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Soviet Losses


For 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.

The 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.

The 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 warthe 900-day-long siege of Leningrad800,000 civilians died of undernourishment and bombardments.

The Soviet human toll was a demographic catastrophe that exceeded by far German losses (1314 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 countrys 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.

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USSR in World War II


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