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The Myth and Reality of Joseph Stalin’s Order No. 227 “Not a Step Back!”

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  • The Myth and Reality of Joseph Stalin’s Order No. 227 “Not a Step Back!”


    Joseph Stalin's Order 227 has led people to assume that the Red Army could only fight through intimidation. The film Enemy at the Gates is a typical example of this idea; showing the Soviets at the battle of Stalingrad to waste the lives of their men. But is this really the case? Well... no.

  • #2
    As with a lot of the history of the war on the Eastern front, you take a little bit of fact, wrap it up in a whole lot of myth and voila, you have films like Enemy at the Gates. Alright, alright, it's for entertainment purposes by the point stands.

    That said, the more recent, Russian produced Stalingrad "epic" was hardly any better - in fact i'd rate it as one of the worst historical "films" (and i use the term loosely) i've ever had the misfortune of seeing...

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    • #3
      Originally posted by ~UNiOnJaCk~ View Post
      That said, the more recent, Russian produced Stalingrad "epic" was hardly any better - in fact i'd rate it as one of the worst historical "films" (and i use the term loosely) i've ever had the misfortune of seeing...
      Haven’t watched it but to be fair - Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’ was the worst ever. I mean, yes. It’s not historically accurate and purposefully so but some teenagers of today may start to believe Hitler and the high ranking Nazis were killed by a blonde revengeful Jewish girl with a French accent.

      Thanks HRH for this topic though. No doubt the soviets and Stalin leading them had no intention to use ‘cannonfodders’ until the last one so that Hitler would be hanged upside down in Moscow.

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      • #4
        ^ Bondarchuk's "Stalingrad" from 2013 is like Transformers or something, in a WW2 setting. Just heaps of CGI action, with a very strong emphasis on "cool" shots that would suit a music video or video game cutscene or something better than an actual historical flick. I did quite like his "9 рота" though, about the Soviet Afghan war. It also had a few of those silly "look at this cool shot"-moments, but it was way better script-wise, and more "sincere" on the film-making side of things I guess, if that makes any sense. Not trying so hard to be a big blockbuster kind of thing, if you know what I mean.

        Also, @HRH, that vid actually does summarize the situation better than most WW2 historians have to date. I'm impressed. Love the jab at Beevor too, even though I greatly respect the dude he did fill in some bits regarding the Red Army with a bit of patronizing crap. Fun fact is that Russians haven't been bothered about that, but the Ukrainians got all pissy (post-2014 "revolution" of course) and officially banned his books because he wrote a few unflattering things about their Holocaust participation.




        Last edited by moosefoot; 09-07-2018, 12:39 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by JakeScully View Post

          Haven’t watched it but to be fair - Tarantino’s 'Inglorious Basterds’ was the worst ever. I mean, yes. It’s not historically accurate and purposefully so but some teenagers of today may start to believe Hitler and the high ranking Nazis were killed by a blonde revengeful Jewish girl with a French accent.
          Conversely, one of my favourite films of all time. It doesn't try to be anything other than what it is. It's good, outrageous fun in my mind - brilliant performances, excellent script, i know much of it off by heart

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          • #6
            He is an excellent web historian but makes a few mistakes and disingenuous comments.

            Stalin did not get inspiration from Hitler over penal battalions, they had been used in tsarist Russia.

            He also makes comparisons to the western allies. ..The US has only executed one soldier since the civil war for cowardice. The dirty dozen is a great movie but is no comparison.

            He also fails to mention the related and far more odorous order 270. And the fact these two orders were kept secret until the late 80s.

            And yes, while they were aimed at the commanders, ordinary soldiers became disillusioned with the incompetentcy of their commanders and saw retreat as a viable option, not out of cowardice but disgust.

            Enemy at the gates is a terribly shit movie. But it's hardly alone. How about a whinge about the accuracy of pearl harbour, or fury, aka Sherman death traps. I dare even mention u571. A turd the size of a U-boat.

            Lack of historical accuracy is not limited to the Soviet Union and it's got nothing to do with racism.

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            • #7
              You’re welcome guys, I hate Stalin and the NKVD and wish them to rot in the deepest lava sea in Hell.

              But Order 227 has been unfairly demonized, yeah it sucks and the Red Army was by no means angels, but Order 227 was probably the least sinful order ever.

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              • #8
                Meh, can't say I am impressed by this TIK guy. He's been caught out on multiple occasions. He's the type of 'historian' who takes one fact and runs with it utterly ignoring anything that contradicts it. His attacks on Beevor over Arnheim he had to withdraw after (and who would have thought) a professional historian had spent more time researching than random YouTube guy.

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                • #9
                  Who has read the whole Order 227 in any case

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_No._227

                  Doesn't sound too unreasonable except that part :
                  Form within the limits of each army 3 to 5 well-armed defensive squads (up to 200 persons in each), and put them directly behind unstable divisions and require them in case of panic and scattered withdrawals of elements of the divisions to shoot in place panic-mongers and cowards and thus help the honest soldiers of the division execute their duty to the Motherland;
                  Implementation was of course open to abuses but more rarely than thought
                  Remember that even after the implementation of that order, there were still RKKA divisions scattering after contact. In fact pretty often, depending of the front until mid 43. Had the orders being fully implemented the amount of executed "cowards and panic-mongers" would have been tremendous

