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The Price of Victory

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The Price of Victory





The Price of Victory


The Red Army’s Casualties in the Great Patriotic War


Lev Lopukhovsky and Boris Kavalerchik



Translated by Harold Orenstein





First published in Great Britain in 2017 by

PEN & SWORD MILITARY

An imprint of

Pen & Sword Books Ltd

47 Church Street

Barnsley

South Yorkshire

S70 2AS

Copyright © Lev Lopukhovsky and Boris Kavalerchik, 2017

ISBN 978-1-47389-964-3

eISBN 978-1-47389-966-7

Mobi ISBN 978-1-47389-965-0

The right of Lev Lopukhovsky and Boris Kavalerchik to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing.



Pen & Sword Books Ltd incorporates the imprints of Pen & Sword Archaeology, Atlas, Aviation, Battleground, Discovery, Family History, History, Maritime, Military, Naval, Politics, Railways, Select, Social History, Transport, True Crime, and Claymore Press, Frontline Books, Leo Cooper, Praetorian Press, Remember When, Seaforth Publishing and Wharncliffe.

For a complete list of Pen & Sword titles please contact

PEN & SWORD BOOKS LIMITED

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E-mail: enquiries@pen-and-sword.co.uk

Website: www.pen-and-sword.co.uk





Contents


List of Plates


List of Tables


Foreword


Preface


1.Circumstances governing the publication of loss data in the Great Patriotic War


2.Soviet troop casualties in certain strategic operations


3.Results of the computation of Soviet troop casualties by the authors of Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century


4.Soviet armed forces’ actual irrecoverable losses


5.Irrecoverable casualties of the German a; rmed forces on the Soviet-German Front


6.Irrecoverable casualties of the German and Soviet allies on the Soviet-German Front


7.Overall ratio of irrecoverable losses of the opposing sides in the Great Patriotic War


8.Conclusion


Appendix A: Information on Red Army Personnel Combat Casualties during the Great Patriotic War


Appendix B: Information on the Numerical Strength of the Red Army, Replacements and Casualties from the Beginning of the War to 1 March 1942


Appendix C: Report on Mobilization Resources and their Use during the War (1 September 1942)


Appendix D: Information on the Number of Soviet POWs Captured by German Forces from 22 June 1941 to 10 January 1942


Notes


Selective Bibliography





List of Plates


A German soldier and a dead Soviet tanker with a burning BT-5 tank in the background. Army Group South, June 1941.

A crew member of a Soviet T-26 light tank surrenders to the Germans. Army Group Centre, August 1941.

Soviet POWs captured by the Germans near Stalingrad. Army Group South, summer 1942.

A Soviet POW quenches his thirst from a muddy puddle. Army Group South, July 1942.

A column of Soviet POWs captured during the Battle of Kursk. Summer 1943.

Soviet POWs transported in open freight cars. Army Group Centre, Vitebsk,

21 September 1941.

Soviet POWs in the Mauthausen concentration camp, Austria. October 1941.

A German firing squad executing a group of Soviet partisans. Army Group North, September 1941.

Colonel Nikolai Ilyich Lopukhovsky, commander of the 120th Howitzer Artillery Regiment of the Supreme Command Reserve. The father of one of the authors of this book, he was killed in action on 13 October 1941 while attempting to break out of the encirclement near Viaz’ma.

Soviet POWs captured in the Viaz’ma encirclement. October 1941.

A column of Soviet POWs in the Viaz’ma region. October 1941.

Soviet POWs captured in the Viaz’ma and Bryansk encirclements. October 1941.

Soviet POWs help their wounded comrades. 1941.

A German guard hastens Soviet POWs with a stick. 1941.

Local women bring bread to starving Soviet POWs. 1942.

The infamous ‘Uman’ pit’. Here, in a clay quarry of a local brick factory, Germans kept 60,000–70,000 Soviet POWs surrounded near Uman’, Ukraine. Army Group South, August 1941.

German POWs being marched through the streets of Moscow, 17 July 1944.

German POWs captured near Stalingrad. December 1942.

A German military cemetery in Russia. 1943.

The registration card of a Soviet POW, Sergeant F.A. Anisov. He served in 120th Howitzer Artillery Regiment of the Supreme Command Reserve and was captured on 7 September 1941 near Yelnya. He died on 26 April 1943 in Stalag X-B, located near Sandbostel, Germany.

A Soviet soldier’s plastic capsule which contained a paper insert with the soldier’s personal information. It belonged to Private N.T. Prilepsky, killed in action on 13 October 1941 while attempting to break out of the encirclement near Viaz’ma.





List of Tables


1.Red Army and Wehrmacht casualties during the initial period of the Great Patriotic War

2.Number of Soviet POWs and principal regions of their capture by the Wehrmacht in 1941 (according to German information)

3.Personnel casualties for Soviet forces in the Moscow strategic defensive operation (30 September–5 December 1941)

4.Number of prisoners and war materiel captured by Army Group Centre during Operation ‘Typhoon’ (according to German information)

5.Order of battle, troop strength and human casualties in the Kursk strategic defensive operation

6.Personnel casualties for the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts in the Kursk strategic defensive operation according to data from various sources

7.Voronezh Front personnel casualties, taking into account their categories, for July

8.Summary information about personnel casualties for the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts in July 1943

9.Ratio of casualties of the armed forces of the USSR and Germany, 22 June–30 September 1941

10.Number of Soviet POWs and MIAs according to Krivosheev’s information

11.Overall irrecoverable losses of the armed forces of the USSR, taking into account MIAs and POWs

12.Comparison of information on the USSR armed forces’ irrecoverable losses and their demographic casualties, obtained from different sources

13.Irrecoverable losses of the armed forces of Germany’s allies on the Soviet-German Front

14.Irrecoverable losses of the armed forces of Soviet allies on the Soviet-German Front

15.Yearly ratios of irrecoverable losses between the armed forces of the USSR and its allies and the armed forces of Germany and its allies on the Soviet-German Front

16.Place of death of German armed forces servicemen during the Second World War

17.Overall ratios of irrecoverable and demographic losses between the armed forces of the USSR and its allies and the armed forces of Germany and its allies on the Soviet-German Front





Foreword


One of the most controversial subjects in Soviet and Russian military history is the cost in terms of soldiers’ lives that the Red Army paid for victory over the German Wehrmacht in the Second World War. For almost fifty years after the Soviet Union’s so-called Great Patriotic War ended, this human cost was also one of the Soviet Union’s best kept secrets. This slim volume is important, first and foremost, because it answers this question as definitively as humanly possible.

Shortly after the war’s end, in a March 1946 interview with the newspaper Pravda, Iosef Stalin, the Generalissimo of the Soviet State in wartime, declared, ‘As a result of the German invasion, the Soviet Union irrecoverably lost around seven million people in fighting against the Germans, as well as because of the German occupation and penal servitude of Soviet people in German forced-labour camps.’ This short statement, as obscure as it was, remained the official ‘truth of the matter’ concerning the Red Army’s irrevocable losses in the war until well after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

As this book points out, although Soviet written histories of the war remained silent on the subject of combat deaths in the war for about half a century after the war’s end, within the Soviet government special commissions spent many years wrestling with this problem. While most families and citizens of the Soviet Union appreciated and experienced the immense scope of these losses, the subject was too embarrassing for the authorities to address openly. For example, a special commission formed near the war’s end concluded that more than 9 million soldiers, including prisoners-of-war, were lost in the war. Yet, because these figures exceeded those announced by Stalin, the entire matter remained dormant and opaque until 1988.

Finally, fed by a wave of glasnost’ (openness) that swept across the country in the late 1980s, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev organized a special commission to examine this question. Months later, this commission concluded that roughly 8.6 million servicemen and women perished in the war. The historical candour unleashed by Gorbachev’s government culminated in 1993, two years after the fall of the Soviet Union, when a book edited under the auspices of General-Colonel G.F. Krivosheev revealed what it considered to be the last word on the subject. Entitled Grif seketnosti sniat; poteri vooruzhennykh sil SSSR v voinakh, boevykh deistviiakh i voennykh konfliktakh (The seal of secrecy has been removed. USSR armed forces casualties in wars, combat operations, and military conflicts), this book concluded that 8,668,400 Soviet servicemen and women had perished in the struggle.

However, as numerous other studies have indicated, Krivosheev’s study was clearly not the last word. Although the 1993 book has gone through several new editions, was translated into English by Greenhill Books in 1997, and was expanded, revised, and republished in 2001, many believe that it is still fatally flawed. This is the case because it not only ‘low-balls’ the Red Army’s losses in the conflict but also overlooks the Red Army’s losses in numerous so-called ‘forgotten battles’, engagements that were erased from history to prevent embarrassment to the Red Army and its leaders.

As early as 1999, a Russian archivist asserted that rather than 8.9 million dead in the war, the Red Army likely suffered as many as 14.6 million dead. Now, based on careful research in the Russian archives, Lev Lopukhovsky and Boris Kavalerchik have determined that the chief flaw in Krivosheev’s analysis was his reliance on front and army casualty reports at a time when many of the Red Army’s casualties were occurring in march battalions and companies of personnel replacements either while they were en route to the front or immediately after they arrived at the front. As a result, when this new category of losses is added to the previous casualty figures, the authors conclude that the price of Soviet victory in the war reached roughly 14.6 million men. Without belabouring this point and ‘stealing the thunder of their analysis’, I believe that their methodology is sound and their conclusions are credible. In short, this book is characterized by its sound methodology, acute accuracy, and cogent conclusions. As a result, it promises to become an instant ‘hit’, at least in an historical sense.

David M. Glantz

Carlisle, PA





Preface


The official data on the irrecoverable losses suffered by the armed forces of the USSR in the Great Patriotic War, published in Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century, are subject to great doubt. The difference between them and the data of independent researchers who worked directly with primary archive documents is too great. Because of this discrepancy, issues concerning the calculation of losses have not lost their immediacy even in our day, and have become the object of an intense ideological argument. The fact is that arguments about the scale of human casualties are inseparably associated with the measure of responsibility before the nation of the USSR’s military and political leadership at that time. Without a calculation of the colossal human losses and clarification of their reasons, it is impossible to fully assess the results of the war and the significance of the victory that was achieved.

