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Viktor Suvorov is a somewhat famous ex-GRU spy who defected and wrote a series of books.

The most (in)famous and sensational were a series of books on World War II, starting with "Icebreaker", which alleged - with supporting historical facts and documents - that Stalin was planning to attack Nazi Germany in 1941, with the end goal of rolling over entire Europe.

Having read the book in Russian, the logic seemed fairly sound, and the cited facts sounded legit - at least to a teenager who had a decent knowledge of history for an average person but not more.

However, in study-of-history context, it seems that Suvorov's books and theories are viewed between "disputed" and "outright scientific fraud". A lot of discussions are summarized on the Wiki: Soviet Offensive Plans Controversy, but the point of view was even expressed right here on History SE in Wladimir Palant's answer to Why did Hitler attack the Soviet Union when he was still busy fighting the United Kingdom? :

I'm not aware of any serious historians favoring this theory, and Suvorov unfortunately isn't one - he seems to be willingly omit or even falsificate facts in his books by misquoting and quoting out of context.

My question is, are there specific examples of Suvorov omitting proven historical facts that majorly contradict his theories/logic, or especially falsify proven historical facts?

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To be honest, his arguments aren't very sound. Apparently one argument is that the Soviet Army built tanks that had a possibility to be adapted to run on paved roads, of which the Soviet Union had few. This is supposedly proof that they wanted to invade Germany. :-) But that assumes that 1: Stalin himself ordered the tanks. 2. He knew that the adaptation would be pointless withing the Soviet Union. None of which are likely. So it's rather the other way around: There is no indication that Stalin intended to attack. – Lennart Regebro Nov 22 '11 at 9:26
@LennartRegebro: Isaev in his book that I mention in my answer below thinks that the argumentation is flawed at a deeper level - Soviet Union wasn't the only country to develop such tanks, Great Britain, France and Sweden had them as well. Even Finland bought similar British tanks. The goal of such tanks was easier transportation of the tank - and that goal was eventually met by other means in all countries. That's an example of willful fact omission actually. – Wladimir Palant Nov 22 '11 at 9:35
Do you think Molotov-Ribentrop pakt (agreeement) signed in Moscow on August 23, 1939 is a historical fake? After a week Hitler's army enters Poland which was in accordance with Mol-Rib pakt. After two weeks (which Suvorov says was a smart move from Stalin, as exactly here he overplayed Hitler, because it seems both parties had to move into Poland the same date; but from here on Hitler was the agressor in Europe's eyes, and unto him the was was declared by GB and France) Stalin entered Poland from the other end with at least the same amount blood shed in this war as Germans did. When Soviets ar – user11759 Mar 21 at 17:34
@user11759 the bloodshed was very far from that by Germany. If not to count the executions of the POWs – Anixx Nov 8 at 1:28

6 Answers 6

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I was referring to Alexei Isaev's book Antisuvorov (Russian). He lists a bunch of falsifications in the preface of his book. First example is Suvorov's quoting of colonel S. Hvalei's book (approximate translation):

It happened that the division was immediately behind the frontier posts at the start of the war, meaning right next to the state border.

Isaev explains (and the online version of the book proves him right) that Hvalei doesn't actually say that. Instead, he says that his division met Germans after they passed the frontier posts and defeated another division. And Hvalei even mentions where it was: Kelmė, Lithuania. If I read the map correctly, this is around 70 km from the state border (the area around Kaliningrad which is Russia now belonged to Germany back then, this should be the direction from where the German forces attacked Kelmė).

The book mentions lots of similar cases. You have to consider that Icebreaker was first published in 1987 and verifying the sources was a lot harder back then. So Suvorov had no problem to adjust citations to better fit his idea.

Isaev's book also goes into more general issues. For example, one of Suvorov's core points was that the Soviet Union didn't have any defense plans - only attack plans. Isaev notes that this statement is useless if one doesn't compare to other countries. As it turns out, neither Poland nor France had defense plans - attacking the enemy regardless of who starts the war was apparently the dominating war theory at the time (and likely still is).

Isaev also explains how merely comparing the number of tanks and their technical parameters is useless. After all, all these tanks didn't help the Soviet Union at the start of the war. He notes how the Soviets didn't have proper tactics of using tanks at the beginning of the war, unlike Germans who already had lots of experience using them.

Isaev discredits a bunch of Suvorov's myths about Soviet tanks, airplanes, lines of defense and many more, his arguments are easy to verify thanks to the internet. But I cannot translate it all - it is probably easier if you ask questions about specific claims Suvorov made.

