Sunday, January 22, 2017

Documentary Review: World War Two: 1941 and the Man of Steel (2011)

This is an interesting look at WWII from the other side, the Soviet Union side.  Joseph Stalin, whose name means steel, as a Communist dictator was a brutal murderer, killing 10 million peasants in his own country.  When the peasants would not go along with the plan to develop communal farms,  many of them killed their own cattle.  A a result Stalin transported them to remote areas, and let them starve.  He was also a master manipulator, instilling fear in his people and fellow politicians.  Many were carted off to prisons or concentration camps, or executed.  He even killed the wife of his person secretary.  No one was immune.  No one was immune.  However when the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union, many things changed.  Stalin was incredulous, and consequently the Russian  reaction was slow.  Stalin's forces were near defeat, and with them would have gone Stalin's ability to lead.  Stalin appealed to national Russian pride, rather than the benefits of communism.  In this way he rallied the people and his own position.  He determine not to abandon Moscow to the Germans, and over time this decision was born out.  When the snow hit, Russians were at a disadvantage, in terms of not having proper equipment.  Even their tanks would take hours to start in the freezing weather.  A counter attack pushed them back.  However Stalin was too greedy.  He pushed his generals into a trap, and almost a million men were captured.
In 1842 Stalin was forced to reach out to the West.  He was also forced to trust his generals.  he removed communist oversight, and let his generals lead.  He also supported them by allowing reserves to move forward.  This time around Stalingrad (which if it fell would have opened the way to Persia and the British oil reserves) the Russians were again able to push back the Germans.  However this time they were more cautious in their advance.
Behind all of this was the relationship between Stalin and Churchill.  Churchill had previously sworn to stamp out communism.  Now they were allies.  However they were allies with differences.  Russia insisted on the Balkans and Poland be given to them.  However England did not give in. Stalin insisted on a second front to relieve pressure on Russia.  Churchill agreed to opening a front in Africa.  Situations were tense, but the allegiance prevailed.  Russia and England needed each other.
After the war, Stalin went back to his old tactics, arresting generals and ruling with an iron hand.  And in truth the Soviet Union gained more territory than the had asked, as many countries, included much of Germany, were behind the iron curtain and under communist oversight.
This is a BBC production with David reynolds narrating and Russell Barnes directing.

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