On June 17, 1945, a group of Soviet military investigators conducted an interrogation of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel who would declare: “I must affirm that the preparatory measures carried out by us in the spring of 1941 were defensive preparations in the event of a Red Army offensive. Thus, the entire Eastern war, for the most part, can be called preventive. We thought…to prevent the offensive of Soviet Russia and, with an unexpected blow, to obliterate its armed forces. In the spring of 1941 I had formed a clear opinion: the concentration of Russian troops and their subsequent offensive on Germany would have thrown us in an extremely crucial situation in strategic and economic terms… During the first weeks, Germany was already facing extremely adverse conditions”[1]. Given this circumstance, Adolf Hitler decided not to stand in wait while the Soviet generals would create a regular density of one division stationed every seven and a half kilometers and struck first.

 The Information Became Worrisome

In September 1940, acting on Stalin’s orders, Lieutenant General Filipp I. Golikov, the new head of GRU[2], ordered the six operative division commanders to carry out a new purging operation among the residential ranks of the GRU[3], because too many people had been living abroad and in contact with foreigners, a fact which implied several risks for the security of the Soviet state. Moreover, starting with February 3, 1941, the intelligence and security section of NKVD was separated from the latter so as to be reborn under the name of NKGB, where foreign intelligence (INO) would obtain the rank of Directorate and play an extremely important role in the victory of the Soviet Union and in achieving his geopolitical and geostrategic plans. Steely-nerved – as Henry Kissinger wrote-, Stalin maintained his two-track policy of cooperating with Germany by supplying war materials while opposing it geopolitically, as if no danger existed at all. Though he was not willing to join the Tripartite Pact, he did grant Japan the sole benefit which Soviet adherence to the Pact would have brought it by freeing Japan’s rear for adventures in Asia[4]. The United States Congress concluded, in August 1951, during the hearings dedicated to the activity of Richard Sorge, that soviet military espionage, represented by GRU resident Ramsai”, had done a lot[5] so that Japan would start a war in the Pacific Ocean[6], and that this aggression would be directed against the United States[7] and not against the Soviet Union.

On the evening of June 16, 1941, Moscow received the most important final warning on the German assault, from two of the soviet intelligence groups in Berlin, those belonging to Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen, which confirmed that all the preparatory military endeavors carried out by Germany for the attack were complete, and that the triggering thereof could occur at any moment. Hungary would take part in the hostilities on Germany’s side, and a part of the German aerial forces was stationed on Hungarian air fields. Lieutenant General Pavel Mikhailovich Fitin, head of the Foreign Intelligence Directorate of the NKGB, received an order from Stalin to clarify a series of issues. The German attack was triggered before the soviet residency in Germany[8] had time to respond to General Pavel M. Fitin’s telegram.

The informative briefing of the SIS on January 19, 1941 underlined that, despite the existence of good relations between Moscow and Berlin, it’s no secret to anyone that the USSR still considers Germany as «being» its worst enemy”[9], so that all Soviet troop movements carried out especially on the German border and in all territories annexed by the Soviet Union aimed to provide Moscow with “powerful strategic points in view of a potential war with Germany.”[10] Assessing the strategic interests of Japan and the Soviet Union, the SIS informational bulletin of March 16, 1941 stated that “the USSR is aware that its expectant state would not be go on endlessly, thus it carried out a double policy: take all actions to arm the country; b) seek to mediate its relations with Japan and other states. Moscow wants to cover its Eastern part, in case of a war in the West, and Japan seeks to attract the USSR to its side so as to instate a new political and economic order in Asia[11]. The SIS note of April 19, 1941, drafted based on the information provided by a source of the 4th Army Corps, stated that military fortifications are built everywhere and in all locations deemed as strategic points, and people are working on them day and night. “The old trenches left by the Romanian armies are being renovated – reported the SIS analysts – with their appearance or direction being changed and making sure their condition can serve as a defense for Russian troops in case of potential push backs or retreats. The Soviet army is spurred against Germany and all people are talking about everywhere is that Moldova will be soon occupied by the Russians up to the Siret river. Every civilian and soldier thinks that a war between Russia, on the one hand, and Germany, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia, on the other hand, will be initiated before long”[12].

The Account on the operations of the Soviet armies during the current campaign, compiled by the H” Information Center[13], on august 19, 1941, stated that: “The gathering of the Soviet strategic disposition in almost full force, on the end (at the border), mustn’t be attributed to the inability of the commandment, it was actually justified, as the confessions of Soviet officer taken captive led to the conclusion that the Soviets were intent on aggressive action, both on the Romanian front, as well as on the German front. One of these officers even stated that the offensive was bound to occur on June 28 and that they – the officers – had been given money for shopping in Bucharest”[14].

In the beginning of April 1941, the Analysis – Briefing Office of the Special Intelligence Service, Eastern Front Section, handed the leaders of the Romanian state an ample documentary entitled USSR-1941. Briefing on the war preparations. The information contained by this document highlighted the fact that the Soviet Great General Staff ordered, after the campaign in Finland, the organization of units according to the German model, carrying out the introduction in the army only of elements loyal to the regime and to communism, after a very thorough selection. The Soviet maneuvers in the summer and autumn of 1940, as well as those in the spring of 1941 were aimed at the best possible training of units and subunits. German historian Werner Master wrote in his work Der Wortbruch. Hitler, Stalin und der Zweite Weltkrig (Breaking Their Word. Hitler, Stalin World War II) that even in 1939, the USSR disposed of 200 times more paratroopers than all other nations combined[15]. The Counterintelligence Office in Section II of the Romanian Great General Staff found, on July 24, 1941, after an assessment of Soviet paratroopers during the first days of the war, that “the Red Army was among the first armies to seek a military use for jumping from a plane with a parachute. Parachute launching had been decreed by the USSR as the most important sport and was highly praised by the state and private initiatives”[16]. The România Aeriană (Anul X, nr. 3/1936) magazine, referring to Soviet parachuting, assessed that there were 20,000 amateur parachute jumpers in the USSR, who had executed 800,000 jumps from specially built towers and 16,000 jumps from a plane during the course of 1935. The Special Intelligence Service informed the Head of the Romanian State, in the beginning of 1941, that the USSR “is paying close attention to paratrooper and air transport units,”[17] in the process of reorganizing the Soviet army, and that “the number of paratrooper units increased, leading to the conclusion that this new weapon would play an important part in future operations.”[18]