Under the conditions of severe ideological control and all-encompassing censorship in the Soviet Union, silence about and downright distortion of the actual events of the war were common. Right up to 1987, it was not possible to talk directly in the open press about the war’s disastrous beginning, the lack of success and the reasons for defeats suffered in the war’s first and second periods. If mention was made, it was only in general terms. Moreover, censorship did not allow the publication of concrete information regarding the casualties of Soviet troops in battles and operations. Nevertheless, the determination of the number of human casualties suffered by the armed forces (as well as the size of losses in weapons and war materiel) is an integral part of research into the history of the war as a whole. This lack of data has continuously worried both professional military historians and many ordinary Soviet citizens. The powers that be could not completely ignore it, and so from time to time they have released some information favourable to their own views and ideological goals.





Chapter 1


Circumstances governing the publication of loss data in the Great Patriotic War


In response to questions from a Pravda correspondent, on 14 March 1946 I.V. Stalin officially announced for the first time the magnitude of USSR losses during the Great Patriotic War: ‘As a result of the German invasion, the Soviet Union irrecoverably lost around 7 million people in fighting against the Germans, as well as through the German occupation and the penal servitude of Soviet people in German forced-labour camps.’

With this statement, the Leader charted the course for the falsification of the history of the Great Patriotic War and the underestimation of Soviet casualties in order to cover up his political and strategic mistakes and miscalculations on the eve and during the first half of the war, which brought the country to the brink of disaster. Back in June 1945 Colonel Podolsky, chief of the Directorate for accounting and control of the numerical strength of the armed forces, had already prepared ‘Information on Red Army Personnel Combat Casualties during the Great Patriotic War’ (see Appendix A). According to this, losses of servicemen alone (without consideration of the 13,960,000 wounded, of whom 2,576,000 remained disabled) comprised 9,675,000 people, including 3,344,000 prisoners and soldiers missing in action (MIA).1

By the autumn of that year the Emergency State Commission [Chrezvychainaia Gosudarstvennaia Komissiia, hereafter ChGK], which had been established in November 1942, had already completed its calculations of the country’s civilian casualties and generalized them in a document called ‘On the Results of the Investigation into the Bloody Crimes of the German-Fascist Occupiers and Their Accomplices’. According to this document, during the occupation of Soviet territory the Nazis exterminated 6,716,660 USSR citizens and 3,912,883 prisoners of war (POW) by shooting, hanging, burning, poisoning in ‘gas vans’ and gas chambers, burying alive and torturing, as well as by subjecting them to a deliberate, inhuman system of starvation, exhaustion and exposure to infectious diseases in concentration camps. Stalin, however, did not approve these ChGK data and forbade their publication;2 after all, they in no way corresponded with the numbers he had announced.

It is hard to say for sure why the Leader chose to significantly understate the true military losses of the USSR. Most likely it was his move in the complex political game that was the Cold War with the West. Stalin did not want to let his future adversaries know to what extent the Soviet Union had been weakened in the recently concluded Second World War.

The Leader could act however he wanted, as no one would dare to object. Immediately following the end of the war, statisticians broached the necessity of conducting the next census of the population of the USSR (the previous census had been in 1939) in order to assess the damage that the war had done. After all, in addition to having inflicted very heavy human casualties and enormous material damage, the war had also disrupted civilian recordkeeping. Re-establishing the economy and organizing the life of the population under peacetime conditions required adequate demographic information. Therefore, many recommended proceeding with the planned 1949 census. Stalin, however, declined to do so, since the true scale of war casualties for the Soviet people would have come to light. It is telling that all the countries that had fought in the war took a census of their populations beginning in 1945 and ending in 1951, while in the USSR a census was taken only in 1959, twenty years after the previous census rather than the customary ten.

Work on determining civilian and military casualties continued during this period, but it and its results were not advertised. In 1956 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [hereafter, CC CPSU] and the Soviet government established a commission to clarify the number of Soviet POWs. The results of its work were reported to the CC CPSU on 4 June 1956, signed by Minister of Defence G.K. Zhukov, Secretary of the CC CPSU E.A. Furtseva, Minister of Justice K.P. Gorshenin, Chief Military Prosecutor R.A. Rudenko, Chairman of the KGB I.A. Serov and head of a CC CPSU section V.V. Zolotukhin. In particular, the report stated that ‘Soviet repatriation organs recorded 2,016,480 imprisoned POWs, of whom 1,835,562, including 126,000 officers, had been repatriated to the Motherland. In addition, according to data from captured files, more than 600,000 Soviet POWs perished in German captivity.’3

In that same year the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs specified that 504,487 Soviet citizens were located in foreign countries as displaced persons, half of whom were former POWs.4

All important announcements in the Soviet Union, especially ideologically significant ones, remained the prerogative of Party and state leaders. After coming to power, N.S. Khrushchev, to spite Stalin, increased the casualty numbers to ‘more than 20 million’. During the years of Khrushchev’s ‘thaw’, the archives somewhat ‘opened’ their storerooms to historians. As a result, books and reports, the contents of which did not always correspond to the official version of events of the past war, began to appear in the open press. Much that had been secret was exposed. The authorities became frightened and, as often happened in Russia, the ‘thaw’ was replaced by ‘frost’. On 3 March 1968 L.I. Brezhnev, who replaced Khrushchev in the highest Party position, announced the following to his Politburo co-workers: ‘Recently, much memoir literature has appeared here . . . They twist the history of the Patriotic War, they take documents somewhere in the archives, distort them and misquote them . . . Where do these people take the documents? Why have we dealt so freely with this issue?’5

The current Minister of Defence A.A. Grechko eagerly assured the General Secretary that order would be restored regarding this matter. And, of course, it was restored. Microfilms containing crucial top secret documents about the war’s major operations, held at the time in higher military schools and scientific institutions, were recalled and destroyed. By 1972 they only remained at the disposal of researchers from the General Staff Academy and the Frunze Military Academy under guarantee that the strictest secrecy would be maintained. Access to documents stored in the archives was restricted once again, made available only to those official historians who knew which way the wind was blowing. All this was necessary to facilitate the glorifying of the deeds of the next leader and commanders who came into his favour, likely as it was to hinder persistent researchers.

Later, during the years of perestroika and glasnost’, the demands made by researchers and war veterans to the country’s leadership for clarification of the costs of victory increased significantly. M.S. Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CC CPSU at that time, responded that ‘the process is under way’ and already impossible to stop. As usual, this did not occur without conflicts between assessments of casualties for the population of the USSR and the Red Army during the war years. Some authors, in the pursuit of sensationalism, began to recklessly claim unjustifiably high numbers for those who died, far exceeding all reasonable limits. The issue of publishing reliable numbers of army and navy human casualties in the last war finally came to a head. In such important cases the initiative could not be ceded. In April 1988 a commission under the leadership of General-Colonel (now General of the Army) M.A. Gareev, Deputy Chief of the General Staff (now President of the Academy of Military Science of the Russian Federation), was established in the Ministry of Defence system to calculate casualties.

The commission included representatives of appropriate ministry staffs, directorates and institutes. It met at full strength only twice, including representatives of several interested departments. At the first organization session tasks were assigned to departments and institutes. In the second session the commission secretary reported on the results of its work. According to the testimony of several of the sessions’ participants, who had come with their own computations and calculations, tables were posted before the astonished members of the commission with results that had already been prepared. Such work could not have been completed in the short time available, which amounted to hardly more than six months. The basis of the calculations that were presented was the results of the work by a group of General Staff officers under the leadership of General-Colonel S.M. Shtemenko conducted in 1966–1968.

On 16 December 1988 Minister of Defence D.T. Yazov addressed the CC CPSU with a request to examine data about the Soviet armed forces’ casualties during the Great Patriotic War, having proposed to publish them in the open press after they had been approved. The text of his speech is cited below.

Memorandum from the USSR Minister of Defence to the CC CPSU on the Soviet Armed Forces’ Personnel Casualties during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945

16 December 1988

CC CPSU

Secret

Decisions of the XIX All-Union Party Conference on glasnost’ and the interests of Soviet people’s reliable information about the results of the Great Patriotic War require the publication of data about our armed forces’ casualties. The necessity for this is also occasioned by the fact that in recent years much contradictory and baseless information about the scope of human losses suffered by the Soviet armed forces and by our nation as a whole during the war has been cited in Soviet and foreign print. The lack of official data on our losses also makes it possible for some authors to distort and minimize the importance of the Soviet Union’s victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Taking all this into account, document materials (reports on losses, the orders of battle and strength of fronts, fleets and armies),6 statistical collections and reports from the directorates of the General Staff and Central Military Medicine Directorate, official data published in the Federal Republic of Germany [FRG] and the German People’s Republic [GDR], and captured documents that we have were investigated in the USSR Ministry of Defence by a specially established commission. A careful analysis of all these sources is making it possible to conclude that the irrecoverable losses of USSR armed forces personnel during the Great Patriotic War, including border troops and internal troops, amount to 11,444,100 people.

In studying documents from military-mobilization and repatriation organs, it has become clear when mobilization was conducted in 1943–1944 on Soviet territory that had been liberated, 939,700 servicemen, former POWs and men who had been encircled and who had stayed on occupied territory were re-inducted into the Soviet Army, and 1,836,000 former servicemen returned from captivity after the war ended. Therefore, these servicemen (a total of 2,775,700) have been excluded from the number of irrecoverable losses.

Thus, the Soviet armed forces’ irrecoverable losses (killed, died of wounds, MIA, not returned from captivity, and noncombat casualties) during the war, taking into account the Far East Campaign, amount to 8,668,400 men: 8,509,300 in the Army and Navy, 61,400 KGB Border Troops, and 97,700 Ministry of the Interior [MVD] Internal Troops. A significant part of these casualties occurred in 1941–1942, due to the extremely unfortunate circumstances that had developed for us during the first period of the war.

