to accept his intelligence reports were heightened by the fear he engendered amongst those responsible for providing him with critical information. After the purges of the 1930s, including the elimination of the Red Army's entire officer corps, most of those closest to Stalin provided him only with information that had been filtered to support his own preconceived notion. The story Murphy tells of two senior Soviet officers, Ivan Proskurov and Filipp Golikov sums things up nicely. Proskurov was an effective, diligent intelligence officer who dared to give Stalin hard information without bending it to Stalin's views. Golikov was something of a toady who served up information supporting the view that Hitler was ready to invade Britain. Proskurov was purged and later executed. Golikov was promoted.
As the book concludes it become clear that Stalin, in his arrogance, decided he could trust Hitler and as such any contrary information was disinformation. As one Russian author once said, Hitler was the only man Stalin ever trusted and that gross error in judgment cost millions of Soviet lives.
Murphy's book is an excellent look at "what Stalin knew and when he knew it". I recommend it for anyone with an interest in Soviet or military history.
Stalin was the epitome of this principle. The array of evidence that Soviet intelligence uncovered in the run-up to Barbarossa (the massive 1941 German invasion of Russia) was staggering. Yet all of this intelligence, purchased with the time and effort and sometimes the blood of Soviet intelligence personnel, might as well have never been collected. Stalin didn't want to conclude that Hitler was going to attack him in 1941. Therefore, all evidence pointing to that was provocation.
It's incredible, and speaking as a serving intelligence officer, I find myself wishing that all the people making charges about the politicization of intelligence in the last few years in the US would read Murphy's book and see what real "politicization" involves.
The only criticisms I have with this book is that I think it would have been appropriate for Murphy to italicize passages of the text which are his suppositions, inferences, and judgments as opposed to absolute facts. This is routine practice for Intelligence Community products, and it would be useful here.
I also think any student of denial and deception ought to read the appendix of this book which contains letters that Hitler sent to Stalin in the run-up to the attack. Whoever wrote them for "der Fuhrer" was truly a master at deception.
Finally, the irony of the situation is profound. Hitler did to Stalin with Barbarossa what the Allies did to Hitler with Fortitude South (the deception plan that convinced him that D-Day would be at Calais and not Normandy).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The mystery of why Joseph Stalin was apparently surprised by the June 22, 1941 Nazi invasion, if he was indeed surprised, is...Read more
documents. Previous authors did not have this luxury.Read more