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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?

  • 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
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    @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 '15 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 '15 at 1:28
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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.

Addendum (2015-12-06): Isaev claims that the Hvalei quote I mentioned above isn't an isolated incident, rather that Suvorov's books are full of falsifications and quoting out of context. I must say that I didn't actually believe that. However, over the past years I had to check a bunch of quotes used by Suvorov - and realized that every single one of them has been modified to better support his theories.

Just a single example, a rather spectacular claim from "Suicide" (approximate translation):

Main question: which conclusions did Hitler and his wise generals draw from the first catastrophic winter in the Soviet Union? ... He thought. And found a brilliant solution. "Hitler's table talks," record from April 5th, 1942: "In the central part we should as the first thing on all the swamped territories plant reed and similar, so that it will be easier to survive the horrible cold when the next winter comes."

He uses this quote to support the idea of Hitler being a crazy idiot. But what did Hitler really say? I managed to find the original on Google Books, it says:

Im Übrigen sei der russische Raum, der untere unsere Hoheit komme, so voll von Problemen, dass wir für die nächsten Jahrhunderte genügend Arbeit hätten. Im Mittelabschnitt müssen zunächst die unendlichen Sümpfe durch Bepflanzung mit Schilf usw. kultiviert werden, damit die außerordentliche russischen Kälteeinbrüche für künftige Winter eingedämmt würden.

My translation:

Other than that the Russian territories, that come under our reign, are so full of problems that we would have more than enough work for the coming centuries. In the central part the infinite swamps first have to be cultivated by planting reed and similar, so that the extreme Russian colds are confined in the winters to come.

The differences here cannot be explained merely by different translations, e.g. Hitler clearly doesn't talk about the next winter as Suvorov suggests. But even assuming that Suvorov was reading a translated version (I somehow assumed that he knew German and read the original) and that the translator made a mistake here - the context makes it very obvious that this is just some theoretical thoughts about something that could be done over centuries. It was by no means a strategy for the ongoing war. But that context was omitted because otherwise this nice quote would become boring.

As I said, it seems that all "facts" listed in the books got the same treatment. That explains why real historians scoff at them - it is hard to take somebody seriously who has to invent things in order to support his claims.

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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
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    @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
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    @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
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    It is hard to write a 'defense plan' as you need to know what the attackers are doing. You can deploy your forces, but not really plan. And every country writes crazy plans just for practice. I remember an article giving war plans for Canada/US wars in the 1930s. Yes, both sides had attack plans. – Oldcat Mar 1 '14 at 1:05
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    @WladimirPalant Just about Kelme. In 1941 it was much closer to the German border then 70 kilometers.Klajpeda/Memel region was annexed by Germany in 1939 so Kelme was less than 50 kilometers from Germany border on the beginning of Barbarossa. Tauragė was a border city. – Grzegorz Grabek Nov 27 '18 at 13:26
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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.

  • +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
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    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 '15 at 19:05
  • Creating a "buffer" by coming closer to borders with Germany. Interesting idea. Very interesting. Russia was part of aggressors of WS II and weren't trying to make a buffer but cut the distance to Central and West Europe. – Grzegorz Grabek Nov 28 '18 at 2:01
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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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    Unreadiness of Red Army for war is completely irrelevant to the topic if Soviet leadership was not conscious of the fact. And looking how shocked they were by defeats of 1941 and how they got arrogant after very first success under Moscow(and as result got defeated again) it certainly looks that they were unaware of it. – Vashu Nov 2 '17 at 1:14
  • If David M. Glantz is "respected historian" he should try to show these evidence about unreadiness and compared Soviet unreadiness to german unreadiness for invasion Soviet Union. Germany army in 1941 wasn't ready for invasion - they have to less firepower, to less ammo, much to less fuel. But they attacked and were close to winning in 1941. Even in September 1939 Germany army attacking Poland have problems with lack of ammunition and fuel. Still, they attacked and won. Before Bagration Red Army they wasn't "ready" for attack but they attacked and crush Wermaht like no one before. – Grzegorz Grabek Nov 27 '18 at 14:00
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Based on documents reported on by The Telegraph, we now know that the USSR offered a million troops in an attempt to ally with Britain and France to take proactive measures against Germany before Molotov-Ribbentrop. That destroys Suvorov's thesis while explaining the USSR's preparation. Is the USSR had been successful in clinching the alliance the Nazis would have been contained and crushed, which wouldn't provide the wartime chaos necessary for Soviet westward expansion and contradicts Suvorov's claim of Soviet 1941 invasion plans, since this East-West alliance would have struck earlier.

That about wraps it up for Suvorov. I loved reading his Spetznaz book when I was 12, though!