                  In the wiki article :
                  The total of Red Army personnel sentenced by court was 994,300, with 422,700 assigned to penal battalions and 436,600 imprisoned after sentencing. Not included are 212,400 deserters, who were not found and escaped the custody of the military districts.
                  Not so much over the course of war (total conscripted soldiers over the 4 y was around 34 millions so we have 2.9% of sentenced troops). During the course of war around the same number(close to 1 million) of german troops were sentenced by the Whermacht military courts (25 000 of which were shot for cowardice). Not all were deserters (registered sentences in the german army covers the whole spectrum of punitions in the military) but still



                  Plus, Stalin was not the only one to forbid "steps back"
                  Ask the Von Paulus VIth Army
                  Last edited by Mordoror; 10-07-2018, 11:42 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TheKiwi View Post
                    Meh, can't say I am impressed by this TIK guy. He's been caught out on multiple occasions. He's the type of 'historian' who takes one fact and runs with it utterly ignoring anything that contradicts it. His attacks on Beevor over Arnheim he had to withdraw after (and who would have thought) a professional historian had spent more time researching than random YouTube guy.
                    I wouldn't agree with everything he says, but he's raised some interesting points I was unaware of, particularly in relation to the eastern front and Stalingrad. He's definitely done his reading.

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                    • #11
                      He's clearly done some reading. And equally clearly ignored everything he read that didn't fit his platform.

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                      • #12
                        As someone who knows about the Eastern Front slightly more than the average Joe ( via Russian historians such as Isaev and portals such as pamyat-naroda.ru ), I would say that TIK is more often than not relatively accurate in his assessment of the Eastern Front (he does omit a few facts that would actually support his contention....but you can't expect someone with no knowledge of Russian to know everything).

                        PS: Interestingly enough, blockading troops were used as early as July 1941, prior to order 227, on the orders of Beria to arrest and turn back deserters, spies, etc... in 1941 the blockading troops stopped ~600k troops, with 96% being returned to their formations, ~25k arrested, and about 10k executed. And no, they didn't operate like what is shown in Enemy at the Gates - they mostly manned checkpoints away from the fighting and checked documents.

                        In regards to Penal batallions/companies, their numbers varied anywhere b/w 2.5%-1.5% of active combat troops (the higher percentages during 1942-1943, the lower during 1945).

                        Here is a video (in Russian) by historian Isaev which tackles the myths typically associated (by Soviets/Russians) to Penal batallions/companies, which became especially prominent after the historically inaccurate TV show Shtrafbat https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425715/


                        This video is also part of a video series which aims to address the many myths of WW2. For English speakers, there is also a book by David Glantz that aims to dispel many of the same myths of the Eastern Front (https://web.archive.org/web/20150218...id=310&gid=189).


                        Originally posted by HisRoyalHighness View Post
                        You’re welcome guys, I hate Stalin and the NKVD and wish them to rot in the deepest lava sea in Hell.

                        But Order 227 has been unfairly demonized, yeah it sucks and the Red Army was by no means angels, but Order 227 was probably the least sinful order ever.
                        If it wasn't for the many unpalatable (in our modern context) but necessary strategic decisions taken by the Communist party leadership in 1930s, Nazis would have steamrolled the motherland and you (as well as Russia) would probably not have existed....

                        Last edited by ak16; 10-07-2018, 05:22 PM.

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                        • #13
                          No expert knowledge on the eastern front of Barbarossa here but this myth might have been emboldened by Goebbels ‘Total krieg’ speech and Stalin retort that if Hitler wanted a total war; he’d be given one.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ak16 View Post
                            As someone who knows about the Eastern Front slightly more than the average Joe ( via Russian historians such as Isaev and portals such as pamyat-naroda.ru ), I would say that TIK is more often than not relatively accurate in his assessment of the Eastern Front (he does omit a few facts that would actually support his contention....but you can't expect someone with no knowledge of Russian to know everything).

                            PS: Interestingly enough, blockading troops were used as early as July 1941, prior to order 227, on the orders of Beria to arrest and turn back deserters, spies, etc... in 1941 the blockading troops stopped ~600k troops, with 96% being returned to their formations, ~25k arrested, and about 10k executed. And no, they didn't operate like what is shown in Enemy at the Gates - they mostly manned checkpoints away from the fighting and checked documents.

                            In regards to Penal batallions/companies, their numbers varied anywhere b/w 2.5%-1.5% of active combat troops (the higher percentages during 1942-1943, the lower during 1945).

                            Here is a video (in Russian) by historian Isaev which tackles the myths typically associated (by Soviets/Russians) to Penal batallions/companies, which became especially prominent after the historically inaccurate TV show Shtrafbat https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425715/


                            This video is also part of a video series which aims to address the many myths of WW2. For English speakers, there is also a book by David Glantz that aims to dispel many of the same myths of the Eastern Front (https://web.archive.org/web/20150218...id=310&gid=189).




                            If it wasn't for the many unpalatable (in our modern context) but necessary strategic decisions taken by the Communist party leadership in 1930s, Nazis would have steamrolled the motherland and you (as well as Russia) would probably not have existed....
                            So russians were so incompetent that some shit-eating georgian ex-convict had to feed russian biomass to the meatgrinder? If it wasn't for Reds Russia would have been untouchable by Nazis. One could argue Nazis would never taken of in Germany in the first place as Soviets threw German commies to the dogs. You have to be masochist to give such credit to Stalin. Yes, he was much smarter than Hitler, but he and his close circle was biggest anti-russian element in Soviet union, a foreign piece of shit that moulded Russia into his disgusting image.

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                            • #15
                              David Glantz is a great battlefield level historian, but he stays away from the politics and the wider strategic narrative.

                              One could argue for that if it wasn't for the Soviet Union and its belligerence and support of communist uprisings in Europe, Hitler may have remained a washed up artist.

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