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The Failed Historian

"A historian’s chief concern is fact; an agitator’s – intonation."
V. Rezun, “The Last Republic”.

Translator’s note

The following article concerns the works of Vladimir Rezun, a former Soviet intelligence officer who had defected to the West in 1978. Beginning in the early 1990s, Rezun, working under a pseudonym of Viktor Suvorov, published a number of controversial books on Stalin and the Soviet Union in World War II. The most well known of these include “Ledokol” (“Icebreaker”), “Den’ M” (“Day M”) and “Poslednjaja Respublika” (“The Last Republic”), and are focused primarily on demonstrating that Stalin’s intention was to launch a massive assault on Germany in the Summer of 1941, and that the German invasion had by chance pre-empted the Soviet one by roughly two weeks. Rezun’s books have fuelled heated debates among both professional and amateur historians, and have been the subject of several comprehensive rebuttal articles and books, nearly all of them in Russian. While no longer considered required reading for anyone interested in the Great Patriotic War, Rezun’s works remain a smouldering source of controversy even to this day, particularly in the on-line community.

Unfortunately, although Rezun’s books have been translated into dozens of languages, to our knowledge the U.S. editions have been out of print for a number of years. We have thus been forced to translate anew any extracts from Rezun’s books used in the following article, and expect there to be at least some minor variations from the published English translations. In addition, all page number and chapter citations refer to the original Russian-language editions.

Author’s Foreword

I would like to begin by stressing that this article was meant as a general survey of Rezun’s failings as a historian, and I by no means seek to claim sole authorship of all the included critiques. Any external sources used are cited in the text itself, and also in the bibliography section at the end of the piece. The article itself was written back in the year 2000, and numerous works demonstrating the true “value” of Rezun’s writings have been published since. So many, in fact, that there is now little need to continue arguing the merits of Rezun’s thesis; in fact, to publicly support Rezun’s theories has become a sign of ignorance. Nevertheless, I have decided to retain the article on The Russian Battlefield website, primarily to express the administrators’ collected view of Rezun’s works. Of course, there are still a few lone dinosaurs out there that, with incredible stubbornness, continue to try and defend Rezun’s thesis. I believe their existence to be quite normal and, unfortunately, unavoidable. The Russian term for this personality type can be loosely translated as “stuck” – in essence, these people generally suffer from a form of mental indolence, but once they seize upon an idea it is utterly impossible to change their minds. Regardless of what evidence you present to them, they will continue to insist that the Earth is flat, that Rezun is, in the main, correct, and so forth. Thus, this article’s main focus will not be to debate Rezun’s few remaining adherents over what is already more or less a settled issue.

As I’ve already mentioned, Rezun’s books have prompted a slew of publications, both printed and on-line. Many fault him for utilizing clearly erroneous vehicle and equipment specifications. However, the thrust of the matter is not that Rezun is arriving at flawed conclusions solely due to flawed inputs. Had he truly been mistaken, or were he merely a dilettante, I would not have taken the time to write this article. But, having read and reread “Icebreaker”, “Day M” and “The Last Republic”, I have come to a firm conclusion that Rezun lies, and very deliberately. He is not a dilettante, but rather a “falsifier”.

Rezun’s books are actually a very easy and interesting read. He is a fine writer and publicist, and knows a good deal about human psychology. It is all too easy to believe a man who can effortlessly explain very complex issues. Of course, serious historical works tend to include numerous questions that have no simple black-and-white answers. Not so Rezun’s books. His writing betrays no hesitation, not a hint of doubt. He writes with tremendous self-assuredness, taking a given fact and effortlessly revealing its “true” meaning to the reader. Or, at least, knowingly hinting at it – as in, “official explanations aside, you and I both understand the real significance of this…” The reader is thus flattered in being made a member of some exclusive club privy to esoteric knowledge – and this when the alternative, mostly the tired and stale Soviet propaganda, which had become incredibly vulgar, shameless and tiresome during the Brezhnev period. Significantly, Rezun’s arguments are aimed directly at Soviet ideologues, no specific persons, of course, but rather some murky archetype such as “the Kremlin historians”, “the Kremlin-KGB propagandists”, “the Kremlin-Lubyanka historians”, etc. The convenience of this approach cannot be overstated, as this saves Rezun from having to refute specific authors or published works; he is, in effect, free to invent whatever nonsense he chooses, and then to spectacularly disprove it before the enthralled reader. At the same time, he can freely take advantage of the old adage that “if you are not with us, you are against us”, or in his case, “if you are against the Soviet propagandists you must be for Rezun”. Given all this, it is hardly surprising that his books had managed to attain such a prominent role in World War 2 historiography as they did for a time.

