Soviet Union In WWII (Photo Essay)

By: Anand Pant


The period discussed started with Operation Barbarossa on June 22nd, 1941 and the end date will be April 30th, 1945 (the day Hitler committed suicide). All images that are pertinent to the entirety of the war will be listed at the end.
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1. Operation Barbarossa (June 22, 1941)

Massive invasion of the Soviet Union by over 3 million German troops. Pictured here are some of the 3,000 tanks used to invade. The invasion came later than originally planned, and there is substantial evidence to suggest the Stalin was well aware of the attack, but didn’t want to provoke the Germans too early by mobilizing. It was supposed to be a quick decisive victory, but the SU just kept pulling a seemingly endless amount of people out to fight.

German Tanks in the Soviet Union Preparing for an Attack as Part of Operation Barbarossa, July 21, 1941. Digital image. Britanica. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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2. Evacuation of Soviet Factories (July, 1941)

July 1941, Evacuation of Soviet Factories. After the threat of German forces was evident. This allowed the country to continue the massive industrial output of the state and successfully avoid the invasion and occupation. It is considered one of the greatest feats of war logistics to date. Illustrated below is a Soviet tank factory, which was relocated, and to clarify, the engineers, managers, and skilled laborers were moved, along with the specialized machinery, but not the physical building.

A Soviet Tank Production Factory. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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3. Battle of Kiev (August 23, 1941)

August 23rd, 1941, the Battle of Kiev. It is considered by many to be the greatest encirclement of all time, with the Germans capturing 650,000 Soviet troops. Although a bitter fight, it revealed early in the conflict failures in leadership, however it also brought to light the seemingly expendable supply of Russian troops. After losing 5 million men, the size of the army still increased to 8 million troops and later 11 million. The battle was part of operation Barbarossa.

A Truck Travels over Frozen Lake Ladoga on a Route Known as "the Road of Life." Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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4. Siege of Leningrad (September 8, 1941)

Stalin refused to give up Leningrad and the city was under siege for almost 3 years. Few citizens were evacuated and eventually the city became a heavy industrial area which was nearly self-sufficient. That being said, many died of starvation and disease, and some even resorted to cannibalism. The following is the the “Road of Life”, a frozen river that allowed supplies to be transported in and the women/elderly out.

German Soldiers Taken Prisoner after the Battle of Stalingrad, 1943.Digital image. Britanica. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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5. Battle of Stalingrad (August 23, 1942)

One of the largest and bloodiest battles in the war, and considered by many to be the most decisive battle of the war, as the Axis powers were then forced to pull troops from the west to compensate for massive casualties. The battle lasted over 5 months and both sides suffered significantly, including civilians. German prisoners are shown above.

German Soldiers Taken Prisoner after the Battle of Stalingrad, 1943.Digital image. Britanica. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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6. Battle of Kursk (July 5, 1943)

The Battle of Kursk was initiated by the Germans to split a Soviet bulge. After listening to his generals (one of the first times), the Red army successfully held off against the German advances. This marked a turning point in the dynamics of the war, since Germany lost breathing room in the east and Stalin began to actually listen to his generals. As pictured, flares illuminating Soviet tanks.

Soviet Forces Use Signal Flares to Illuminate a Night Attack during the Battle of Kursk in July–August 1943. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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7. Tehran Conference (November 22, 1943)

It was a meeting between Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It took place in the Soviet embassy in Tehran, Iran, and the most significant outcome was the pursuit of a second front against Germany.

Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill at the Tehran Conference. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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8. Order of Maternal Glory (July 8, 1944)

Order of Maternal Glory, established to increase the population size after millions were killed in the war, both military and civilian. Divided into three classes, 1st class for 9 children, 2nd class for 8, and 3rd class for 7.

Order First Class Variation. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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9. Vistula-Oder Offensive (January 12, 1945)

It was a successful Red Army offensive in Eastern Europe that allowed the Soviet Union to gain 300 miles of land and which put them within 43 miles of Berlin. Illustrated here are Soviet Tanks pushing into Lodz.

Lodz Liberation. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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10. Tass Posters (1941-45)

(1941-45) The TASS posters, were significant for three principle reasons: the first of which is the fact that it was a shoot of art and expression in a totalitarian regime, second that it unified artists and writers to create a poster nearly every day of the war (1941-45), and finally that it was created for the purpose of uniting the citizenry for the cause of the war (protecting the homefront).

TASS_ss. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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11. German Propaganda (1941-45)

(1941-45) Although not directly pertaining to the Soviet Union, as the principal and most hated enemy, German propaganda is significant as well. As it translates, the Association for the Fight Against Bolshevism. Sub-human, implications.

"Anyone who has ever looked in the face of a Red Commissar knows what the Bolsheviks are like . . . we would be insulting the animals if we were to describe these men, who are mostly Jewish, as beasts."

James Weingartner, 'War against Subhumans: Comparisons between the German War against the Soviet Union and the American War against Japan, 1941-1945,' The Historian 58, no. 3 (1996),

German Propaganda Poster. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.

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12. Soviet Women (1941-45)

All female belligerents saw in increase in the war effort, but the significance of total war was especially pronounced for Soviet women who partook in active combat. Illustrated here is the 46th Taman Regiment, nicknamed the Night Witches by the Germans for their nighttime bombing runs.

Pilots of the 46th Taman Regiment (The Night Witches). Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. <>.