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see the violence of collectivization and the ensuing mass famine as historically
necessary and thus progressive.94 Finally, large numbers of NKVD personnel
had learned during the Great Purges that the physical destruction of enemies “
even potential foes “ was part of the course of revolutionary action. And, of
course, Stalin himself thought of violence as a normal ingredient of political
struggle.95 Once his empire expanded beyond its initial borders (Poland 1939,
the Baltic states and Bessarabia in 1940), the subjected peoples were treated
to a terror regime at times bordering on genocide. The forest of Katyn, where
in 1940 several thousand Polish of¬cers were buried after their execution on
direct orders by the Politburo, became the symbol for the brutality of Stalin™s
“revolution from abroad.”96 While the Nazi fantasy world of Aryan people of
light locked in mortal combat with bloodthirsty Jewish-Bolshevik subhumans
of the night has little to recommend itself as a description of reality, the Ger-
mans did not need to invent much when it came to the brutality of Stalin™s
regime. The Katyn mass graves, as well as the 1941 slaughter of at least 8,789
and maybe as many as 100,000 prisoners, whose corpses were left behind by
retreating NKVD troops, are the most infamous examples.97 These horri¬c
episodes, which German propagandists quickly seized upon and the Soviets
immediately denied, were consistent with the “mass operations of repression
of anti-Soviet elements” in 1937 and 1938, when all kinds of undesirables
had been liquidated. The main difference was that in the late 1930s carefully
planned quotas for shootings were distributed, while in 1941 the massacres

Iosif Prut, Nepoddaiushchiisia o mnogikh drugikh i koe-chto o sebe (Moscow: “Vagrius,”

2000). On the incident with the “bandit™s” head see ibid., 117“18.
A famous example is the later dissident Lev Kopelev. See his memoirs The Education of a True

Believer, trans. Gary Kern (London: Wildwood House, 1981); and No Jail for Thought, trans.
Anthony Austin (London: Secker & Warburg, 1977). On the collectivizers see also Lynne Viola,
The Best Sons of the Fatherland: Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization (New York
and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Service, Stalin, 336“56.

Ch. Magaichik, “Katyn™;” N. S. Lebedeva, “Chetvertyi razdel Pol™shi i katyn™skaia tragediia,”

both in Drugaia voina, 225“95; Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of
Poland™s Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, expanded ed. (Princeton, NJ, and Oxford:
Princeton University Press, 2002), 228“9; R.W. Davies, Soviet History in the Yeltsin Era (New
York: St. Martin™s Press in association with Centre for Russian and East European Studies,
University of Birmingham, 1997), 18“19, 45.
Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Oxford and New York: Oxford University

Press, 1990), 456“7; Gross, Revolution from Abroad, 228; Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair, 14“
17 (with the more conservative number of executions, those accounted for in Soviet archives,
p. 14). The most in-depth study of these episodes is Bogdan Musial, “Konterrevolutionare
Elemente sind zu erschießen”: Die Brutalisierung des deutsch-sowjetischen Krieges im Sommer
1941, 2nd ed. (Berlin and Munich: Propylaen, 2001).
States of Exception 367

happened in the chaos of retreat.98 Also reminiscent of the Great Terror was
the initial hunt for scapegoats for the military catastrophe of the ¬rst weeks of
war “ frontline generals were accused of treason, arrested, and shot.99
In this immediate escalation of self-defense into a civil war against enemies
within as well as without, the Soviet leadership could rely on the loyalty of
a core group of cadres ready to defend “the revolution,” cost it what it may.
Such support, however, was not enough to win this war. It was clear that
the majority of Soviet citizens “ the peasants and ex-peasants against whom
the regime had waged war since collectivization “ were unlikely to ¬ght for
Bolshevism.100 Already in 1928 Stalin had predicted that in case of an attack,
the regime needed to be prepared to hold out for six months, as this was the
time “the peasant” needed “to come to his senses, become familiar with the
dangers of war, to understand what™s going on and pull himself together for
the common task of defending the country.”101 In order to help the muzhiki
familiarize themselves with these dangers the regime immediately radicalized
the conduct of war, once it became clear that the Red Army was unable to stop
the German juggernaut at the border. All-out war would, it was hoped, slow the
German advance long enough for “the peasant” to come “to his senses.” On
29 June the government ordered the complete evacuation or destruction of
“all valuable property” and the immediate organization of guerrilla warfare
if a region had to be abandoned to the enemy.102 Shortly thereafter, in his
¬rst public appearance after the invasion, the Supreme Commander called the
German challenge a “matter of life and death of the Soviet state, of life and
death of the peoples of the USSR.” This was “no ordinary war” and it would be
fought with all means necessary. All of society immediately was to be mobilized
for war; soldiers and civilians were told to “defend every inch of Soviet soil,
¬ght to the last drop of blood for our towns and villages,” while those who
refused to do so “ “whiners and cowards, panic-mongers and deserters” “ had