On May 5, 1941, Stalin gave a strictly confidential speech before the graduates of 16 USSR Military Academies and nine military faculties within the civil higher education institutions, the higher political government of the country and the Red Army Command Corps[19]. Referring to this speech, which remained a secret for many contemporaries[20], during its time, Grigore Gafencu wrote: “These «secret» words entrusted to the officers, and which were so different from the all so «secret» measures taken by the government, demonstrated not only the dualism exhibited while conducting business, but also the care of Soviet leaders of not letting their troops’ morale be influenced by the concessions they believed they were forced to make in the politics field”[21]. Stalin spoke again at the banquet held after the graduation ceremony, in Kremlin, where he insisted on underlining that “the era of expansion by force has begun”[22], and that “the people must be educated to accept the war of aggression is inevitable.”[23] The head of the “Eastern Foreign Armies” Intelligence Service (Fremde Heere Ost/FHO) within the OKH told his superiors that Stalin was “very drunk” and that “he leaked war threats against Germany.”[24]

The Soviet Generals Prepare the Strategic Strike

 The campaign plan[25] drafted by the Soviet Great General Staff, the so called “Zhukov Plan” (15 pages)[26], implied a “preemptive” strike against the German military forces in Poland and Eastern Prussia. General G. K. Zhukov proposed a surprise attack in order to prevent and destroy the Wehrmacht, thus taking the initiative to act from the Germans. The enemy would be rushed while deploying and attacked while still rallying without an established front, without having established cooperation between army types. According to Zhukov’s plan, the Red Army would have to cross the entirety of Poland, from East to South-West, so as to reach the German borders, then conquer Eastern Prussia[27]. General G.K. Zhukov had led the invasion forces (“the blues”), during the December 23 – 31, 1940 period, during a great operative – strategic “war game”, on the map, while the Soviet units (the reds) were led by Colonel General D.G. Pavlov, the future commander of the Western Military Region[28], then head of the Main Directorate of Tanks and Armored Vehicles of the Red Army. “Using real data and German enemy forces, I – confessed G.K. Zhukov in his memoirs -, as commander of the «blues», carried out operations in the same directions as the Germans themselves subsequently did. I carried out my main strikes at the same points where they subsequently did. The groupings were done in approximately the same fashion they were established during the war. The layout of our borders, the place, strategy, everything dictated these very decisions, as the Germans ultimately dictated. (…) The analysis of this strategic maneuver was analyzed in January 1941, within the General Military Council. Stalling listen to the report carefully and addressed a series of questions, both directed at myself, as well as to other speakers. (…) Shortly thereafter, I was named Chief of the Great General Staff.”[29]

During the January 2 – 6, 1941 period, and later, between January 8 and 11, 1941, two strategic and tactical drills would be carried out on the map, simulating the period at the beginning of the war: the version of the “Western” attack and the defense of the “East”. Major General Vladimir A. Zolotariov wrote in Krasnaia Zvezda, from December 27, 1990, that the analysis of the first drill was done by the upper political government of the USSR, respectively Stalin, who carefully surveyed the development of the first tactical drill and “was convinced – writes former GRU officer Victor Suvorov – that it can be grounded to a halt in Eastern Prussia.[30]. The Soviet plans until the arrival of G.K. Zhukov at the head of the Soviet Great General Staff, considered the invasion of the German territory with the help of troops stationed in Belorussia (the Western Front), seconded by the troops in the Moscow Military Region, while in Pribaltika and Ukraine the North-Western and South-Western Fronts were being prepared for additional attacks. General G.K. Zhukov proposed that the strike should begin from the entry points of Belostok and Lvov, resulting from the division of Poland, which allowed a classic encirclement operation through attacks of two mobile wrapping up groups, which would have immediately opened a fan of possibilities[31]. “The two prominences (Belostok and Lvov – n. n.) are inevitably neighboring four «depressions». From north to south, these «depressions» at the base of the prominences were located near the cities of Grodno, Brest, Vladimir-Volynski, Chernivtsi. If the Red Army would prepare to go on the defense, then the «ends of the prominences» would only leave a small number of cover troops, while the main defensive units would be lined by the bases, in the «depressions». Such a formation guarantees the avoidance of a wrap around for our own troops on the prominence territory, the decrease of the defense front (the length of the triangle base is always smaller than the sum of the other two sides), as well as the creation of a large operative density in the enemy’s most probable directions of assault,”[32] concludes Russian historian Mark Solonin.