As for data about Fascist Germany’s casualties, they are clearly understated in the literature printed in the FRG and other Western countries: they do not take into account the casualties of Germany’s allies (Italy, Romania, Hungary, Finland), foreign formations fighting for Fascist Germany (Vlasovites, Slovaks, Spaniards, etc.), rear Wehrmacht establishments, and construction organizations in which mainly other nationalities (Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians, etc.) worked. According to calculated data compiled from captured and other document materials, the Fascist bloc’s irrecoverable losses amounted to 8,658,000 men (7,413,000 Germans and 1,245,000 people from its satellites), of which there were 7,168,000 casualties on the Soviet-German Front. After the war 1,939,000 German POWs returned from the Soviet Union.

During the period of combat operations in the Far East (August– September 1945), irrecoverable losses for Japan’s Kwantung Army amounted to 677,000, including as many as 83,737 killed.

The USSR Ministry of Defence believes that it is possible to publish the above-mentioned data on the Soviet armed forces’ casualties during the Great Patriotic war, after they are approved by the CC CPSU, in the open press.7

Recommendations have been expressed more than once in our press that all MIAs (more than 4.5 million) be considered war veterans. It is obvious from the analysis, however, that many of their number fought against us (the Vlasovites alone numbered 800,000–900,000); they cannot be numbered among the Great Patriotic War veterans or those who died for the Motherland.

In published historical works, encyclopedias and periodicals the overall casualties of the Soviet people during the war were determined to be 20 million people, a considerable part of whom were civilians who died in Nazi death camps and as a result of Fascist repression, illness and starvation, and enemy air raids. Inasmuch as the USSR Ministry of Defence does not have at its disposal comprehensive materials on civilian casualties, work on determining the precise number of civilian casualties in the USSR during the war should, in our opinion, be assigned to the USSR State Statistics Committee.

Materials regarding Soviet armed forces casualties and those of the armies of the Fascist bloc, as well as a draft CC CPSU resolution, are attached.8

There is a note on the Memorandum:

Department of Administrative Organs of the CC CPSU.

For submission.

Assistant Secretary of the CC CPSU.

I. Mishchenko.

19 December 1988.9

The following materials were prepared as addenda to the Memorandum:

Secret: Appendix 1

Information on the Soviet armed forces’ irrecoverable personnel losses during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945

(in thousands of men)



Information on the irrecoverable losses of Nazi Germany and its satellites during the Second World War (1939–1945)10

(in thousands of men)

Designation Total On the Soviet-German Front

1.Wehrmacht and Waffen SS (within the 1937 German borders). 6,439 5,151

Including:

– killed or died of wounds 3,050 2,240

– MIA or captured 3,176 2,549

– noncombat casualties (died from illness, incidents, accidents, etc.) 213 162

2.Austrians, Sudeten Germans and those born in Alsace and Lorraine who served in the Wehrmacht 600 560

3.Foreign formations of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS (Spanish and Slovak divisions, Vlasovite, Muslim, Baltic and other formations) 374 335

Total casualties for Nazi Germany 7,413 6,046

4.Excluded from the casualty figures: German POWs who returned to Germany from the USSR after the war 1,939 1,939

Total irrecoverable losses for German armed forces 5,474 4,107

5.Casualties for the armies of Germany’s satellites. 1,245 1,005

Including:

– Italy 330 90

– Finland 85 85

– Hungary 350 350

– Romania 480 480

Total casualties for the Fascist bloc 6,719 5,112

Top Secret: Appendix 2

Draft Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU, ‘On the Publication of Information on Soviet Armed Forces Personnel Casualties during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945’

1.Agree with the recommendation regarding this issue proposed in the 16 December 1988 USSR Ministry of Defence memorandum (attached).

2.The USSR State Statistics Committee is to work on refining the casualties for the civilian population of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945.11

It should be mentioned that the information about irrecoverable losses for Nazi Germany and its satellites during the Second World War was, judging by everything, prepared hastily. The balance of losses cited there for the Wehrmacht, including Waffen SS (within Germany’s 1937 borders), on the Soviet-German Front is off by 200,000. Also, the total losses for the armies of Germany and its satellites was 7,051,000 men,12 which for some reason does not correspond to the number quoted in the text of Yazov’s Memorandum (7,168,000). Furthermore, instead of irrecoverable losses of the USSR’s enemies, their demographic losses were calculated in the summation, which, after excluding Germans who returned from captivity (1,939,000), amounted to 5,112,000 people.

It is not at all coincidental that the Ministry of Defence report on the USSR armed forces’ casualties also mentioned casualties for the countries of the Fascist bloc. Given the uncompromising ideological opposition of the two political systems, the issue of juxtaposing the latter’s casualties with those of the Soviet forces inevitably arose. There is no doubt whatsoever that at that time the Central Committee examined preliminary estimations regarding the ratio of human casualties between the USSR armed forces and those of Germany. It is interesting that, according to some information, A.N. Yakovlev and E.A. Shevardnadze opposed releasing the reported data. One can only guess about the motives for Shevardnadze’s objections. However, Yakovlev, a well known champion of glasnost’ who himself had fought near Leningrad and was a fierce critic of the totalitarian system and its apologists, did not agree with the estimation of Soviet casualties; he thought that it was too low. He hardly approved of the military’s calculations of the irrecoverable losses for the opposing sides. Nevertheless, the irrecoverable losses of Germany and its satellites on the Soviet-German Front were consequently increased by almost 1.5 million – from 7,168,000 to 8,649,300. As a result, the ratio was lowered from 1.6:1 in Germany’s (with its satellites) favour to a more suitable 1.3:1, which was acceptable to the Soviet political and military leadership.

The importance of the issues raised in the Minister of Defence’s report is reflected in the fact that in January–February 1989 they were discussed at the highest level. Several members of the Politburo – Shevardnadze, Yakovlev, V.A. Medvedev and N.I. Ryzhkov – wrote their own comments on the draft CC CPSU resolution.

Here, for example, is Yakovlev’s opinion: ‘I think that this issue is very important and very serious from all viewpoints. Because of this, it deserves additional, careful study; military historians should be involved in this, etc.’ Ryzhkov considered it necessary to introduce an additional point into the resolution, with a proposal to simultaneously publish data in the open press about both the Soviet armed forces’ personnel casualties and those of the USSR’s civilian population.13

In accordance with his suggestion, the following was proposed in the next version of the draft CC resolution: ‘Upon completion of the work, data on the Soviet armed forces’ personnel casualties and those of the USSR’s civilian population during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945, will be published simultaneously in the open press on behalf of the scientific collective.’14

Despite the policy of glasnost’ that had been proclaimed at this time, the political leadership was afraid of directly publishing the historians’ materials in this way. It was decided that the ultimate determination on the advisability of publishing the results of the calculation of casualties would be made only after the CC CPSU had examined them. Moreover, Gorbachev personally edited the resolution on this subject. This is important evidence of the extreme politicization of the casualties suffered during the Great Patriotic War. It could not have been otherwise in these years: the price of achieving victory was too dear for the Soviet people. Following the final analysis, on 20 February 1989 the CC CPSU adopted a top secret resolution, ‘On the Publication of the Soviet Armed Forces’ Personnel Casualties during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945’:

To assign the USSR State Statistics Committee, the USSR Ministry of Defence and the USSR Academy of Sciences, with participation by interested departments and social organizations, to form a research team to clarify the details of casualties for the Soviet armed forces personnel and USSR civilian population during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945.

Upon completion of this work, to report to the CC CPSU data on casualties for the Soviet armed forces personnel and USSR civilian population during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945 and proposals regarding the publication of these materials.15

The work was in full swing. Researcher-demographers were enlisted from the USSR Academy of Sciences, the USSR State Statistics Committee, Moscow State University and other research establishments with appropriate profiles. The team of highly qualified specialists worked intensively, using formerly classified documents and documents that had been withdrawn from circulation in the research community about the all-union censuses in 1937 and 1939. This made it possible to determine with an adequate degree of reliability the demographic losses for the country’s population. The CC CPSU once again discussed the obtained results.

It was only a year later, on 8 May 1990, that President Gorbachev announced the following in his report to a special session of the USSR Supreme Soviet (celebrating the 45th anniversary of the victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War): ‘The war claimed almost 27 million Soviet lives.’16 The next day, 9 May, the Minister of Defence stated the number of irrecoverable losses for the Red Army, Navy and NKVD Border Troops from a military-operational point of view: 11,444,100 servicemen.17 The so-called demographic casualties of armed forces servicemen had also been determined: around 8,700,000.18

For a long time it was difficult for independent researchers to study the problem of the decline of the population of the USSR during the war, since the main sources of information were classified. Some commentators and demographers are still arguing about this, claiming that the country lost 30 million or even 40 million lives during the war. Here they are considering not only those people who were killed and died of natural causes, but also children who were not born because of the war; in the majority of cases they are not relying on an adequately sound scientific basis.

We do not intend to discuss or refute their calculations. In this work we are interested, first and foremost, in the irrecoverable human losses for the USSR armed forces during the Great Patriotic War. They are usually examined from a military-operational and demographic point of view.

Irrecoverable losses from a military-operational point of view mean the loss (exclusion from the roster) of armed forces personnel during the war. This includes those who were killed in battle; those who died from wounds, illness and accidents; those who were shot by their own people; and MIAs and POWs, regardless of their subsequent fate (whether they returned or did not return to the Motherland after the war).

Demographic losses include all of the above-mentioned instances of irrecoverable human loss after excluding those who returned from captivity, as well as those surviving servicemen who had been considered MIAs. The ultimate summation of these losses was calculated after the end of the war, after the fates of as many of its participants as possible were brought to light.

Losses from a military-operational point of view are one of the principal indicators of the level of development of a country’s military art, illustrating the competency of the military command, which is closely associated with a state’s political leadership, and the qualitative state of the armed forces, including the training of staffs and armed forces personnel. For this, however, it is completely inadequate to establish only total figures – summation indicators of casualties during the entire period of the war. The enumerated components change noticeably during the war; therefore, it is important to determine armed forces casualties with respect to the war’s periods and major campaigns, down to losses in individual operations and decisive engagements. This enables the crucial comparison of those casualties with casualties of the opposing side.