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Good that somebody wrote a reply to this kind of books. Let's hope it gets translated. These books annoy me, it's like the book "1421". Full of nonsense with footnotes that doesn't support the nonsense. It will fool anyone who isn't of highly skeptical nature. – Lennart Regebro Nov 22 '11 at 10:24
@Wladimir - +1 in general, but the point about no defense plans looks wrong - what about Maginot line? So it seems that this point supports Suvorov, not Stalin. I would expect criticism of that point to me be more along the lines of actually producing USSR's defense plans. – DVK Nov 22 '11 at 12:18
@Wladimir - I'll look at the book - no need to burden you with translation I'm perfectly capable of myself :). Much thanks for pointing the book out! – DVK Nov 22 '11 at 12:19
@DVK: As I said, in Chapter 13 Isaev also corrected Suvorov's misinformation concerning the Soviet defense lines (Suvorov seems to have greatly overestimated the capabilities of the Stalin Line while underestimating the Molotov Line). This has little to do with army's operational plans however. – Wladimir Palant Nov 22 '11 at 12:23
@DVK: The Maginot line was not a defense plan. It was a way of defending the Franco-German border so French forces could be concentrated for offensive purposes. In 1940, the plan was to advance into Belgium to meet the German army. – David Thornley Nov 23 '11 at 4:33

I'm new to this topic so not a lot to offer. However, from what I've read it's the western historians who seem to dispute this theory of Hitler beating Stalin to the punch with the most verve. Some Russian historians do support Suvorov's hypothesis. In any revisionist look at WWII one must consider the political motivations of even allegedly unbiased historians. It is my view that the West would never let it's version of WWII history be disputed by something as volatile as Suvorov's thesis which some could certainly interpret as Hitler's Germany fighting to preserve Europe from Communism.
It strikes me as unusually heated the way some western historians so easily cast Suvorov's thesis off as nonsense. They seem to hold it to a far higher standard than they do other historical events. For example, many western historians main point of contention with Suvorov's claim is that there is little evidentiary support for it. However, how about the Soviet invasion of Finland in winter '39? There is also very little evidentiary support of the planning for that operation, yet it certainly took place...and not very well apparently given the nasty shock the Finns gave the Soviets.
Anyway, interesting topic but I doubt the passions involved would allow the "established" version of WWII on the eastern front to ever be challenged.

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+1 specifically for the Finland angle. – Felix Goldberg Feb 28 '14 at 21:34
+1 although IMHO you could further improve your answer by naming some of the books and authors you mention currently only in aggregate form. In any case: welcome to History SE. – Drux Mar 1 '14 at 11:05
The Soviets were certainly trying to produce a buffer zone between them and Germany - the annexations in Poland, the taking of the Baltic States, the War in Finland and the forcing of Bessarabia from Romania all were in this period. Most historians view this as trying to create a defensive zone between Germany and its allies and the USSR proper, and not an indication of a wish to attack. The USSR was shipping oil and other goods to Germany right up to the instant of the invasion. – Oldcat Mar 23 at 19:05

David M. Glantz is, at least in my opinion, considered a well respected historian of WWII and the Eastern Front in particular. He addresses these issues in "Stumbling Colossus" (1998) which I would commend to any one who has read Suvorov's "Icebreaker" and "Chief Culprit" and wishes to understand the other side of the issue. His argument seems to be that the Red Army was completely unready for any war - but especially unready for war against the Wehrmacht and therefore he dismisses Suvorov (nom de plume of Vladimir Rezun). I specifically commend his Introduction to you and would suggest that he addresses your questions as follows: "… in his exposé, Rezun wove a complex mass of credible facts taken from Soviet memoirs and postwar studies into a less credible web of intrigue surrounding the circumstances associated with the outbreak of war. His documentary evidence was sufficient to defend his thesis regarding Stalin's strategic intent prior to June 1940, but he presented considerably less evidence to support his more radical contentions concerning Stalin's war plans for 1941.… As well constructed as Rezun's arguments are and as credible as the individual facts may be, the whole of his case regarding Soviet intentions in 1941 is incredible for a number of reasons.… [Too lengthy to insert here - buy the book]… the validity of Rezun's arguments is challenged by 3 fundamental types of sources: newly released… Soviet declassified documents and studies…, German archival materials… and other materials that document the parlous state of the Red Army in 1941 and indicate that any offensive operations contemplated by the Soviets in 1941 would have bordered on the lunatic. Stalin may have been an unscrupulous tyrant, but he was not a lunatic."
If I had to try to boil Glantz's argument down to 50 words or less, I would say that he concedes that most of Suvorov's (Rezun's) underlying facts are essentially correct but his interpretation is grossly wrong because it is not based upon analysis of all of the available information in context -- with "context" being the key word in the argument.

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I have not read these books of Suvarov but I have heard several historians like Glatz scoff at his works. While I would not put anything past Stalin from a moral point of view, he was no fool and it would have been foolish for him to attack in 1941.

Why? The army was in chaos by the purges in 1938 and from its terrible showing versus Finland. Reforms were in progress but not completed.

There were a number of changes in equipment going into effect that were partly complete. Waiting would have allowed these changes to take place smoothly.

The final reason was that the Soviets well knew there were plenty of forces in the area waiting if a Soviet attack occurred. Unlike Poland and Finland, there was no chance of an easy win.