The German border also had two entry points on the Soviet side, in the Suvalok and Lublin districts, and the Wehrmacht was preparing for a similar maneuver. General G.K. Zhukov also planned a strike in the direction of Romania, proposing the deployment of another front behind the Western Front, at the Romanian border, concomitantly with supporting attacks from the Pribaltika against Königsberg and the strike of two army ranger armies through the Carpathians. Army General Makhmut A. Gareyev wrote the following in the volume Curajul (1991, p. 253), with regards to the offensive intentions of the Red Army: “Attacking mainly in the direction of Krakow to the flank of the basic enemy group allowed the separation of Germany from the Balkan countries, the deprivation of Romanian oil and isolation from its allies right from the onset of the war. While the main strike on the flanks neighboring the Western and North-Western Fronts would lead to a frontal attack, in difficult terrain conditions, against strongly fortified defensive positions in Eastern Prussia, where the German army could provide a better resistance. The conditions and, implicitly, the reasoning which could occur were completely had the strategic plan also included the development at the beginning of the war of defensive operations to push back aggression. In this case, it was obviously more profitable for the main forces to be located in the Western Front area. But not such development of the strategic operations was foreseen.”[33] During a conference held in Kiev, in the spring of 1941, G.K. Zhukov’s speech dumbfounded everyone present by the idea of mandatorily achieving an offensive superiority of 2 to 1, in terms of forces and means, not only in the main strike sector, but also for the entire offensive strip of the troops on the front. “A defense – stated General M. A. Purkayev in a report on the defensive concerns, presented on the same occasion – which is not aimed at gaining victory is unfounded and unnecessary. Our defense should also ensure superiority over the enemy, but it is achieved in a completely different manner than on the offensive. It will probably require even more cunning in the execution of maneuvers of forces and means.”[34] At the proposal of G.K. Zhukov, Stalin approved that under the guise of a mobile drill assembly, to transfer two small size armies to Ukraine and Belorussia, in April – May 1941, for the purpose of consolidating the forces which covered the state border of the Soviet Union. Stalin ordered the enhancement of works by all means for the construction of base and campaign air fields for the soviet aviation[35].

Troop Assembly on Strategic Directions

On May 12, 1941, the German ambassador in Moscow, Count von der Schulenburg, telegraphed from Belin stating that Stalin had set a very important objective in the field of foreign politics, which he hoped to achieve by his own means. The informative briefing of the SIS during the May 11 – 20, 1941 interval, confirmed the increased activity of the Soviet troops on the border, the barycenter of this activity moving towards the south of Bessarabia, where troop movements, continuous arrival of materials and repeated alarm drills were observed. On May 13, 1941, the Soviet Great General Staff issued a directive on the transfer of troops from the inner military regions towards the West. “In total – wrote General G.K. Zhukov in his memoirs -, 28 infantry divisions and 4 army commandments were transferred from the inner regions closer to the Western borders in the month of May.”[36] According to the directive of the Great General Staff in Moscow, the campaign commandments of the fronts and armies should have been established in the assembly districts on the frontier between June 21 and 25, 1941. “The border guards of the NKVD were being highly trained for the passage of rivers or smaller water courses. Neither of the 65 armored divisions was trained to blow up bridges in case of a retreat, however, each one included battalions of pontoneers ready to replace potentially destroyed bridges in enemy territory, thus supporting the advance, while their numbers were much higher than similar troops displaced in all the other armies assembled,”[37] writes historian Werner Maser.

On May 15, 1941, Stalin received a military document for approval, entitled “Project of the Report Drafter by the People’s Commissioner for Defense”, signed by Marshal S.K. Timoshenko and General G.K. Zhukov, which established that the first strategic objective of the Red Army’s action was to destroy the main forces of the Wehrmacht deployed to the south of Brest – Debin. The Soviet troops needed to arrive, after 30 days of battle, to the north of the Ostroleka – Narev river – Lovech – Lodz – Kenzburg – Oppeben – Olonanc alignment. The South-Western Front was aimed to protect the state frontier with Hungary and Romania in the Chernivtsi – Chisinau districts, for the purpose of obliterating the northern flank of the Romanian army and exiting on the Moldova river – Iaşi alignment. “The operative plan of a war against Germany existed, and it was perfect not only within the Great General Staff, but also detailed by troop commanders and general staffs of the military regions from the western frontiers of the Soviet Union,”[38], confessed Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky. Referring to the existence of this “Grand Plan”, historian Mark Solonin mentioned: “(…) all known operative plan actually represent one and the same document, with certain insignificant amendments from one version to the next. All versions of the grand Plan coincide both in terms of content, as well as in terms of text formulation. Thirdly, all versions, without exception, represent the plan of an offensive operation beyond the state borders of the USSR, and Germany is invariably indicated as the main enemy. The military actions on proper territory were not even assessed as possible scenarios of war development events”[39].

On June 13, 1941, the TASS Agency would release a statement where it declares that there are no rallying activities of great military forces on the western frontier of the Soviet Union, nor are any foreseen. Army general M.A. Gareyev, deputy for the Head of the General Staff of the Soviet Union Aerial Forces, wrote, in Krasnaia Zvezda of July 27, 1991: “The direction of assembly for the main forces was chosen by the soviet commandment not in the interest of strategic defense (as such an operation was simply not foreseen or planned), but based on other interests… The main assault on the South-West direction passed through the most favorable area, separating Germany from its main allies, from oil, and moving our troops to the flank and behind the main enemy group ….”[40] During the interrogation to which he was subject by the Germans on June 22, 1941, Lieutenant General Andrey Andreyevich Vlasov, former commander of the Soviet 4th Mechanized Corps, declared that such intentions existed, without a doubt. “The assembly of troops from the Lvov district – stated A. A. Vlasov – indicates the fact that an attack on Romania was being prepared for the purpose of oil sources… The Red Army was not ready for a German offensive. Despite all the rumors on the respective measures promoted by Germany, nobody in the Soviet Union believed in such a possibility. The Russians’ preparation only considered their own offensive.”[41]

Under the cover of the TASS Agency statement, of June 13, 1941, 114 Soviet divisions from the first Strategic Echelon, located deep in the territory of the western frontier regions, began to advance towards the border, although the USSR had informed the international public that there is no great rallying of military troops on the western frontier of the USSR, nor that one was foreseen. However, 56 divisions from the first strategic echelon were already bound to the state frontier, having no other movement possibilities. Moreover, 77 divisions from the second strategic echelon began their advance towards the west, in the form of drill rallying. “By June 13 – wrote Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim -, the Soviet government had refuted all war rumors, yet, despite this refuting, reliable reports signaled vast military preparations at our borders; activity was bursting at the Gulf of Finland and Hanko. This prompted us to mobilize the entire campaign army, through an order issued on June 17 (1941 – n. n.).[42]