Chapter 2


Soviet troop casualties in certain strategic operations


Detailed statistical data on the servicemen casualties during the last war were published for the first time in 1993 in the work The Seal of Secrecy Has Been Removed.1 When conducting research, the authors’ team used data from Shtemenko’s group, the General Staff’s organization and records directorate, the Main Personnel Directorate of the People’s Commissariat of Defence [hereafter cited as NKO], and other archival documents based on military unit reports. This was, of course, a real breakthrough: after long years of ‘coffee grounds divination’, historians were given the opportunity to set forth the events of the last war in much more detail. The German side had not managed, up to this point, to do similarly detailed research on the periods (campaigns) of the war, strategic operations and decisive battles. It should be kept in mind, however, that immediately following the publication some veterans, especially those who had fully internalized the bitterness of the 1941 defeats and withdrawals, strongly expressed their doubts that Red Army casualties were merely 30 per cent greater than those of the Germans.

Subsequently, the work was updated, broadened significantly and published in 2001 under the title Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century: Armed Forces Casualties.2 Here, the principal tenets and conclusions of the previous work were maintained almost without any changes. Undoubtedly, the authors’ team (hereafter, for brevity, we will cite the name of its leader, G.F. Krivosheev) did enormous and useful work. There is still nothing that compares with it on this theme with respect to volume and scope of material, and nothing like it is foreseen for the immediate future.

When the published work was studied, however, perplexing questions began to arise and multiply. Researchers, especially those who worked directly with the primary archival documents, began to expose numerous discrepancies and inconsistencies in the interpretation of those documents about casualties in individual operations. Comparisons of information from Soviet and German archives periodically revealed clear understatements of Soviet troop casualties. Moreover, it turned out that Krivosheev’s team had ignored the ‘Mars’ strategic offensive operation (25 November 1942–20 December 1942). Some historians state that this operation was conducted for demonstrative purposes, so as not to allow the Germans to transfer forces and means to Stalingrad. It was nothing of the sort. Originally the date of the commencement of ‘Mars’ was indicated as 12 October, when the Stalingrad strategic offensive operation (‘Uranus’) existed only as an idea. In addition, in the notso-long-ago declassified List of the USSR Armed Forces General Staff, which was compiled after the war, ‘Mars’ was included among the main strategic operations. It must have been quite the ‘demonstration’, given that it concluded with the encirclement of large Red Army groupings! The irrecoverable human losses in this operation alone were, according to official data, 70,400 men, i.e., 14 per cent of the troops present at the beginning of the operation.3 Some other unsuccessful Soviet front operations also remained outside the attention of the authors.

We are going to attempt to further demonstrate that both statistical works are still very far from the realities of the last war. As calculations of force numbers and human losses have become more detailed, resulting casualty counts for various operations have changed. To the surprise of historians and researchers, however, the work’s casualty totals for quarters, years, periods and campaigns have invariably coincided with the officially proclaimed maximums, which, according to the authors, reflect actual personnel losses during the war. Information about this has appeared in print from time to time, which has led to numerous heated discussions, including at international conferences and symposia.

Unfortunately, the public cannot obtain answers to many perplexing questions that have arisen during these conferences and symposia. A position of condescending silence is not fitting for serious scholars. The authors of the statistical work could have thoroughly disclosed their methodology for determining Soviet losses in personnel and war materiel, using a concrete example of one of the strategic or front operations, citing sources that could be confirmed. However, for some reason they have not deigned to do this. Apparently, they did not view clarity as necessary, and did not wish to respond to justified complaints. Moreover, at times several leaders of the Ministry of Defence angrily attacked critics in the mass media, threatening them with all kinds of punishment up to and including criminal prosecution. This matter resulted in the establishment of the Russian Presidential Commission for Countering Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia’s Interests. Meanwhile, as will be shown below, it was namely Krivosheev’s team who in their books repeatedly (and, judging by everything, deliberately) distorted the most important historical facts. Is this becoming of the respected officers of the General Staff and Military-Memorial Centre of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation? Do the interests of Russia not suffer here?

At one meeting of the Association of Historians of the Second World War, General-Colonel Krivosheev, Professor of the Russian Federation’s Academy of Military Sciences, declared, ‘We are being criticized from the right and the left, but we are confident because we are relying on General Staff documents.’ They were confident because they were still holding back ‘useless scraps of paper’ that front headquarters, under conditions of defeat, encirclement and panicked withdrawal, not knowing where and in what condition their subordinate armies and divisions were, sometimes sent to the General Staff. Krivosheev once again confirmed that the main official sources when determining human losses were reports on casualties received from fronts, armies, divisions and separate units, which were analysed monthly by the General Staff, refined, supplemented with additional materials about unrecorded casualties and, finally, reported to the Supreme High Command General Headquarters.4 It is interesting that, in private, some of the authors of The Seal of Secrecy Has Been Removed admitted that they could not be responsible for the numbers that someone, at some time, had reported. Why not, then, declassify these reports and other appropriate documents in order to assess their reliability and remove any doubts on this account?

At the beginning of the war only a few people in the organization and staff department of the General Staff’s Operations Directorate were looking into casualties in the field forces. Only on 9 July 1941 was a department of personnel casualties records organized as part of the Main Directorate of Organization and Recruitment of the Red Army. Among its duties were to keep casualty records and compile an alphabetical card file.

Casualties for Soviet units and formations during combat operations were recorded in accordance with the Instructions on Records and Accounting in the Red Army, which was put into force by NKO Order no. 450, dated 9 December 1940. In accordance with the ‘Table of Reports on Records of Roster Strength and Order of Battle of the Red Army’, data about the composition of troops, their numerical strength, and casualty figures from divisions, armies and fronts were presented three times per month (every ten days). In accordance with requirements, personnel casualty records assumed a relatively stable combat situation, in which staff would be able to present continuous reports, in the established period of time, to the higher authorities.5 A calculation method for enumerating casualties under extreme circumstances, taking into account multiple troop reinforcements, was virtually not employed. The instructions in force did not stipulate this.

The conditions under which the Red Army had to repel the surprise attack of the fully mobilized Wehrmacht are well known. Many historians think that the main reason for the Red Army’s defeat in June–July 1941 is that the army had not been brought to full combat readiness and therefore was unable to enter the war in an organized fashion and repel the enemy’s surprise offensive. In the military sense surprise is a multilevel phenomenon. Strategically, the war was not unexpected for the political and military leadership of the USSR. However, the enemy succeeded in achieving complete tactical surprise, thereby thwarting the implementation of Soviet plans to cover the border. The enemy, having immediately seized the initiative and begun the invasion with large forces, also achieved operational surprise. Taking advantage of the overwhelming superiority they created in forces and means on selected strike axes, and of the dominance they captured in the air, the Germans ensured a high tempo for their offensive. In the first two days they had already advanced 100–150 kilometres on the main (Western Strategic) axis, creating conditions for the encirclement and defeat of the Western Front’s main forces.

For a long time the stunning defeat in the initial period of the war negatively affected all subsequent Soviet troop operations. Failures of varied scale followed the Red Army in both the autumn of 1941 and the summer of 1942, periods not defined by a perfidious enemy surprise attack. Nevertheless, the Germans often succeeded in achieving operational surprise and sometimes pushed Soviet troops to the brink of catastrophe. The defeat of the Red Army, numerically large and well armed, was completely unremarkable given the actual condition of its combat and mobilization readiness on 22 June 1941. It was not prepared for the kind of war that Hitler and his generals unleashed on the Soviet Union. In addition, the blatant mistakes of the USSR’s political and military leadership made it impossible at the very beginning of the war to realize the great potential of the Red Army. The enormous sacrifices that the Soviet people suffered on the way to victory are, in large part, on their conscience.

The authors’ team of the statistical work admitted that the border military districts immediately lost the great bulk of their personnel. During highmanoeuvre combat operations, especially considering the unsuccessful development of the situation and loss of command, control and communications (because of several resubordinations of units and formations, encirclement or disorganized withdrawal, negligence or enemy penetration, bombings, sabotage, etc.), the system of regular record-keeping often did not work. Moreover, reports on the results of combat operations and troop casualties were often not produced because they had fallen into numerous ‘pockets’. What could be reported from the lower levels in a situation of complete breakdown of the front, encirclement and destruction of headquarters and entire units, and wholesale annihilation of records? The poorly organized accounting of casualties and the often total lack of opportunity to report them made it impossible for headquarters to precisely determine the state of affairs of troops at the front. Units and formations that had fallen into encirclement generally did not produce information about their situation, for understandable reasons. This was the overall picture during the first months of the war.

One can obtain some idea of the scale of casualties suffered by the forces of the principal border military districts (which became fronts) during the initial period of the Great Patriotic War from the data in Table 1. These are presented for comparison with the casualties of the opposing enemy groupings during that same period.

Thus, during the first 15–18 days of combat operations, the Red Army lost 747,870 men, of which 588,598 were irrecoverable human losses (79 per cent) and 159,272 were medical losses (21 per cent). According to data from the German Archive, by 10 July 1941 the Germans had captured 366,372 Soviet POWs (including 1969 officers).6

It should be noted that the table does not include the casualties of Romanian, Hungarian and Slovak troops operating against the Southwestern Front. However, these losses were relatively minor and had little impact on the overall casualty ratio. Thus irrecoverable Soviet troop losses in men during the initial period of the war were almost 32 times greater than those of the Germans, and overall Soviet troop losses exceed those of the Germans more than tenfold.

Soviet and German casualties during this period are incredibly disparate! Here is not the place to enumerate the reasons for the Red Army’s defeat in the border battle. The authors of this work have expressed their opinion on that matter in June 1941. Preprogrammed Defeat.7 Taking into account the results the Germans achieved in the initial period and in subsequent battles on the main strategic axes, the casualties calculated by Krivosheev’s team do not particularly inspire trust.

How they managed to so precisely calculate front losses, even down to a single man, is a real puzzle. In the situation that had developed, the front and army commanders and staffs did not always know the location of their formations, let alone their losses in men, weapons and war materiel. Moreover, what can be said about casualties when, as will be shown later, two reputable scholarly collectives cannot even agree on the matter of the initial strength of the districts (fronts)? Obviously they had different approaches to determining personnel strength.

Table 1: Red Army and Wehrmacht casualties during the initial period of the Great Patriotic War*



* Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century, 2001, pp. 267–8; Velikaia Otechestvennaia voina 1941–1945 gg. Strategicheskie operatsii i srazheniia. Statistichesky analiz [The Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945. Strategic operations and battles. Statistical analysis, hereafter cited as Statistical Analysis, Book 1], Book 1 (Moscow: Institut voennoi istorii, 2004, pp. 39, 66, 73, 90, 97).