See Paul Hagenloh, “˜Socially Harmful Elements™ and the Great Terror,” in Stalinism: New

Directions, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 286“308; J. Arch
Getty and Oleg V. Naumov, eds., The Road to Terror: Stalin and the Self-Destruction of the
Bolsheviks, 1932“39 (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1999), 470“80. For
an example that engages German atrocity propaganda, see M. Lesnov, “Dokumenty odnogo
srazheniia,” Krasnaia zvezda, 22 October 1941, 3.
See the interrogation protocol of General D. G. Pavlov and the State Defense Committee

resolution of 16 July 1941. Both reprinted in: 1941 god. Dokumenty v 2-kh knigakh, ed. L. E.
Reshin et al., Vol. 2 (Moscow: Demokratiia, 1998), 455“68; 472“3. For a summary Merridale,
Ivan™s War, 85“8.
This was in fact the case, as recent research shows: Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair, 12“13.

On the war with the peasantry see Lynne Viola et al., eds., The War against the Peasantry,
1927“1930: The Tragedy of the Soviet Countryside (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
2005); V. Danilov, R. Manning, and L. Viola, eds., Tragediia sovetskoi derevni.
Stalin™s speech at the July Plenum of the Central Committee, evening of 9 July 1928, reprinted

in Tragediia sovetskoi derevni, vol. 1: 319“31, here: 326“7.
SNK and CC directive, signed by Molotov and Stalin, 29 June 1941, reprinted in 1941 god.

Dokumenty, vol. 2, 446“8, here: 447.
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer

no place “in our ranks.” When retreat was unavoidable, anything the enemy
could use “ from means of transport to fuel, from cows to grain “ was to be
either evacuated or destroyed; in the occupied territories a partisan war was to
be unleashed, destroying infrastructure, attacking the German troops and their
collaborators, killing them wherever they were to be found and thus to “create
unbearable conditions for the enemy.”103
This was a program for total war and a radicalization of the initial response,
formulated by Molotov immediately after the German invasion. Still expecting
that the Red Army could stop the aggressor quickly, the Commissar for Foreign
Affairs focused on “bloodthirsty fascists” as the enemy, who had forced “the
German people” into this war. He asked for discipline and patriotism, but
not for an all-out war.104 This was on 24 June. By early July, the Soviets had
clearly taken off whatever gloves they might have worn. However, it was not
yet a program for a war of extermination against the invaders. That was the
next step, a further radicalization caused by the experience with the German
conduct of war. Four months after his initial address to the Soviet people,
in a speech on 6 November 1941, Stalin quoted from captured Wehrmacht
documents and accepted warfare on German terms:

The German invaders want a war of extermination (istrebitel™naia voina) with
the peoples of the USSR. Well, then, if the Germans want a war of extermination,
they will get it. (Thunderous, lengthy applause).
Henceforth our task, the task of the peoples of the USSR, the task of the sol-
diers, commanders and political workers of our army and navy will be to exter-
minate (istrebit™) each and every German who has forced his way as an occupier
onto our homeland. (Thunderous applause; exclamations: “˜That™s right!” Shouts
of “Hurray!”)
No mercy to the German occupiers!
Death to the German occupiers! (Thunderous applause).105

This speech was widely propagated at the front, ¬‚anked by talks with titles
such as “Atrocities of the Fascist cannibals towards captured and wounded
Red Army soldiers, commanders, and political workers.”106 In the process,
the few subtleties of the message quickly got lost “ in Stalin™s careful wording
this was a program to exterminate, not “each and every German” but “each
and every German who has forced his way as an occupier onto our home-
land.” “Excesses” could thus be blamed on subordinates, but the main goal
was reached. Confronted with an enemy who promised not just to defeat the
Bolsheviks but to annihilate them and enslave whatever was left of the Soviet
people the response was a complete, total war of annihilation of the enemy

Stalin™s radio address from 3 July 1941, reprinted in Stalin, O Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine

Sovetskogo Soiuza (Moscow: Izd-vo “Kraft,” 2002), 11“16.
Molotov™s radio address, 22 June 1941, Izvestiia, 24 June 1941.

Pravda, 7 November 1941, 1“2, here: 2.