Certain Commanders Opened the “Red Envelope”

During the months of April and May of 1941, the Soviet Great General Staff had transferred, without issue, from the Far East to the Western frontier, a number of 28 divisions, nine army corps commandments and four army commandments. The units were to take battle positions in the Kiev and Western Special Military Districts during the June 1 – 10, 1941 period. Another three soviet armies in the Far East were bound to advance towards the West, yet until June 22, 1941, a single army had arrived near Moscow. “The great delay in the advance of these cover forces and their equipping with arms, gear and means of transportation required would prove a crucial factor in the days to come,”[43]concluded former American intelligence officer David E. Murphy.

On June 19, 1941, the KNGB in the Moldavian RSS reported that the operation to deport certain categories of anti-Soviet Moldavian population, carried out on June 13, 1941, had been successfully completed. The border area had been cleared of subversive anti-Soviet elements, so that the Germans could no longer count on their support as the USSR NKGB had informed the Chisinau authorities on May 11, 1941. The troops comprising the 11th Soviet Army, within the Peribaltika Special Military Region (SMR) (future North-Western Front), were brought to the optimum status of battle preparations by mid June 1941, in great secrecy. On June 18, 1941, the commander of SMR Peribaltika, Colonel General F.I. Kuznetsov, would issue a new order: “The head of the anti-aircraft defense area will bring the entire anti-aircraft defense of the region to optimum battle readiness by the end of June 19, 1941… Come the dawn of 20.6.41, the command points of the fronts and armies will be supplied by parachute teams with everything necessary to organize new connection nodes…. Transmission teams will be assigned and trained to be ready come the dawn of 20.6.41. The unit commanders will control the connection nodes approved by myself… Mobile anti-tank battle detachments will be created in the directions of Telšiai, Šiauliai, Kaunas and Kalvaria. For this purpose, road vehicles will supply anti-tank mines. The training of detachments is to be done by 21.6.41… The bridge destruction plan will be approved by the Army Military Council. Deadline 21.6.41… All gasoline tankers will be taken from the units in the region (aside from the mechanized and aviation units) and 50% each will be distributed to the 3rd and 12th Mechanized Corps. Deadline 21.6.41”[44].

The advance to the rallying districts for the offensive was to begin on the night of June 18, 1941, at 11.00 PM, and their final destination for all routes: the woods in the area. Former commander of the 7th Soviet Tank Division[45], Major General Semen Vasilievich Borzilov stated, on August 4, 1941, in the report submitted with his superiors: “(…) 4. On June 20, 1941, the Corps commandment held a council with the Division commandment, where they proposed thee intensification of battle training, i.e. we were ordered to prepare shells and chargers, to attach them to tanks, to increase protection of the vehicle parks and storages, to verify again the assembly areas for units at the sound of the battle alarm, to establish radio connections with the General Staff of the divisions. The Corps commander warned us that the measures must be taken without clamor, that we were not to speak to anyone about it, to continue training according to plan. All instructions were fulfilled on time. 5. On June 22, at 2 o’clock, I received the password for the battle alarm for opening the «red envelope» from an intelligence service officer (within the Red Army this expression refers to the envelope including the operative plan of military actions for the respective unit, which its commander was entitled to open only subject to the order of the superior commandment – M. S.). After 10 minutes, the battle alarm was sounded for the division units and at 4.30 the units assembled at the alarm rally point”[46]. The commanders of the 6th Mechanized Corps, comprising the Western Front, and those of the 3rd Mechanized Corps, of the North-Western Front, opened the “Red Envelope” so that the 6th Soviet Mechanized Corps proceeded to carry out a recon mission “on the Warsaw road towards the west”, thus one my consider that “«the red envelope» did not contain non-existent «plan of pushing back the assault» – concluded Russian historian Mark Solonin -, but the plan of the first military operations for invasion of the Polish territory occupied by the Germans.”[47]

In the Krasnaia Zvezda of July 30, 1993, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow confirmed the existence of a signal called “Storm”, yet it provides it with a completely different meaning: “The «Storm» signal was indeed established, but it meant something completely different. Upon receipt, the division commanders of the cover armies were to open the «red envelopes». These contained orders with the measures to be taken to occupy battle positions so as to repel the enemy assault, in case of an aggression”[48]. Lieutenant general N. G. Pavlenko stated in Voenno Istoriceskii Jurnal (nr. 11/1988, p. 26): “By mid-60s, G.K. Zhukov and ourselves, the military historians, we believed that at the start of the war the enemy would have superiority in terms of forces and military means over our groups in the frontier area. Now, looking back at the new materials… the opinion in terms of force ratios changes significantly.”[49]

Field Marshal Erich von Manstein remembers that there were many discrepancies within the German upper military leadership, regarding the deployment of soviet troops, both offensively and defensively. “If we were to take into account the number of troops deployed on the western part of the Soviet Union and the significant rallying of armored vehicles in the Bialystok area and around Lvovwrote Field Marshal Erich von Manstein in his memoirs -, then we could conclude – as Hitler did – that sooner or later the Soviet Union would have gone on the offensive. (…) In a short span of time, the Red Army, whose army groups outnumbered, if they were not qualitatively superior to the Wehrmacht army groups[50], could advance to the West and attack (…). If the Soviet Union would have been given a favorable opportunity – either political or military – it could have directly threatened the Reich”[51].