** The numbers in parentheses are the lists of front forces according to data from Statistical Analysis (see above note).

First and foremost, the casualty numbers for the Northwestern Front do not inspire confidence. By 29 June its troops had suffered defeat and been pushed back to the Western Dvina River, and then to the Velikaia River. The 8th Army had been cut off from the front’s main forces and had been withdrawing northward. The front had lost 2,523 tanks and self-propelled guns.8 It is not by chance that General-Lieutenant P.S. Klenov, Chief of Staff of the front, was relieved of his duties on 1 July 1941.9 Front Commander General-Colonel F.I. Kuznetsov was removed even earlier, on 30 June, and on 10 July 1941 he was demoted and assigned to be commander of 21st Army.10 Other leading members of the front staff were removed from their posts as well. This would hardly have happened if troop casualties in the border battle had been only 17.8 per cent of their numerical strength, which was noticeably less with respect to percentage than that of other fronts.

In the situation that had unfolded, subordinate troops were unable to provide reports about their casualties to front headquarters. If there are no reports from the troops themselves, then no information can move upward along the chain of command. Therefore, it was necessary to report to Moscow about the ‘shortage’ of human resources. What can one say regarding the reliability of the Northwestern Front casualty numbers if the first casualty report since the beginning of the war, which was signed by Colonel V. Kashirsky, Chief of the Recruitment Department of this front’s staff, stated that from 22 June 1941 to 1 August 1941 (forty days of combat) the front lost 57,207 men? This figure is 1.5 times fewer than that for the men lost in eighteen days, according to information from Krivosheev’s team.11

According to information from researcher I.I. Ivlev,12 who for many years has studied this front’s combat operations during the Great Patriotic War, under the complex conditions of the beginning of the war and poorly organized withdrawal of front forces there was no opportunity to present information on the situation and casualties. Despite working in the ELAR Corporation,13 he has not been able to discover reports in various archives or in the JDB on casualties of 40 of the 78 formations and units that made up the front, including 4 of 9 rifle corps (including one airborne), 17 of 26 rifle divisions, 1 of 4 mechanized corps, 4 of 8 tank divisions, 6 of 10 brigades (all types), and 5 of 14 artillery regiments. There were also no reports of casualties from the 8th Army headquarters.

How did Krivosheev’s team compute these losses? If they attempted to calculate them, what formation and unit manning did they take as their base? When determining the casualties of front formations and units that had not provided reports, Ivlev used such arithmetic. He proceeded from their numerical strength at the beginning of the war (or time of their introduction into the engagement). He determined the overall casualties as the sum of irrecoverable and medical casualties (for comparison, casualties according to Krivosheev’s data are given in parentheses). According to Ivlev’s data, on 9 July 1941 Northwestern Front’s casualties were as follows: irrecoverable, 246,961 (73,924); medical, 13,33714 (13,284); totals, 260,298 (87,208). In other words, casualties according to Ivlev’s calculations are three times greater than those calculated by Krivosheev. According to Ivlev, by 1 August 1941 Northwestern Front troop casualties amounted to 377,469 men,15 that is, 6.6 times greater than Colonel Kashirsky reported. How could this happen? It turns out that the front reported casualties regarding troops subordinated to it on 1 August 1941 for only 40 of the 216 organizational units that were on the lists for the district (front). The report ‘forgot’ the 8th Army, half of the corps, two-thirds of the rifle divisions and half of the tank and motorized divisions.

Ivlev’s calculations are confirmed indirectly by the content of the front’s application to the General Staff for delivery of reinforcements to compensate for troop casualties (with respect to conditions on 1 August 1941). In all, front headquarters, taking into account what the Centre for Field Replacements had promised it (67,622 men), requested 312,070 men in four applications (dated 2, 7, 12 and 20 July 1941).16 Why is this fewer than the casualties that had been suffered? By this time they already knew about the loss of the 2nd and 5th Tank Divisions, the 24th Latvian Rifle Corps’ scattered 184th Rifle Division (which had been manned using local resources), and the departure of the 126th and 179th Rifle Divisions to the Western Front. The authorized strength of these formations that had been taken from the front’s combat strength amounted to around 65,000 men. It was not required to replace them, and the applications for replacements were reduced to 312,469 men (377,469–65,000).17

The calculation of casualties according to reports from troops, the basis of which was only the change in their lists for a specific period of time without consideration of replacements they had received, often led to results that were far from the actual losses. The arithmetic method of computing human casualties, employed without consideration of frequent replenishment of units and formations, also did not provide a correct result because the instructions concerning their computation that were in force did not foresee this.

Formations that had broken out of encirclement or completed a forced withdrawal under the complex conditions of the situation characteristic of the first months of the war were, in the majority of cases, hastily replenished or re-formed using field replacements and the remnants of units and formations that had disbanded. An analysis of documents from the collections of TsAMO RF of these formations and units shows that time and again the replacements were not taken into account by casualty reports. Moreover, units and subunits frequently lacked the chance to record their men by name, let alone by the addresses of relatives.

In one of his published addresses, Krivosheev, answering questions from the audience, alleged that it was now impossible to take into account the numbers and arrival time of replacements. Therefore, because of the complexity of accounting for the formations and armies that were brought in and taken out during the course of combat operations, the authors specified only the numerical strength of participating formations and armies at the beginning of an operation, not considering troops and field replacements introduced during the fighting. Casualties, then, were calculated for all forces that were taking part in a given operation. The monthly front reports, being the most complete and reliable, were taken as the basis (we will speak about the completeness and reliability of troop reports later).18

It is difficult to trust this. How could casualties have been calculated, taking into account mid-battle field replacements, without knowing replacement numbers or arrival times? Meanwhile, all necessary data are in the appropriate collections, which for a long time were inaccessible to researchers. Several meticulous researchers, working on their own, succeeded where the ‘respected’ G.F. Krivosheev, with his enormous authority and large team, ‘failed’.

In 2010 and 2011, on the basis of data from collection no. 16 of the Red Army’s Central Military Transportation Directorate,19 Ivlev created an electronic database on the formation and movement of almost 50,000 trains that were used for the operational transport of troops in 1941. Using this database, one can follow the movement of trains from loading stations to unloading stations, with an indication of the numbers and types of units and formations being transported (including replacements), dates of loading and unloading, and junction stations through which the trains passed. In many cases he succeeded in revealing the departure and arrival times, size and assignment of the replacements being transported.

Consideration of replacements provides a more realistic number of personnel losses during combat operations. The results of the calculation of human casualties for all formations and units that comprised the Northwestern Front’s three armies in 1941 are of special interest. Analysing information from the manning and military transportation department of Northwestern Front and army headquarters, the Red Army Military Transportation Directorate, the Main Organization and Recruitment Directorate of the Red Army (Glavupraform), and reserve regiments, and reception and transit stations, Ivlev calculated the overall number of replacements that the front received over 188 days of war, beginning on 22 June 1941, to be 341,239 men. Of these, 111,917 were sent by orders of the central authorities as field replacements (battalions and companies) starting in July 1941, and taken into account by front and Glavupraform documents in the collections of TsAMO RF no. 221 and no. 56 respectively. The front obtained the remaining replacements from ‘their own’ resources. Here, when calculating monthly casualties, Ivlev took into account formations and units that had been removed from Northwestern Front – a total of 189,572 men.20

He analysed the casualties of more than 80 military formations and units, including 7 rifle corps, 1 airborne corps, 36 rifle and motorized divisions, 1 people’s militia division, 3 cavalry divisions, 4 mechanized corps (with 8 tank divisions in their composition), 2 rifle brigades, 3 airborne brigades, 2 antitank artillery brigades, 3 air defence artillery brigades, 11 artillery regiments and other separate front units.

In his calculations Ivlev took into account the fact that on 9 June 1941 the border divisions of the Baltic Special Military District, which immediately after the beginning of the war became the Northwestern Front, were already at authorized wartime strength, or even exceeded it. The divisions that had begun to move to the state border in accordance with the 13 June 1941 People’s Commissariat of Defence Directive had already been replenished before the beginning of the war with recruits who had been designated for the deployment of units of the 25th, 41st, 42nd, 44th, 45th, 46th and 48th Fortified Regions and brought up to authorized wartime strength during 10–15 June 1941.21 Each division was to form artillery and machine gun battalions and other subunits to be included in the fortified regions; however, because the fortified regions had not deployed, the recruits remained in the divisions.

According to mobilization plan MP-41, 230,000 men from the Moscow Military District were assigned to the formations and units of the Baltic Special Military District;22 they began to arrive for training sessions on 20 June 1941 (citizens of local nationalities were not assigned to the troop composition).23 After the commencement of open mobilization on 23 June, the remaining assigned staff from the Moscow Military District began to arrive in dozens of troop trains.24

Through his calculations, Ivlev obtained actual information on Northwestern Front casualties in 1941. These substantially exceeded the corresponding data that Krivosheev’s team computed: irrecoverable losses by 2.8 times (507,703 vs. 182,264), medical casualties by 1.6 times (143,496 vs. 87,823), and total casualties by 2.4 times (651,199 vs. 270,087).25

It should be mentioned that combat support (communications, engineer, road, railway and chemical) and rear support (quartermaster, medical, veterinary, construction, etc.) units, whose actions and fate are difficult to follow in view of frequent replacements, re-formation and disbanding, removal of personnel, etc., are not included in Ivlev’s calculations. He also did not take into account casualties from units of the eight fortified regions located on the district’s territory, from which not a single report was received (130 different subunits – construction, combat engineer and motor vehicle battalions – were used to build them). The general electronic database has only fragmentary data on the casualties of just two of these battalions. If the casualties from these units are considered, then Northwestern Front personnel losses for the first 188 days of the war would be even greater.

The main category of Red Army casualties at the beginning of the war was irrecoverable losses. This is understandable; due to the complex situation and the rapid and not always organized withdrawal, the Red Army was simply not able to evacuate the wounded and sick. Here, the lion’s share of irrecoverable losses fell on the Red Army soldiers and officers whom the Germans had taken prisoner as a result of the numerous encirclements. It is very difficult to establish their precise number, and therefore it is necessary to use German data. Table 2 – Soviet POWs captured in the large encirclements of 1941 – has been compiled on this basis.

