decades the Soviet authorities prohibited delving into the real cost
of the Soviet victory or scrutinizing the causes of the military
defeats at the start of the war. Soviet losses were deliberately
played down in official statistics. Only with the advent of greater
openness under Gorbachev did the true extent of the tragic mistakes
of the Soviet leadership and of the human toll exacted for the
victory become known.
USSR bore the brunt of the war against Nazi Germany. From June 1941
to May 1945, the Soviet-German front was the main line of battle. In
battles with the Red Army the Wehrmacht lost over 73 percent of its
manpower, 75 percent of its tanks and artillery, and over 75 percent
of its aircraft.
human cost of the Soviet victory was immense. The country lost
one-seventh of its prewar population, which declined from 197
million in June 1941 to only 171 million at the end of 1945. Its
total human losses are estimated at 26 to 27 million people. This
number includes 8 to 9 million soldiers, who were killed in action
or died of wounds or disease. The rest were civilian deaths caused
by illness, malnourishment, and ill treatment in occupied territory,
in captivity in German-occupied Europe, and in the harsh conditions
of the Soviet rear. In just one episode of the war—the 900-day-long
siege of Leningrad—800,000 civilians died of undernourishment and
Soviet human toll was a demographic catastrophe that exceeded by far
German losses (13–14 million) or those of its Western Allies,
Britain (370,000) and the United States (300,000).
The direct material damage wrought by war amounted to one-third of
the country’s entire national wealth. Over 1,700 cities and towns
and over 70,000 villages were completely or partially destroyed,
leaving 25 million people without homes. Many major cities, such as
Stalingrad, Sebastopol, Novorossijsk, Voronezh, Novgorod, Pskov, and
Smolensk, lay in ruins, with many completely razed to the ground.
The Soviet industry lost 32,000 large- and medium-scale enterprises,
while agriculture sustained immense losses in livestock slaughtered
or requisitioned for the needs of the occupying armies.