Come the dawn of June 22, 1941, at 05.40, the commander of the 8th Soviet Mechanized Corps opened the “red envelope” and, according to Order no. 002 of May 17, 1941 of the commandment of the 26th Soviet Army, its units advanced towards the west, reaching by the noon of June 23, 1941 the San frontier river, west of Sambor. “The red envelope” with Directive no. 0013 as of May 31, 1941 of the General Staff of the Kiev SMR was opened on the morning of June 22, 1941, at 04.45, by the commander of the 15th Soviet Mechanized Corps. The units of the 15th Soviet Mechanized Corps began their advance towards Radehov. The assessment of these facts demonstrate that the Red Army was ready for a “preemptive strike” against the Wehrmacht. July 10 was the date for full assembly for the second strategic echelon of the Red Army on the western border, and the soviet military theory implied an attack before the full assembly of troops, not after, at dawn. July 6, 1941 was the last Sunday before the complete assembly of Soviet troops, which encouraged the triggering of the “Soviet preemptive strike,” respectively the invasion of Western Europe by the Red Army (Operation “Storm”)[52].

All this information on the political and military intentions of the Soviet Union consolidate Victor Suvorov’s theory, partially confirmed by documents, according to which the USSR was preparing a surprise attack on Western Europe on July 6, 1941. This crucial decision for the destiny of mankind will not be found in any official Soviet document given that Stalin had instated the practice of assessing problems and “oftentimes made decisions based on such problems, without report notes”[53]. Historian Mark Solonin wrote: “The plans for a great offensive of the Red Army from the territory of the «Lvov prominence» in the south of Poland were approved and adopted so as to be fulfilled. A fact confirmed not by the papers (which can be forged), nor by statements (which are sometimes written «on commission» by unscrupulous persons), but by the real deployment of troops which occurred in the spring and summer of 1941”[54].

In the work Anul 1941 – lecții și concluzii (1941. God-uroki i vyyvody)[55] one may read the following: “Troop movement was planned considering the completion of the assembly in the areas indicated by the operative plans, from June 1 until July 10, 1941”[56]. This phase confirms that, on June 22, 1941, the Red Army rallying operation on the Western frontier was in full swing and was being carried out according to a certain schedule which did not take into account the assault of the Wehrmacht. “The Red Army was far from unarmed. During the secret mobilization before the war, it already disposed of a huge number of men, guns, tanks and tractors, much greater than the enemy’s. The failure of public mobilization plans hindered its war capacity, but it did not cancel it out. (…) Moreover, the much praised Stalinist «order» was thrown into anarchy and chaos without precedent during the first hours of the confrontation with a real, armed enemy. The unitary (in theory) mechanism of the army began to disintegrate in a multitude of «rollers» before hearing the first shots being fired,”[57] concluded Russian historian Mark Solonin. In 1988, Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky confessed: “The mobilization plans were effectively detailed for each unit, including the smallest unit behind the front, in the form of certain storages and management crews… Our problem was not the lack of plans, but the inability to see them through given the context created.”[58]

Remembering these historical events entitles us to conclude that June 22, 1941 represented an assessment failure on behalf of Stalin and the Soviet Great General Staff, in terms of Hitler’s decision to attack us[59], as well as in terms of the fighting power of the Wehrmacht on certain strategic directions, and not a huge strategic surprise.

When dawn came, they… weren’t sleeping!


Despite the fact that there was a great deal of information, both from human sources and from airborne strategic military research performed by the USSR military bodies, as well as near the state border, the Soviet Union was surprised by the power of the German attack, not to mention its triggering. The collapse of the illusions about the strength and power of the Soviet state and, implicitly, of the Red Army was a certainty given the testimonies that Stalin was willing to ask peace to Nazi Germany through the Bulgarian ambassador to Moscow. At the same time, Stalin was convinced he would be removed from power by the rest of the leaders of the CPSU CC’s Political Bureau. The quality and amount of information held by the USSR’s intelligence community on the operational-strategic plans and intentions of OKW and OKH were impressive. From such a perspective, we can say that the NKGB external intelligence officers and their GRU colleagues have demonstrated a high level of professionalism. Unfortunately, the NKGB and GRU leaders have had to overcome an obstacle that has proved impossible to overcome: Stalin’s will and his political-strategic plans.

Soviet intelligence officers have not enjoyed much trust from the Kremlin leader and therefore have not been fully initiated into Stalin’s secrets. Redeeming of the GRU (Red Army Information Service) and the assassination of highly valuable intelligence officers (e.g. Lieutenant General of Aviation Ivan I. Proskurov) and the abandonment of RAMSAI resident (alias Richard Sorge), reveals the absurdity of the Stalinist era but also the courage of some people to face death and dishonour in the belief that they serve their country, above the leader of the CPSU. The Soviet Union intelligence community would recover as the balance of war tilted in favor of the Red Army and would become an extremely important tool in Stalin’s geopolitical and strategic plans.

The passion with which a significant part of Soviet / Russian historiography refuses to accept the hypothesis of a Red Army’s “preventive attack” against the Wehrmacht on July 6, 1941, is directly related to the attempt to hide historical truth and, at the same time, to blocking the decipherment of a pattern of behaviour. A behaviour closely related to the geopolitical and strategic interests of the USSR, and in which the military instrument, in correlation with intelligence, played a major role in maintaining the status of the great geopolitical power. We can think that behind the so-called informational “big failure” of the Soviet intelligence community on June 22, 1941, is in fact the failure of a strategic plan whose success would have had major geopolitical and strategic implications at that time and beyond.