It is characteristic that, according to computations by Krivosheev’s team, irrecoverable losses for Soviet forces in 1941 operations frequently approximate or barely exceed the number of prisoners taken by the Germans in the large encirclements alone. For example, according to German data, by 9 July 1941 Army Group Centre forces had captured 323,000 men in the region of Belostok and Minsk. According to Krivosheev’s data, the Western Front’s irrecoverable losses for this period amounted to 341,073 men. Of course, in addition to MIAs, some Soviet troops were also KIA, so these numbers correspond well with one another. The same can be said for the casualties of other fronts in subsequent battles.

Table 2: Number of Soviet POWs and principal regions of their capture by the Wehrmacht in 1941 (according to German information)*



* K. Streit, ‘Oni nam ne tovarishchi . . .’ Vermakht i sovetskie voennoplennye v 1941–1945 gg. [‘They are not our comrades . . .’ Wehrmacht and soviet POWs in 1941–1945, hereafter cited as Streit, They Are Not Our Comrades] (Moscow: Russkaia panorama, 2009), p. 87.

The description by Krivosheev’s team regarding casualties in the Kiev strategic defensive operation produces a strange impression. According to the team’s data, Southwestern Front forces numbering 628,500 men (including the Pinsk Military Flotilla, which numbered 1,500 men) took part in the operation. They did not indicate the strength of Central Front’s 21st Army (10–30 August 1941) or Southern Front’s 6th and 12th Armies (20 August 1941–26 September 1941), only taking their casualties into account. The overall casualties for these forces from 7 July to 26 September 1941 amounted to 700,544, including 616,304 irrecoverable losses (88 per cent of the total) and 84,240 medical casualties (12 per cent of the total).26

It turns out that Southwestern Front casualties were greater than its numerical strength, as indicated by Krivosheev! Only naı¨ve people (those who themselves were never involved in calculations on the basis of archival information) believe the numbers of Soviet casualties during the Great Patriotic War that were computed during the Cold War and the active struggle against the ‘bourgeois falsification of history’. At the same time, the indicated discrepancies for some historians and commentators became the cause for disputing the Nazis’ ‘myths’ about their successes. In particular, they questioned the numbers of Soviet prisoners captured in the encirclements, including near Kiev. All these commentators’ arguments basically boiled down to the fact that the number of troops that had been encircled exceeded the numerical strength of the corresponding fronts. Possibly they did this from a false perception of the prestige of the Red Army or from a desire to whitewash the Soviet military command, which in the first and second periods of the war had made many errors with grave consequences. Moreover, some of them thought, in general, that the casualties of the USSR population and the Red Army that were cited in Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century were greatly exaggerated.

In fact, according to A. Isaev’s data, the number of Soviet troops who fell into encirclement east of Kiev on 1 September amounted to 452,720 men. There were 1,510 artillery pieces (including 316 anti-aircraft guns) in the front’s artillery units (not including 21st Army). According to his information, 21,000 men were able to break out of encirclement.27 Later, on the basis of TsAMO RF archival documents, Isaev refined the strength of the encircled forces: 106,831 men in the 21st Army (11 rifle divisions and 3 cavalry divisions); 93,412 in the 5th Army (10 rifle divisions, an airborne brigade, and an anti-tank artillery brigade); 113,718 in the 37th Army (10 rifle divisions); 85,456 in the 26th Army (7 rifle divisions); and 53,303 in units subordinated to the front.28 Were these archival data really not accessible for the authors of the works under discussion?

According to German reports, 665,212 prisoners were captured in the battle at the basin (bend) of the Dnepr and Desna Rivers. Of them, Army Group South directly captured 440,074 in the encirclement near Kiev from 11 to 26 September (this fully agrees with the number of encircled Soviet forces – 452,720), 41,805 at the Kremenchug bridgehead from 31 August to 11 September, and 11,006 at the Gornostaipol’ bridgehead from 4 to 10 September. The remaining 172,327 prisoners had been captured by Army Group Centre at Gomel’ (formations from Weichs’ 2nd Army and Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Group, a total of 25 divisions, of which 6 were panzer and motorized divisions) and in the penetration of Guderian’s group to Lokhvytsa. In all these battles the Germans destroyed or captured 824 tanks, 3,018 field guns and 418 anti-tank cannon.29

Consequently, the number of Soviet prisoners captured by Army Groups South and Centre exceeds the irrecoverable losses that Krivosheev calculated by almost 50,000. In this regard, great doubt arises regarding the 21st Army’s casualties as calculated by Krivosheev – 35,585, including 31,792 irrecoverable losses; that is, around one-third of its strength. After all, according to records of the situation on 2 October 1941, only 15,000 men were listed as having broken out of encirclement. The same can be said about the irrecoverable losses of Southern Front’s 6th and 12th Armies, which had been encircled in the Uman’ region – 52,900 men. According to German data, 103,000 men were captured there. Can this difference of 50,000 men be explained by these facts? Who counted how many were killed during the fierce (according to German testimony) battles? On average, for 1941, the dead in the Red Army’s overall casualties amounted to 10.4 per cent.30 Thus, the number of irrecoverable losses for Southwestern Front in the Kiev operation amounts to a minimum of 719,000–730,000, which should not be considered an overstatement.

Distrust of the numbers of irrecoverable losses for Southwestern Front forces, as calculated by the authors, is intensified by the following circumstance. During 96 days of fighting (15 in the initial period, 81 in the Kiev operation), the front irrecoverably lost 696,900 men,31 and a total of 717,800 in 1941;32 that is, during the remaining 92 days the front lost 20,900 men. This number corresponds precisely to the losses in two strategic operations: the Donbas-Rostov defensive operation, in which the irrecoverable losses for Southwestern Front’s 6th Army from 29 September to 16 November 1941 amounted to 11,200 men, and the Moscow offensive operation from 6 to 31 December, in which the irrecoverable losses for 3rd Army, 13th Army and General Kostenko’s operational group, which comprised the Southwestern Front’s right flank, were 9,700 men.33 It turns out that during combat operations for all of 1941, Southwestern Front forces that did not take part in the above-mentioned operations did not, in general, suffer any irrecoverable losses. Did they not fight at all? How, then, could there have been the Sumy-Kharkov front defensive operation, in which Southwestern Front’s 21st, 38th and 40th Armies irrecoverably lost 75,720 men from 30 September to 30 November 1941 (more than half of its initial combat strength)?34 No, something clearly does not mesh in the arithmetic of the authors of the statistical research . . . Or, in this case, they simply disregarded the casualties Soviet forces suffered outside the framework of strategic operations.

It should be emphasized that the authors calculated Southwestern Front casualties without considering replacements that the front received in August and September. There are only indirect data about the numbers. It is known that in September the three fronts of the western strategic axis received more than 193,000 field replacements (39.2 per cent of the overall number of men sent into the active army) to make up for the casualties they had suffered.35 Taking into consideration the situation that had developed on the southwestern strategic axis, the Southwestern Front could have received as much as 15 per cent of the overall number of field replacements (492,000), that is, 70,000–75,000 men. It was namely because of the introduction of reserves into the battle and the supplying of field replacements that, on the basis of the Kiev Fortified Region, 37th Army was created on 10 August 1941, consisting of six divisions (147th, 171st, 175th, 206th, 284th and 295th Rifle Divisions). By 1 September, in addition to the fortified region units, there were ten divisions in it. Thus, judging by everything, the front’s actual casualties in the Kiev operation greatly exceeded those indicated by Krivosheev’s information.

A small digression is needed concerning the combining, somewhat strange at first glance, of such varied regions of German operations into a single battle. The numerous encirclements, with hundreds of thousands of captured prisoners in operations during the first and second periods of the war, are an indirect testament to the much higher level of operational training of the Wehrmacht commanders. By seizing the strategic initiative, they chose the time and direction for strikes. We would like to focus the attention of homegrown strategists on the fact that, as a rule, any encirclement begins with the penetration of the enemy’s front and the capture of advantageous bridgeheads for the advance along converging axes, during which a two-sided envelopment and encirclement of the enemy is implemented. Then the encircled forces are destroyed while strikes from outside that might free those forces are repelled. Troop actions (local army and army group operations) during this time are linked with respect to goal, task, place and time, and are aimed at resolving the specific operational-strategic mission on whose resolution the further course of military operations depends. They can be carried out sequentially, as in the battle near Kiev, or simultaneously, as in Operation ‘Typhoon’. All this may comprise the content of a single strategic operation on a selected axis.

In this case, Army Group South’s offensive in the Uman’ region on the right bank of the Dnepr seems somewhat unusual. However, the operations of Colonel-General Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Group and Colonel-General Weichs’ 2nd Army (Army Group Centre), which on 8 August had shifted to the offensive against the Soviet’s Central Front in the direction of Mogilev, Gomel’ and Roslavl’, Starodub (a total of 25 divisions, of which 6 were panzer and motorized divisions), fit completely into the plan for defeating the Southwestern Front. Moreover, it should be taken into consideration that the enemy command itself was entitled to determine the temporal and territorial framework for the battle, which the enemy’s data describes. We will have more to say about the reliability of German data.

Von Rundstedt’s forces, which during the battle near Kiev captured 492,885 prisoners, lost 92,205 men (including 3,101 officers), of whom 24,002 (869 officers) were irrecoverable.36 The ratio of irrecoverable losses amounted to a minimum of 20:1 in favour of the Germans.

Army Group Centre forces that participated in this battle captured 172,327 prisoners. From 11 to 31 August Guderian’s forces alone lost 13,300, of whom 3,588 were irrecoverable.37 Inasmuch as attempts at establishing the casualties of the 2nd Army formations there have not been successful, there is no sense in considering the ratio of irrecoverable losses – the clear disproportion is quite obvious.