“Direktiva GlavPU RKKA, no. 0178,” (14 November 1941), reprinted in Glavnye politich-

eskie organy vooruzhennykh sil SSSR, 83“4; see also “Direktiva GlavPU RKKA, no. 268,” (7
December 1941), in ibid., 87“90.
States of Exception 369

by whatever means necessary and at whatever cost to their own side. As the
Supreme Commander advised his military leaders on 13 November 1941, the
best way to deal with Germans entrenched in a village was to “completely
destroy the settlement and burn it to the ground,” burying the enemy under
the rubble.107
This radicalization of war making was one aspect of the attempt to con-
centrate the mind of “the peasant.” Brutal discipline, the threat and actual
administration of violence against those unwilling or unable to ¬ght, and the
systematic unleashing of the passions of war through a savage atrocity pro-
paganda were the other aspects of the program. The results were at times so
counterproductive that by early 1942, Stalin tried to pull back a little. In an
order to the troops on the anniversary of the founding of the Red Army, the
Supreme Commander stressed that the Soviet Union was waging a defensive
war of liberation, not an offensive, imperialist war of conquest:
Sometimes the foreign media jabber, that the Red Army has the goal to exter-
minate (istrebit™) the German people and to destroy the German state. That, of
course, is stupid nonsense and silly slander of the Red Army. The Red Army could
not have such idiotic goals . . . It would be funny to identify Hitler™s clique with
the German people, the German state. History teaches that the Hitlers come and
go, but the German people, the German state, live on.
. . . The Red Army captures German soldiers and of¬cers and saves their lives, if
they surrender. The Red Army destroys German soldiers and of¬cers, if they refuse
to put down their weapons and [continue] to attempt, gun in hand, to enslave
our Homeland. . . . “If the enemy does not surrender, he will be destroyed.”108
It seems that this was meant as a real deescalation of the war of extermination,
not just as an address to the Allies or enemy soldiers. German military intelli-
gence learned in December 1941 that of¬cers had prohibited the wild shooting
of prisoners.109 Ambiguities remained, however. The new pronouncement was
promoted to the troops together with the November call for a war of extermi-
nation. Speeches and lectures, talks and articles informed the front line that the
Red Army “destroys German soldiers if they refuse to put down their weapons
and [continue] to attempt to enslave our Homeland.” The stress was still on
destruction, and the alternative was hidden in incomplete excerpts: “If the
enemy does not surrender, he will be destroyed.” (Toward the enemy lines, the
message was more straightforward: “The Red Army captures German soldiers
and of¬cers and saves their lives, if they surrender.”)110 Still, this was a par-
tial deescalation, ¬‚anked also by attempts to change the approach to senseless

Quoted in Drugaia voina, 154.

“Prikaz Narodnogo komissara oborony, no. 55” (23 February 1942), reprinted in Stalin, O

Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine Sovetskogo Soiuza, 40“4, here: 43, 44.
Jorg Friedrich, Das Gesetz des Krieges: Das deutsche Heer in Russland, 1941 bis 1945: Der

Prozess gegen der Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Munich: Piper, 1993), 586.
“Direktiva GlavPU RKKA, no. 30;” and “Direktiva GlavPU RKKA, no. 31” (both 26 February

1942), reprinted in Glavnye politicheskie organy vooruzhennykh sil SSSR, 115“17. See also
the “passes” (propuski) for German soldiers, promising fair treatment in captivity, “Direktiva
GlavPU RKKA, no. 58,” (18 April 1942), ibid., 129.
Mark Edele and Michael Geyer

sacri¬ce of men. A month after Stalin™s speech, a directive of the Military Coun-
cil of the Western Front ordered commanders to stop the “thoughtless” and
“abnormal” approach to infantry losses and punish those guilty.111 In May
1942, Stalin advised the leaders of the South-Western front to learn to ¬ght
less bloodily, “as the Germans do it.”112
Meanwhile the Soviet regime in general and Stalin in particular had
reasserted control and discipline after months of ferocious ¬ghting. All ener-
gies were now concentrated on winning the war, and the control of many
nonessential sectors was all but given up. The management of housing and
the consumption of the civilian population devolved onto the local and some-
times enterprise level, cultural policies were relaxed, the Orthodox Church was
drafted into the war effort, and after an initial reinstatement of the authority
of the irritating commissars (voennye komissary; politruki) on 16 July 1941,
unity of command was ¬rmly given to the of¬cer corps from 9 October 1942
onward.113 At the top, the party-state had been centralized in the new State
Defense Committee (GKO) with Stalin at its head, but its members, bestowed
with plenipotentiary powers, were much freer to act than they had been in the
1930s. They became “semiautonomous leaders.” Access to the top decision
makers was relatively unrestricted for high-level military as well as civilian
leaders, who could now show up uninvited if matters demanded. Republic and
regional authorities were strengthened, too, to help them solve problems and
reach production targets. Stalin did meddle with military affairs, but by and
large he functioned as a central coordinator and let the professionals do their

30 May 1942. Reprinted in Skrytaia pravda voiny: 1941 god. Neizvestnye dokumenty

(Moscow: Russkaia kniga, 1992), 228“9.
27 May 1942, quoted in Drugaia voina, 154.

On devolution of control during the war see P. Charles Hachten, “Property Relations and the


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