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So you seem to concur that Stalin would have attacked Hitler - just not in 1941 but at some later date? – Felix Goldberg Mar 1 '14 at 0:54
I don't think Stalin was a nice fellow or a good neighbor, no. But he wasn't dumb, and he knew the longer he kept out of war the stronger his position would be. – Oldcat Mar 1 '14 at 1:01
@Oldcat: I helps if you read the books before discussing them ;). Suvorov actually brings up counter-arguments to everything you say. E.g. he claims that the Soviet Union being unprepared is a myth created by Soviet historians to explain the losses at the start of the war. Also, if you look at raw numbers (like Suvorov does), the Soviet Union indeed outnumbered Germany both in soldiers and most of the equipment. Still, his argumentation is everything but solid. – Wladimir Palant Mar 1 '14 at 19:49
It is hardly a myth that the army went to pieces in the war versus Finland and in Barbarossa, it is observation. Also, the defensive lines they had planned behind the lines were unfinished because of the movement forward into the new border areas of the Baltic States and Poland. Stalin's frantic avoidance of any response to German provocations leading up to the war fits the "not ready" thesis but not Suvarov's. If Stalin was ready to go, why try to avoid war in June? – Oldcat Jun 1 at 17:18

No, there is no research explicitly contradicting facts of V. Suvorov's books! Even his most outspoken critic Gabriel Gorodetsky, has at most read The Icebreaker, not more, and I have met and spoken with the man. Nice guy, but business is business! Suvurov's research basically caught most, if not all, "professional" WW2 historians with their pants down. They had built their careers on the "official" and "accepted" history of WW2, rather than on an objective analysis of the facts. Hence, they were unwillingly forced to choose, to either: accept Suvorov's version, ask their readers for forgiveness and move on, or deny it all, and concentrate their criticism on Suvorov himself and his personality, rather than what he wrote, because they cannot refute his research, is too complete, too logical, and too true. So instead, a ban on his books in English language was put, you have individuals either writing outright lies, usually ex-GRU officers and/or agents, or professional historians who selectively choose pieces, which are then questioned, usually with out-of-logic facts. Some is done intentionally betting on readers' ignorance, other is done by ignorant professionals, either way with no success. Suvorov was born for this! His career and life had given him the expertise, no professional historian would ever have, but instead of learning from him, the professionals attack his personality. Overall, Suvorov's research had changed WW2 historiography starting with 1985 when his first article was published. The professionals lost the battle before it even began, and have since only come to enrich Suvorov's research with every text they have published whether they realize it or not!

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Welcome to History @punkaru. This answer rambles and lacks structure. I recommend 1) leaving out irrelevant personal aspects and judgements, 2) breaking the post into paragraphs to aid readability, and 3) citing or linking to supporting references to aid credibility. – andy256 Jun 1 at 3:12
@andy256 4) and better to have an actual argument, too – Greg Nov 8 at 14:16

Problem is the established version comes either from the West (which seems to be unable to look at communism and nazism as twins, not contradictions) or Russia (which tries hard to glorify it's WWII effort.

CCCP was interested in territorial expansion and the invasion of Finland, Baltic States and Poland should prove that to everyone. It was exactly as nazism - a dictatorship in which military had crucial role.

I agree that some of the Suvorov's arguments are poor, but his writings consist of tens if not hundreds of them. Sure - he sounds paranoid and over-sells on a lot of occasions, but as a citizen of eastern European country I can understand his position.

As for german army protecting Europe from communism - how is this relevant? The cont-arguemnent is simple - Germany did not attack France to prevent the spread of communism. Communism's home country was in entirely different direction. 2 socialism went to war with each other eventually - I say not a moment too soon, and it doesn't make them pure all of sudden. Europe under Stalins rule would end up exactly as under Hitler's. People would die by millions.

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Lots of opinions, not much in the way of historical research. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 28 '14 at 9:44
Aye - I cannot argue with data. I was pointing at what other users wrote in this thread. I'm not decided either on side of Suvorov or against him because of that. He is overusing arguments, and, because of the sheer number of them, lacks in quality. He does make good points in total though. I wrote what I wrote mainly because of one person stating Suvorov goes along the line that Germany helped prevent the spread of communism in Europe. It kinda got me worked up I guess – Shmelke Feb 28 '14 at 12:54
Please note that what @DonatoADC actually said is: "Suvorov's thesis which some could certainly interpret as Hitler's Germany fighting to preserve Europe from Communism." He did not necessarily ascribe this notion to Suvorov himself. – Felix Goldberg Feb 28 '14 at 21:36
Stalin was a bad dude, but many historians ascribe a motive of the aggression against the Baltic States, Poland, and Finland to increasing the buffer space between the vital parts of the USSR and Germany. – Oldcat Mar 1 '14 at 1:08
Comments are for comments. Answers are for answers. You have simply bundled 4 comments here and claimed it to be an answer based on length. – Pieter Geerkens Mar 21 at 18:00

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