Supporters of Rezun’s thesis often fall back on more or less the same arguments. Most frequently, they try to find the tiniest imperfection in the opposition’s case. It’s the schoolyard “oh yeah?” mode of argument. [E.g. two plus two isn’t five - oh yeah, well you’re ugly!] Upon discovering even the most insignificant error, they proceed to make mountains out of molehills and proclaim that this single mistake or omission is of such supreme importance that none of the other ten thousand (correct) arguments made by the same author are worth considering. And thus, Rezun’s thesis is found to be “in the main” correct. Take, for instance, a book published towards the end of 2004 by A. Isaiev called “Anti-Suvorov: the big lie of the little man”. Every now and again on various Internet forums you can find posts along the lines of “oh yeah? Well Isaev makes plenty of mistakes himself!” Of course, these truth-seekers typically prefer not to provide any specific examples of Isaev’s mistakes, in part as they themselves are likely to base their views purely on hearsay. [Of course, applying the same “hearsay” logic to Rezun’s books implies that they can safely be tossed in the trash after reading just the first page.]

As I have been accused on several occasions of falsifying or distorting Rezun’s words to make my arguments, I am going as far as posting images of the actual book covers of my source material. The publisher information for my editions is as follows:

Viktor Suvorov, “Icebreaker; Day M,” Moscow, AST, 1996 ISBN 5-88196-303-2
Viktor Suvorov, “The Last Republic,” Moscow, AST, 1996 ISBN 5-88196-559-0

At the dawn of Perestroika, when I was still very young, I chanced upon a “samizdat” [unofficially or illegally published issue – Transl.] copy of “Icebreaker”. I was only 16 years old, and had never read anything like it – and Rezun was, as ever, quite persuasive. I believed him. I even believed that I was privy to some secret new Knowledge, that I have had an epiphany. Of course, later on as I read more and more books on the Great Patriotic War, including those cited by Rezun himself, I was incredibly surprised to discover that they – especially the books apparently used to build Rezun’s arguments – state something entirely different!

Rezun’s entire argument is based on circumstantial evidence. Take any criminal court of any civilized nation, and you will learn that circumstantial evidence is almost never sufficient to obtain a conviction. Rezun further weakens his thesis by wildly distorting the circumstantial evidence itself, as well as by ignoring any and all contrary facts. His errors of fact have been caught and catalogued numerous times, yet still his supporters insist that “well, all right, he might miss a few technical details, but in the main he is still right!” Naturally, this means that any of Rezun’s known errors must not be particularly meaningful or consequential, and that the anti-Rezun “fools” are missing the main thrust of his analytical efforts. I.e. – “in the main”, he is still right. Of course, none of the “Rezunists” seem to clearly grasp what this “in the main” really is, and why Rezun devotes entire volumes to “details” while his main thesis remains carefully veiled, never in full view, and never leaving itself open to a comprehensive rebuttal. I personally believe that this “main thrust” of Rezun’s work is the amalgamation of all his “details”; to disprove a given whole, it is sufficient to disprove some or all of its constituent parts. And these “parts” for Rezun are these very “details”, the BT tanks with underwater movement capabilities, the thousands of TB-7 heavy bombers, Stalin’s secret plans for a European offensive, all the “details” that have already been disproved time and again from all imaginable angles.

The Rezunists’ primary beliefs can be summarized as follows – before the Great Patriotic War, the USSR was not preparing for a defensive war, but rather for an offensive into Germany. One can begin to see the fallacy of this argument simply in the fact that the USSR’s official histories did not disavow the development of offensive plans prior to the war. In fact, the USSR, the United States and Great Britain all had developed defensive plans that entailed offensive actions. Even Finland, typically viewed as a peaceful and generally harmless nation, developed its defensive plan in an entirely offensive fashion – the vaunted Mannerheim Line was intended to cover the Finnish Army’s flank (rather than “defend the nation from the Bolshevist threat”, as Rezun puts it) while it advanced into Soviet territory towards Murmansk, Petrozavodsk, etc. Even Poland, World War 2’s first victim, had envisioned its defence as one involving offensive operations in East Prussia.