A strategic plan that can be deciphered/intuited considering that the shift of the Red Army’s strategic echelons to the areas indicated by the operative plans was planned for the period from June 1 to July 10, 1941. The Soviet military theory provided for the attack not after the complete concentration of the troops, but before it, at dawn. The signal called “Storm”, whose existence was revealed by the Moscow Defence Ministry in Krasnaia Zvezda on July 30, 1993, is related to the idea of moving to a strong attack response with a subsequent shift to a decisive attack across the front. Strategic defence and other forms of action have not been considered and discussed by the political and military decision-makers of the Soviet Union.


[1] Victor Suvorov, Spărgătorul de gheaţă, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 1995, p. 278.

[2] Aviation Lieutenant General Ivan I. Proskurov was officially replaced from the position of head of GRU on July 27, 1940 by Lieutenant General Filipp I. Golikov. In May 1940, Lieutenant General Ivan I. Proskurov contested the decision before a Commission comprising of representatives of the Commissariat for Defense and of the Central CP Committee (b) of the USSR against the NKVD repression now steered against the GRU. „The last two years represented a period of repression of allogene and hostile elements in the intelligence directorates and bodies. During this two-year period, the NKVD bodies arrested more than two hundred people, replacing the entire management, including the heads of departments. During my time in charge alone 365 people were fired from the central body and subordinate units for political reasons or other reasons. 326 people were hired, most of which did not have intelligence training”, stated Lieutenant General Ivan I. Proskurov (Apud David E. Murphy, Enigma Barbarossa. Ce ştia Stalin, Editura Militară, Bucureşti, 2013, p. 170). On June 1940, between 5.15 and 6.10 PM, Lieutenant General Ivan I. Proskurov took part in a discussion with Stalin in Kremlin. The GRU reports of June 19 and 20, 1940 were signed by Lieutenant General Ivan I. Proskurov and revealed the fact that an increase in the number of German troops on the Lithuanian border was recorded. On July 22, 1940, NKVD’s Foreign Intelligence informed the GRU Dispatcher through a Memorandum on the fact that the Wehrmacht was displacing numerous troops to the Central Government in Poland. After being relieved from office, Lieutenant general Ivan I. Proskurov was left to await a new mission. On May 30 1941 he was nominated by Major General B.P. Belov, head of the Personnel Directorate within the Red Army Aerial Forces, to command the aerial troops of Soviet Army 7, stationed in Petrozavodsk, north-east of Leningrad. On June 19, 1941 he was informed of his appointed to the new position. He intended to leave for Leningrad on the morning of June 22, 1941. On Friday, June 20, 1941, he made a visit to the General Headquarters of GRU to get up to date with the informative-operative situation. He left for Leningrad on June 22, 1941, towards the evening. On June 27, 1941, Lieutenant General Ivan I. Proskurov was arrested by the NKGB of Karelian RSSA and moved to Moscow. He was shot by the NKVD on October 28, 1941, in Barysh, a settlement on the outskirts of Kuybyshev, according to Order no. 2756 B issued by L. P. Beria, along with another 19 people considered extremely dangerous by Stalin. The list of people shot may be read in David E. Murphy, op. cit., p. 296 – 297.

[3] During the April – June 1941 period, the NKVD would make new arrests within the body of Red Army officers and generals. The fear instilled by Stalin would influence, according to the opinion of several historians and publicist, the manner in which the Soviet intelligence services (GRU&NKGB) understood the development of events on the international arena. „Few professional officers would risk confronting Stalin. The memory of the terror of the 1930s was too recent and the military leadership at the very top was too aware of the new wave of arrests taking place during April, May, and June 1941. (…) Defenders of his actions in the purges claim that it was necessary to rid the army of a potential fifth column. More likely they were motivated by his determination to eliminate anyone who opposed him or might oppose him. (…) What he and many of his closest associates failed to understand was how the purges affected the spirits of those who survived. The atmosphere of terror paralyzed the will of even the best of those still serving and affected their performance on the summer’s battlefields”, concluded David E. Murphy (Ibidem, p. 284 – 285).

[4] Henry Kissinger, Diplomaţia, Editura All, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 333.

[5] A former clerk of the German Embassy in Tokyo, Erwin Wickert, claimed, in his memoirs, that the RAMSAI Group telegrapher, Max Klausen, only actually sent a small part of the intelligence gathered by Richard Sage to Moscow, and he did it because he was tired of espionage work, even fearful. See: Erwin Wickert, Povestiri amare despre spionul Richard Sorge, partea a II-a, în Luceafărul, nr. 38 (668), 20 octombrie 2004, p. 16 – 17.

[6] GRU had at its disposal, thanks to the RAMSAI espionage network, led by Richard Sorge, an exact map of the Battle Order of the Japanese Imperial Army containing the numbers and codes of the Japanese divisions, their exact locations and the names of division commanders who would start the war in the Pacific Ocean. The American Intelligence Services found out during the fights in the Pacific that the USSR held “the most detailed information on the Japanese battle order” (Apud Michael Nicholas Blaga, Cum a renunţat Stalin la superspionul Richard Sorge, în Historia, Anul X, nr. 108, decembrie 2010, p. 64).

[7] Hearings on American Aspects of the Richard Sorge Spy Case, House of Representatives Eighty Second Congress, First Session, August 9, 22 and 23, Washington, 1951. „A live Sorge could become a threat to the homeland all saving father myth, so he had to be removed,” stated Japanese Professor Kaidzi Kasama during a symposium held in Moscow, organized by the Institute of Military History of the Ministry of Defense in the Russian Federation and the Nippon – Russian Center for Historic Research, dedicated to the personality of Richard Sorge. Symposium participants accredited the hypothesis according to which Richard Sorge was a double agent (See: Florentina Dolghin, Spionul Unu şi Jumătate, în Magazin istoric, Anul XXXIV, serie nouă, nr. 2/407, februarie 2001, p. 92). On the life and career of Richard Sorge, see: Michael Nicholas Blaga, Cum a renunţat Stalin la superspionul…, p. 62 – 65 and Robert Whymant, Spionul lui Stalin. Richard Sorge şi reţeaua de spionaj din Tokio, Editura Corint, Bucureşti, 2013, 510 p.