The Moscow strategic defensive operation is another example of how great the difference in front personnel casualties can be between the data of Krivosheev’s team and the data of other researchers. The scope of the Red Army’s defeat in this operation is muted in every way possible in the official historiography of the Great Patriotic War. It is usually mentioned in passing that, at the beginning of October, Soviet forces suffered a major set-back, and that the encircled units of the 19th, 20th, 24th and 32nd Armies continued to fight heroically, having contained 28 enemy divisions. Here, questions about Soviet casualties, not to mention about specific reasons for the defeat, are avoided in every way. The Battle of Moscow. Chronicle, Facts, Men, published in 2001, states, as before, that 19 rifle divisions and 4 tank brigades were encircled west of Viaz’ma, and that some of them were able to break out to their own forces.38

In reality, the Germans succeeded during Operation ‘Typhoon’ in collapsing the Soviet defensive front on the western strategic axis and encircling and defeating the main forces of three fronts. The Red Army suffered enormous damage in personnel, weapons and war materiel. There was no way to reconstitute it because the Stavka’s main reserves had been used up even earlier to regenerate the front on the southwestern and Orel axes. There was a gaping breach with a width of as much as 500 kilometres in the strategic defence of the Soviet forces, one which ran 800 kilometres; almost the entire way into the heart of the country had been opened. This was a catastrophe that fundamentally changed the situation on the entire Soviet-German Front. Its severe consequences determined all Stavka decisions and subsequent Red Army operations for a long time.

Forces of 13 armies, 7 of 15 field army commands, 64 of 95 divisions (67 per cent of those existing at the beginning of the battle), 11 of 13 tank brigades (85 per cent), and 50 of 62 Reserve of the Main Command [hereafter cited as GHQ reserve] artillery regiments (81 per cent) were encircled at Viaz’ma and Briansk.39

Remnants of 32 divisions (including 3 of 6 divisions trapped outside the general encirclement) and 13 GHQ reserve artillery regiments were able to break out. ‘Remnants’, because they were listed as divisions only by name and number. For example, ‘681 men remained in the 248th Rifle Division. By 18 October the 13th Army, which on 30 September had 8 divisions and 169 tanks, had less than a single division’s worth of men, not a single tank, and not enough artillery pieces to equip a single rifle regiment. In the 50th Army there remained around 10 per cent of the men and 2.4 per cent of the artillery pieces and mortars.’40

In the course of two to three weeks some 32 divisions, 11 tank brigades and 37 GHQ reserve artillery regiments were lost. Thus, during the first half of October, Soviet forces suffered a devastating defeat, one which G.K. Zhukov called a catastrophe. In scope and consequences this defeat is not comparable to the defeat of the Western Front’s main forces in Belorussia or that of the Southwestern Front in September 1941. Western Front and Reserve Front forces withdrew 250–300 kilometres, while the Briansk Front forces were thrown back 360–390 kilometres. The front line was all of 100–110 kilometres from the capital. This was, perhaps, the most difficult and most tragic stage of the war. The entire world expected that Moscow would soon fall.

Here is how the Germans at that time evaluated the results of the first stage of Operation ‘Typhoon’. On 19 October von Bock in his order declared the following to the forces of Army Group Centre:

The battle at Viaz’ma and Bryansk has resulted in the collapse of the Russian front, which was fortified in depth. Eight Russian armies with 73 rifle and cavalry divisions, 13 tank divisions and brigades, and strong artillery were destroyed in the difficult struggle with a numerically far-superior foe.

The total booty: 673,098 prisoners, 1,277 tanks, 4,378 artillery pieces, 1,009 anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, 87 aircraft and huge amounts of war materiel.41

There is no information in the works of Krivosheev’s team about human casualties on the Moscow axis during the first two or three weeks of October. Table 3 shows human casualties for Soviet forces (according to Krivosheev’s data) in the 67 days of the Moscow strategic defensive operation (30 September–5 December 1941). For illustration, the force strength of the fronts at the beginning of the operation and their casualties are shown in percentages.

The tragedy, however, lies in the fact that Soviet casualties as calculated by Krivosheev do not compare with von Bock’s data! They disagree not because the Red Army’s irrecoverable losses – 514,338 soldiers and officers – are fewer than the number of prisoners captured by the Germans (673,098), but because the commander of Army Group Centre is only talking about the first three weeks of Operation ‘Typhoon’, during which the Germans captured 673,098 men, while Krivosheev is talking about the 67 days of the operation (to 5 December).

Table 3: Personnel casualties for Soviet forces in the Moscow strategic defensive operation (30 September–5 December 1941)*



* Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century, 2001, p. 273.

** The Kalinin Front was created on 19 October from Western Front forces.

Who, then, is being deceitful here? Perhaps von Bock exaggerated the success of his troops? Let us try to sort this out.

As usual, Krivosheev’s information is amazing regarding the precision of the cited casualty numbers – to the man! From where could such information appear, given that in October army and front headquarters did not even know where their formations were and in what condition?

That the Operations Directorate of the General Staff was inadequately informed about the actual situation regarding losses on the fronts is evidenced by the ‘Information on the Numerical Strength of the Red Army, Replacements, and Casualties from the Beginning of the War to 1 March 1942’, signed on 1 May 1942 by Colonel Efremov, Chief of the directorate’s Organization and Records Department (see Appendix B). He reached the following conclusions: ‘With regard to records, especially casualty records, the period from 1 August to 1 December is the most unclear. One can state with complete certainty that the Organization and Staff Directorate’s information regarding casualties for October and November does not at all correspond to reality.’42

The authors of Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century admit that, in connection with the difficult operational situation during the battles, military headquarters were sometimes unable to account for casualties. This, first and foremost, is related to the units and formations that were encircled, for which it was not possible to report information about their situation. Therefore, they had to calculate the casualties of small and large formations that the enemy destroyed or encircled using ‘their latest reports about personnel strength, as well as archival materials from the German command’.43 We will spend some time on how the authors took into account ‘archival materials from the German command’.

In two weeks the Germans succeeded in encircling and destroying the main forces of the Western and Reserve Fronts, as well as in operationally encircling the Briansk Front forces, who also suffered heavy losses. The Western Front, headed by Zhukov, who had been called up from Leningrad, had to be reconstituted once again.

The situation was near-catastrophic. The forces of both fronts, which could have resisted the enemy on the path to the capital, were trapped. The 19th Army and General I.V. Boldin’s operational group (formed from Western Front reserves), as well as numerous front-subordination units, fought northwest of Viaz’ma. Also in the encirclement were formations of the Reserve Front’s 32nd Army. The overall strength of these frontsubordination forces and units before the beginning of the operation was no fewer than 250,000 men. However, they all suffered heavy casualties even before the encirclement (for example, the 19th Army lost as many as 20,000 of its 52,000 men).

Enough has been written about the 19th Army’s battles in encirclement and its unsuccessful attempts to break out. Much less is known about the operations of the 20th and 24th Armies, which were encircled southwest of Viaz’ma. General-Major K.I. Rakutin, Commander of the 24th Army, died in the encirclement; General-Lieutenant F.A. Ershakov, Commander of the 20th Army (whose composition also included formations from the 16th Army), died in captivity; General-Major N.V. Korneev, Ershakov’s Chief of Staff, died during the break-out of the encirclement. Only a few reports that Western Front headquarters and the General Staff received have been saved, but not all of them have yet been declassified (especially the encoded ones).

South of the Minsk-Moscow Highway, fully combat-capable formations, numbering around 87,000 men, fought in encirclement, having suffered almost no casualties before the commencement of their withdrawal. In addition to these, formations of the Reserve Front’s 24th and 43rd Armies, which in previous fighting had suffered heavy casualties (before the commencement of the operations their combat strength had been 195,000 men), were encircled. Several units subordinate to the Western and Reserve Fronts also fell here. The overall strength of the forces encircled southwest of the town was approximately 230,000–240,000.

It was not by chance that a significant conclusion was reached in a report on 11 October 1941 by the Supreme High Command of the German Army: ‘(b) Army Group Centre . . . Enemy forces encircled west of Viaz’ma continue brutal attempts to break out, the main strike is being delivered south of Viaz’ma. The number of prisoners is growing . . .’44

Based on previously unpublished German documents, it seems they managed to partially restore the situation southwest of Viaz’ma. The encircled forces delivered the main strike at the junction of the 11th Panzer Division and the 252nd Infantry Division at Chakovo in the direction of Blokhino (8 kilometres south of Los’mino). According to German information, several battalions broke out here, cut off the Blokhino-Viaz’ma road, and continued to break out to the south. The 11th Panzer Division’s command post was also attacked.

The following is taken from the daily German 4th Army headquarters report, dated 12 October 1941:

In the course of a day at the front of the encirclement, the enemy has made several attempts to break out of encirclement, advancing in lines to a depth of up to 15 rows. They were all repelled, with heavy casualties for him.

Units of the 5th Panzer Division and the 252nd Infantry Division had to deliver a counterblow against the penetrating enemy and throw him back, with enormous casualties. Communications were re-established with the 11th Panzer Division. Today more than 25,000 men were captured.45

The following is taken from a 4th Army war diary on the same day:

21.20 . . . the 5th Panzer Division advanced to the 11th Panzer Division’s right flank. The number of dead Russians is incredibly great, it is becoming downright strange. Because of the bodies one can hardly advance along the roads. The 46th Motorized Corps alone captured 60,000 prisoners.

23.25. The 46th Motorized Corps reports that last night and this morning the Russians attempted 15 attacks, one after the other, against the 11th Panzer Division. Some servicemen in the division units ran out of ammunition and they died. The corps captured 160,000 men.46

On 10 and 11 October the village of Selivanovo (17 kilometres south of Viaz’ma) changed hands several times. According to testimony from local residents, the bodies of dead soldiers lay in three layers on the field.47

Later, through prisoner interrogations, the Germans established the reason for such strong pressure: on the narrow sector in front of the 46th Motorized Corps alone, the Soviets’ entire 20th Army and units from the 16th Army were operating. Their overall strength amounted to around 30,000 men, and they were concentrated for a breakout. The army commander himself was in charge of them.