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    So your answer is that Stalin wasn't plotting to get Germany and Allies to war. As a proof you show evidence that Stalin was actively trying to get Allies to invade Germany. And give him Poland first before USSR even joined the fight. Does it look like a legit deal? A gem from that source "if Polish objections to the Red Army crossing its territory could first be overcome". One million Soviet troops crossing would be more than entire Polish military... – kubanczyk Oct 28 '16 at 23:26
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I have not read these books of Suvarov but I have heard several historians like David Glantz 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.

  • 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
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    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
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    @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 '15 at 17:18
  • "Stalin's frantic avoidance of any response to German provocations" Huh? Is that why he sign a pact with Hitler to divide Europe amongst themselves and together with Hitler, invaded Eastern Poland, then Finland, the Baltics, Romania? :) – Ya. Dec 1 '15 at 19:44
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I fail to see why anyone would consider Suvorov's arguments unsubstantiated. After reading the German translation of Posljednjaja respublika (Stalin's verhinderter Erstschlag) I must say I find his arguments rather convincing.

As long as proper access to the captured German documents at Podolsk remains a chimera, I am afraid Suvorov's evidence will have to be taken very seriously. His points about the content of German and Rumanian phrase books for Red Army soldiers, ordnance maps, and, yes the tanks (and their capacities, performance, deployment), the diesel fuel pipe lines, the enormous numbers of airborne troops, etc. are absolutely legitimate. How else would one explain these facts rather than by a planned offensive against the West?

The fact that some high-ranking an influential historians with reputations at stake are vilifying Suvorov is, moreover, an argument a contrario.

  • I don't think the main problem people have with Suvorov's work is the idea that Stalin was planning to invade Germany, but the timeline for the event, yet don't have any real justification for the Germans going when they did except "Hitler was mad". The idea of the Germans launching before they were ready is IMO a very valid one, and why would they do that unless they perceived a threat (real or not) of an impending Soviet invasion of Germany they wanted to prevent? One source I read about mentions for example the Germans selling their winter uniforms to the Soviets just weeks before the – jwenting Aug 22 '16 at 14:06
  • <ctd> start of operation Barbarosa. An army planning to fight a prolonged campaign in Russia would not do that, they'd stockpile winter clothing... So their launch was rushed, probably hadn't been originally planned until spring 1942 (giving them more time to prepare and more time in the field until winter hit). – jwenting Aug 22 '16 at 14:07
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It's pretty obvious. In early 1941 Stalin was preparing for offensive war, perhaps for early 1942, but the unforeseen quick collapse of France messed up his timetable. So Stalin could only set a trap for Germany and hope he had enough people to throw into the meat grinder and that there would be some left.

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    Since you have already added the English answer, why add the German version? It's redundant. – NSNoob Jul 27 '16 at 7:16
  • The Battle of Britain did not occur at the same time as Barbarossa, the Battle of Britain was in 1940, a year before Barbarossa. Also, Hitler did not take any part of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia (in Africa); I think you must mean Moldovia.... – Henry Sep 23 '18 at 0:05
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In Lukac's book DUEL of the 80 day battle of wits between Hitler and Churchill, he presents the following logic for Hitler attacking the Soviet Union: Stalin had been "pushing" into the Baltics and this annoyed Hitler even though Hitler had given them to Stalin in their deal to become allies. Also, Stalin took "more" of Monrovia to the South than was to be his share.

So although Stalin was scrupulous in living up to his end of the deal in supplying promised resources and economic support, Hitler made the following calculation: to defeat England he needed them to surrender rather than make a cross-channel attack (which his navy told him could not be done without air superiority). England was making entreaties to Stalin and Roosevelt for help (Britain could never figure out that Hitler had more to offer Stalin than they could). Hitler calculated that, if he attacked Russia (whose enmity with Japan kept the Japanese in check), then Japan would opportunistically flood the Pacific, and the USA would be "too busy" fighting Japan for its first priority which is the Pacific. And, voila, Stalin could not help England as he was fighting for his life, and USA was all tied up, and would not have time to overcome its "isolationist" Congress to help Britain in time.

Per Lukacs - Hitler was not a madman. The diaries of his general staff, support that they thought he was a genius. Also, attacking Russia fed right into his absolute hatred of communism. AND of course he could probably recognize the Megalomania in Stalin. He would have to fight him eventually for hegemony of Europe. AT THE SAME TIME Hitler embarked on the Battle of Britain in an effort to wipe out the British air force. Maximum effort to force the British to surrender. Direct attack, and removal of all hope of war aid from Russia and USA. Britain had no hope of retaking Western Europe which had been totally conquered by Hitler. Sadly, this led to the partition of Europe. The Allies got back Western Europe, but nothing Stalin had collected from Hitler, and occupied by the Soviets. Ergo, the cold war. The book is excellent, suspenseful even, and far more detailed than this posting.

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