[8] A series of extremely interesting details on the misinformation operations conducted by the Germans around June 22, 1941 may be read in: Dinu Moraru, Hitler l-a manipulat pe Stalin, în Lumea Magazin, Anul IX, nr. 1 (93), 2001, p. 50. The reports of Soviet agent Amiak Z. Kobulov, stationed in berlin in June 1941, pointed out, based on the information provided by Orest Berlinks, Gestapo agent, the fact that the German troop maneuvers and concentrations on the USSR border “were meant to press Stalin into being more flexible, to cease the machinations against Germany and, mainly, to provide more raw material, especially oil.”

[9] ASRI, fond „d”, dosar nr. 6.531, f. 14.

[10] Ibidem.

[11] Ibidem, p. 90 – 91.

[12] ASRI, fond „d”, dosar nr. 10.577, vol. 2, f. 114.

[13] Was established in July 18, 1941, in Botoșani, and placed under the leadership of Major, and later in July 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Dionisie Bădărău. Prisoners, deserters, refugees, partisans and terrorists were among the best information sources of this informative structure of the Romanian great General Staff.

[14] Pavel Moraru, Momente din activitatea Serviciilor Secrete ale Armatei Române pe Frontul de Răsărit. Istorie în documente (1941 – 1944), Academia Română/Institutul Naţional pentru Studiul Totalitarismului, Bucureşti, 2009, p. 116.

[15] In 1938, the Soviet Union recorded six airborne brigades, one of which had been engaged in the fighting with the Japanese, in 1939, in Manchuria. „As a matter of fact, although the Soviet Union had five aerial assault units ready for battle and anther three pending operationalization when it entered World War II, their actual use on the operation theaters was not proportionate to the size of their development, neither were the results obtained in the confrontations where they were deployed. Although Stalin intended to have ten aerial assault units prepared for the «great liberation offensive,» the Soviets didn’t use the airborne troops at their estimated potential, mainly because they lacked an aerial force capable of transporting and sustaining long range airborne operations, but also because they believed it was more efficient to use groups of well-trained fighters, landed by parachute behind enemy lines, for recon and commando-type sabotage operations,” believes Mircea Tănase (See: Relaţii româno-sovietice sub cupola paraşutei, în Dosarele Istoriei, anul X, nr. 9/109, 2005, p. 11).

[16] ANIC, fond Ministerul de Război – Marele Cartier General, dosar nr. 63/1941, f. 1-6.

[17] Mircea Tănase, Salt în istorie. Paraşutiştii din România în anii celui de-al doilea război mondial, Editura Academiei de Înalte Studii Militare, Bucureşti, 2003, p. 72.

[18] Ibidem.

[19] On April 29, 1941, Hitler had declared before the young graduates of German military institutions: “The actions foreseen are however a state necessity, as the red mob raises its head above Europe” (Apud Vasile Buga, Tot mai aproape de război. Relațiile sovieto-germane în primăvara lui 1941, în Mioara Anton, Florin Anghel, Cosmin Popa – coordonatori, Hegemoniile trecutului. Evoluții românești și europene, Editura Curtea Veche, București, 2006, p. 245).

[20] A photocopy of the document containing this speech was published in 1992, by historian Lev A. Bezymensky, and republished by historian O. V. Vishlev in the volume Nakanune 22 iunia 1941 goda (Editura Nauka, Moscova, 2001 p. 176 – 182). See: Vasile Buga, op. cit., p. 250 – 255.

[21] Grigore Gafencu, Preliminarii la războiul din Răsărit, Editura Globus, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 190-191.

[22] Laurenţiu Panait, Stalin trage sabia, în Dosarele Istoriei, Anul II, nr. 5 (10), 1997, p. 23.

[23] Ibidem.

[24] Vasile Buga, op. cit., p. 246.

[25] The plan of the Soviet Great General Staff was published by Russian historian Lev A. Bezymenski, during the course of 1998, in Novoe Vremea magazine.

[26] The document is entitled Considerations on the strategic deployment plan for the Soviet Union forces in case of a war with Germany and its allies and was handwritten, in a single copy, on May 15, 1941, by the deputy Head of the Operative Section of the RKKA Great General Staff, Major General A.M. Vasilevsky. The test features a correction made by the hand of Vatutin or Zhukov. The signatures of Stalin, Zhukov and Timoshenko.

[27] See: Florentina Dolghin, Planul sovietic de atac: mai 1941, în Magazin istoric, Anul XXXIII, serie nouă, nr. 1 (382), ianuarie 1999, p. 66 – 67.

[28] The drill was carried out in the presence of Stalin and the members of the Political Office of the CC of the CP (b) of the USSR. Following an article published in Voenno Istoriceskii Jurnal (nr. 2/1992) referring to the drill of December 1940, P. Bobylev would write in Izvestia of June 22, 1993: “Neither in the first tactical drill, nor in the second, did the «Easterners» have as a main mission the defense of the country’s western frontiers. The importance of said drills was stressed on attack”. Victor Suvorov that, given the title (Breaching a Fortified Area), the subject of the military exercise of December 1940 – January 1941 underlines the preparations made for the attack against Germany, more precisely, on Eastern Prussia, which was protected by a line of fortifications.

[29] Mareşalul Jukov – Între legendă şi adevăr…, vol. I, p. 44; See: Iuri Solnîşkov, 1941: Jukov îndeamnă pe Stalin la un atac preventiv, în Magazin istoric, Anul XXIX, serie nouă, nr. 6 (339), iunie 1995, p. 10 – 11.

[30] Victor Suvorov, Umbra Victoriei, Editura Polirom, Iași, 2013, p. 124.