On 13 and 14 October the Germans generally combed over the terrain west of Viaz’ma, with the goal of capturing POWs. The following is taken from a report by 4th Army headquarters [south of the highway]:

14.10. From 2 to 12 October, 4th Army units captured 328,000 men. The following were destroyed and captured: 310 tanks, 1,400 artillery pieces, 26 undamaged aircraft, 6,000 motor vehicles, 45 loaded railway trains, 1 food train, 1 column with ammunition, and 2 fuel storage depots.48

One can judge the ratio of losses north of the highway from the report by the 9th Army’s 8th Army Corps:

During the fighting from 2 to 13 October, 8th Army Corps, consisting of the 8th, 28th and 87th Infantry Divisions (not counting divisions that in the course of the offensive were temporarily resubordinated to the corps), lost 4,077 soldiers and officers, including 870 KIA and 227 MIA.

During the same period corps formations captured 51,484 men and destroyed and captured 157 tanks, 444 artillery pieces of all types, 484 machine guns, 23 field kitchens, 3,689 motor vehicles, and 528 horses.49

Later, in a letter to A.A. Zhdanov in Leningrad, Zhukov would write the following about those days: ‘We are now operating in the west, on the outskirts of Moscow. The main thing is that Konev and Budyonny negligently let their armed forces waste away. I inherited just a mere shadow of them: from Budyonny – his headquarters and 98 men; from Konev – his headquarters and two reserve regiments.’50

Zhukov was, of course, exaggerating: there were other forces, including those who had managed to avoid encirclement. However, it was necessary to find them, bring them into order, assign them missions corresponding to the situation and finally assist them logistically. During the defensive operation a total of 6 armies (26 rifle divisions, 14 cavalry divisions, 15 rifle brigades, 2 airborne brigades, and 6 separate machine gun battalions) were introduced into the composition of the newly re-established Western Front. Kalinin Front received an additional three rifle and two cavalry divisions,51 not including the forces of the Southwestern Front’s right flank and the Moscow Defensive Zone, which had taken part in the operation.

What proportion of the declared number of irrecoverable losses (514,300 men) over the 67 days of fighting, in the opinion of the authors of the statistical research, did the October casualties represent? There is no answer. The authors avoided any specification of human casualties in the first two operations – Viaz’ma (2–13 October) and Orel-Briansk (30 September– 23 October), in which Soviet forces suffered a shattering defeat.52

The majority of researchers who have studied the Battle of Moscow do not agree with the numbers cited in Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century. We are talking about very serious works. For example, in the 1990s, in accordance with the intention of preparing a new edition of the history of the Great Patriotic War, free from the ideological dogmas and outdated myths of Soviet propaganda, the Institute of Military History developed and published four volumes of military-historical essays about the Great Patriotic War. They examined inadequately researched problems and presented opinions on debatable questions, including the very painful issue of casualties in individual operations.

Of particular interest is the first book, Severe Trials, which is mostly devoted to the events of 1941. Examining the results of the first stage of the Moscow strategic defensive operations, Severe Trials draws the conclusion that ‘during the first 2–3 weeks of fighting near Moscow, the Red Army lost as many as 1 million men who were killed in action, died of wounds, went missing in action or were captured.’53

The basis of this conclusion was the calculations of B.I. Nevzorov, a well known researcher of the Battle of Moscow who worked in the Institute of Military History. He used information from the collections of TsAMO RF, to which not all researchers had access at that time. Proceeding from there, Nevzorov determined the approximate magnitude of Soviet human casualties. Around 85,000 men (including 6,308 officers, 9,994 noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and 68,419 enlisted men, a total of 84,721) broke out of the Viaz’ma encirclement and around 23,000 broke out of the Briansk encirclement, for a total of 108,000. On 15 and 16 October, in the Naro-Fominsk region alone, 4,000 men were detained, half of them without weapons. From 10 to 15 October, in the regions of Naro-Fominsk and Volokolamsk, a total of 17,000 soldiers and officers were detained.54 All those who had broken out of encirclement as individual groups or who had been detained by barrier troops joined their own units or composite detachments.

To the number of those who had broken out of encirclement, Nevzorov added 98,000 men – those from the 29th Army, the 33rd Army and Boldin’s group who had avoided encirclement, as well as those from the 22nd Army, where only one division (the 126th Rifle Division north of Rzhev) had been encircled. According to his calculations, approximately 200,000 men had avoided encirclement and joined up with their own forces. However, individual groups continued to break out of the encirclement in November as well and even later. Therefore, Nevzorov rounded off the overall number of men who remained in the ranks from the initial strength of the three fronts to 250,000. To summarize, he concluded that the Red Army lost as many as 1 million men (80 per cent of the initial strength of the three fronts), of whom (according to German information) around 688,000 (that is, 70 per cent of the overall casualties) were captured.55 In passing, let us mention that in determining Soviet troop losses Nevzorov did not take into account the replacements the fronts received during the operation.

It is worth noting that because the treatment of events in the abovementioned essays in some cases contradicted the official history of the war, publication was halted. As a result, the approach to many issues sharply changed. Thus, in the Institute’s 2004 work Statistical Analysis, a name that held much promise, the authors agreed with the figures in Russia and the USSR in Wars of the 20th Century, and did not provide their own assessment of the reliability of their colleagues’ information. However, using the example of Krivosheev, one can determine the casualties of the Moscow strategic defensive operation, albeit approximately, by the arithmetic method.

It was this method that S.N. Mikhalev, a senior researcher at the Institute of Military History and doctor of historical sciences, used when calculating casualties in the Moscow operation. However, the results he obtained were somewhat different from those of Nevzorov. He calculated human casualties as the difference between the initial strength of the Western, Reserve and Briansk Fronts on 1 October 1941 (1,212,600 men) and the strength of the Western (including Reserve Front’s surviving troops), Kalinin and Briansk Fronts on 1 November (714,000 men). The losses amounted to 498,600 men. Taking into account replacements that arrived to these fronts during that time (304,400 men), human casualties for October numbered 803,000 men. Considering losses for November, the overall front casualties in the operation amounted to 959,200 men, of which 855,100 were irrecoverable (and this is not counting the casualties for four days in December).56 This figure is 1.7 times greater than Krivosheev’s. The fronts’ medical casualties amounted to 104,100.57

Mikhalev reported his calculations at a military-scientific conference, ‘The 50th Anniversary of the Victory in the Battle of Moscow’, at which representatives of Krivosheev’s team were also present. One would expect them to have disputed Mikhalev’s method, pointing out the error of his calculations and the correctness of their own, but they did not do this.

Later, Mikhalev refined the figures for the October 1941 casualties for the three fronts:

In October 1941, at the very beginning of the Battle of Moscow, seven Soviet armies (the 19th, 20th, 24th, 32nd, 50th, 3rd and 13th) were encircled near Viaz’ma and Briansk. As a result, only fragmentary information about personnel casualties of these formations arrived at the headquarters of the Western, Reserve and Briansk Fronts, and the information that front headquarters reported to the General Staff was only a summation of what they had received. The assessment of the October casualties for the three fronts, based on this information, was around 45,000 men, which clearly did not correspond to reality: by the commencement of the battle the strength of the three fronts amounted to 1,212,600 men, while on 20 October, according to information in the front report, there remained a total of around 544,000. During this time, as many as 120,000 replacements arrived there. Consequently, personnel losses reached 788,600 men . . . Let us mention that, subsequently, a certain portion of the MIAs broke out of encirclement, and the actual front casualties, in sum, were lower than the figure cited here; however, by the end of October military-operational casualties had reached almost 800,000 men.58

With the calculation of casualties for November (156,000), personnel losses during the operation in this case amounted to 956,000 men (even not including casualties for the first four days of December), 442,000 greater than Krivosheev calculated.

In his calculations Mikhalev reduced the initial strength of these three fronts by almost 38,000 men in comparison with the 1,250,000 listed by the Institute of Military History researchers. In our opinion, however, these figures also need to be refined: according to information in The Seal of Secrecy Has Been Removed, by 1 October the overall strength of the Western Front was 588,000, that is, 14,000 more men.59 On 1 October 1941 the Briansk Front’s 50th Army numbered 67,413 men, almost 6,000 more than in the information from the Institute of Military History.60 Thus, in calculating human casualties in the operation, it is necessary to start from the actual troop strength in the zone of the three fronts on 1 October – this amounts to no fewer than 1,270,000 servicemen, that is, 58,000 more than Mikhalev calculated.

Moreover, all this does not take into account rear area units, formations, installations of central subordination and other departments located in the area of responsibility of the three fronts (for example, the military construction workers of the Western Directorate of Defensive Work). In addition, on 25 September 1941 the NKVD units in the Western Front’s zone numbered 13,190 men.61 In the defensive zones of the Reserve and Briansk Fronts, NKVD units could have numbered approximately 8,000–10,000.

In this case the actual personnel losses of the three fronts amounted to 858,000 soldiers and officers. Taking the November casualties of the Red Army forces operating on the Moscow axis (156,000) into account, a minimum of 1 million Soviet servicemen were lost; irrecoverable losses here numbered in the order of 900,000. Some discrepancy in the casualty figures obtained by different researchers into the Moscow strategic defensive operation is explained by the scarcity of reliable information in this most difficult period of the Great Patriotic War.

In explaining the results of the Moscow strategic defence operation, authors state that during the fierce fighting ‘Soviet forces stopped the advance of the main German grouping – Army Group Centre – and soundly defeated it.’62 In light of the above results of the research by prominent scholars, this statement seems a mockery. One could call the number of irrecoverable Soviet troop casualties in the operation (514,300 men) laughable if it did not concern the serious issue of the loss of defenders of the Motherland.

This is the perfect time to compare the troop casualties of both sides. According to captured German documents, in Operation ‘Typhoon’, from 30 September to 5 December 1941, Army Group Centre lost 145,000 men.63 Unfortunately, researchers at the Institute of Military History erroneously calculated the total number of casualties. If we add up their data properly, Army Group Centre’s overall losses amounted not to 145,000 men, but rather to 136,278 (including 5,695 officers), of whom 37,453 (1,675 officers) were irrecoverable. We will not judge: it happens that even well established scholarly teams are at odds with the rules of elementary arithmetic, miscalculating by millions. Let us note, however, that this figure includes casualties amounting to 50,000 men for the period 1–17 October.64 The ratio of overall casualties for both sides in the operation was 7:1 (1,000,000:136,278) against the Red Army, while the irrecoverable losses for the Soviet forces exceeded thos