[31] Soviet Mechanized Corps 3, 6, 15, 4 and 8 were deployed in the respective area, from north to south.

[32] Mark Solonin, Butoiul şi cercurile. 22 iunie 1941 sau când a început Marele Război pentru Apărarea Patriei, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 2012, p. 30.

[33] Victor Suvorov, Sinuciderea. De ce a atacat Hitler Uniunea Sovietică?, Editura Polirom, București, 2012,  p. 260.

[34] I. H. Bagramean, Aşa a început războiul, Editura Militară, Bucureşti, 1974, p. 46.

[35] On June 22, 1941, the Luftwaffe acted against the USSR with 22 groups of fighter planes (66 squadrons), i.e. 1,036 planes. The Aerial Military Forces (AMF) of the USSR disposed of 64 regiments of fighter planes (320 squadrons), within the structure of the Western military regions, i.e. 4,200 fighter planes. The Fleet Aviation also included a further 764 fighter planes. Huge reserves of airplanes and pilots were located behind the front, so that, for example, on June 25, 1941, the AMF of the Western Front received under the ferule two aviation divisions (approximately 300 – 400 planes) transferred from within the Soviet Union, while on July 9, 1941, a further 452 planes were deployed to compensate for losses. The USSR AMF comprised of 11,500 fighter planes.

[36] G. K. Jukov, Amintiri şi reflecţii, Editura Militară, Bucureşti, 1970, p. 256.

[37] Dumitru Hâncu, 22 iunie 1941. O altă ipoteză, în Magazin istoric, Anul XXIX, serie nouă, nr. 6 (339), iunie 1995, p. 8. The existence of 24,000 soviet tanks, of which over 50% were concentrated to the west of the Soviet Union, confirm the hypotheses regarding the huge military potential of the Soviets existing in the summer of 1941 (Apud B. H. Liddell Hart, Istoria celui de-al doilea război mondial, vol. I, Editurile Orizonturi&Lider, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 214).

[38] Mark Solonin, op. cit., p. 160.

[39] Ibidem.

[40] Victor Suvorov, Spărgătorul…, p. 260.

[41] Idem, Sinuciderea…, p. 265.

[42] Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Memorii, Editura Militară, Bucureşti, 2003, p. 273.

[43] David E. Murphy, op. cit., p. 246 – 247.

[44] Mark Solonin, op. cit., p. 49. The document is found published in volume 34 of the Sbornik Boevyh Dokumentov (SBD) document book and was disclosed on 30.11.1965.

[45] The division comprised of 368 tanks, including 200 of the newest types of KV and T-34, i.e. more than all the tank division of the Leningrad and Pribaltika Military Regions put together.

[46] Mark Solonin, op. cit., p. 87. The document is called “Memorandum of the commander of the 7th Tank Division, Major General, S.V. Borzilov to the Main Tank and Armored Vehicle Directorate of the RKKA, as of August 4, 1941 and was initially published in the ”Voenno Istoriceskii Jurnal magazine in the 80s.

[47] Ibidem, p. 91.

[48] Victor Suvorov, Umbra…, p. 158.

[49] Idem, Sinuciderea…, p. 45.

[50] According to the Inventory of presence and technical state of war vehicles, according to the report of June 1, 1941, the five military regions of western frontier of the USSR included 12,782 tanks, of which 10,450 were categories 1 and 2 (82.5%), exclusive of T-27 tankettes which were obsolete and withdrawn from the military unit circuit. The Kiev Special Military Region (future South-Western Front) included, for example, 5,465 tanks, of which 4,788 were categories 1 and 2 (87.6%)

[51] Erich von Manstein, Victorii pierdute, Editura Elit, Iaşi, 2000, p. 173.

[52] The Southern Military Operations Theater (SMOT), which coincided with the zone of action of the South Front and South-Western Front (which was not operatively related to its neighbors – the North, North-Western and Western Front), included in June 1941 a number of eight Soviet armies: six armies of the first echelon by border deployed from north to south (5th, 6th, 26th, 18th and 9th Soviet Armies), while the operative depth behind the front included the 16th Army in the Shepetovka region and the 19th Army in the Cerkassy – Belaya Tserkov area. 61 divisions of riflemen (32 on the South-Western Front, 13 on the South Front and 16 within the structure of the 19th and 16th Soviet Armies) and five cavalry divisions located in SMOT by June 22, 1941, as well as 23 tank divisions and 11 Soviet motorized divisions. The first strategic echelon included the following Mechanized Corps (MC): 22, 4, 15, 8, 16, 18 and 2. MC 9, 19 and 24 were deployed in reserve by the commandment of the South-Western Front, while CM 5 was included in the structure of the 16th Soviet Army.

[53] Victor Suvorov, Ziua M, Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 1998, p. 60.

[54] Mark Solonin, op. cit., p. 162 – 163.

[55] The paper was edited in 1992 under the aegis of the Soviet Great General Staff and of the United Army Forces of the Community of Independent States.

[56] Mark Solonin, op. cit., p. 164.

[57] Ibidem, p. 205.

[58] Victor Suvorov, Umbra…, p. 155.

[59] In a Memorandum submitted with the OKW around the attack of June 22, 1941, admiral Canaris wrote: “I am certain that this campaign against Russia, deemed as the answer to all his difficulties by the Führer will result in nothing but the overwhelming of Germany and will cancel out the few chances of peace remaining” (Apud Richard Bassett, Spionul-şef al lui Hitler. Misterul Wilhelm Canaris, Editura RAO, Bucureşti, 2008, p. 250). Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel replied: “My dear Canaris, you might know a thing or two about the intelligence services, but you’re just a sailor. Don’t presume to teach the Army lessons on how to conduct military strategy.” (Ibidem, p. 250 – 251)