Purely defensive plans are the province of small states that harbour no illusions regarding their ability to withstand an attack from a powerful enemy; rather, they hope to stall this enemy long enough for an equally powerful benefactor to intervene on their behalf. Rezun’s primary thesis, however, reads as follows: the USSR was the primary initiator of World War 2 because it was preparing to carry out unprovoked aggression against European states in 1941. And this, in turn, serves as the sole reason for the German attack on the USSR. This is the thesis that Rezun dedicated three entire volumes to establishing.

In this article, I will refrain from addressing every single aspect of Rezun’s arguments, or in fact every single chapter of his books. Literally every page of his works is littered with lies and distortions of some sort, and I am not about to dedicate my life to refuting Rezun’s thesis. My intent is merely to demonstrate his methods of falsification by examining those statements that I view as being crucial to his overall argument, and that Rezun himself habitually refers to as indisputable facts.

1. Rezun on the Soviet armored forces

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Let us begin with, perhaps, one of Rezun’s most important statements – his estimate of the number of tanks in service with the Red Army at the start of the Great Patriotic War [referred to simply as “the war” elsewhere in this article – Transl.]. Specifically:

"As of June 21, 1941, Stalin has 24,000 tanks at his disposal.
...as of June 22, 1941, Hitler had deployed a total of 3,350 tanks on the Eastern Front. The Wehrmacht’s overall tank strength was slightly higher, however the excess was deployed on other fronts and as such should not be counted."

(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “What tanks did Hitler have?”, pp. 269-270)

Technically the Red Army had slightly fewer tanks than the figure mentioned by Rezun – 23,106, to be exact (Military History Journal No.11, 1993, the article can be found here), but let’s not split hairs. The really interesting part of Rezun’s above statement is this: why does Rezun’s analysis compare the number of tanks deployed on the Eastern Front to the Red Army’s entire tank pool? And by “entire”, I mean inclusive of broken-down machines as well as of tanks deployed not on the Western borders but, say, in the Soviet Far East.

The Military History Journal provides detailed statistics on Soviet armor just prior to the war. As it happens, the Western Defence Districts had only 12,782 tanks, rather than Rezun’s 24,000, and 2,242 of those tanks were listed as broken down and “in need of repairs”. As an aside, in the first version of this article, written nearly five years ago, I made an error in stating that most of the remaining, active tanks had actually been not combat-ready. I would readily like to correct myself in this regard – the data shows that the remaining 10,540 tanks were listed at June 1, 1941 as combat-ready. The total was comprised of 8,383 tanks in active service, including some in need of minor repairs, as well as of 2,157 brand new machines with zero mileage. Notably, these figures are for all five Western Defence Districts, although only three of them – the Baltic Defence District, Western Special Defence District and Kiev Special Defence District – actually covered the Western borders. Clearly, the number of tanks deployed in those three districts is even lower, which means Rezun has more than doubled the number of Soviet tanks involved in the summer battles of 1941, especially in the border regions. At the same time, Rezun showed considerably greater discretion in estimating the number of German tanks facing Russia, only counting those machines actually deployed on the Eastern Front. Quite a curious double standard, isn’t it.

There is also the question of those Red Army tanks that were listed as active but in need of minor repairs. At this juncture it is nearly impossible to determine exactly what these “minor repairs” were; perhaps the tank’s engine stalled while in neutral gear, or the gun sight was damaged. A tank is a very complex machine in need of frequent maintenance. Of course, not every damaged part will render a tank useless in battle, but some breakages will, even if they can be fixed with relative ease. For instance, a damaged gun sight will significantly reduce a tank’s combat capability, even though all one has to do to alleviate the problem is install a spare. Obviously I won’t go so far as to claim that all eight thousand odd tanks had broken gun sights, but the example of a relatively minor problem substantially reducing the combat effectiveness of an otherwise operational vehicle is telling. The bottom line is that while I certainly recognize that the USSR had more tanks than did Germany at the start of the war, Rezun should clearly have been more careful with his estimate. Waving the figure of 24,000 tanks in front of the reader for several chapters as if it were a proven and indisputable fact looks decidedly like a deliberate attempt to mislead.

"In 1941, the newest tanks could be distinguished by five specific design elements:
- A powerful long-barrelled main gun of at least 76mm in calibre;
- Armor capable of withstanding direct hits from armor-piercing ammunition, allowing the machine to operate in an environment populated with enemy anti-tank guns;
- Wide tracks, allowing the tank the freedom to manoeuvre without restrictions in nearly any terrain and all weather conditions;
- A rational assembly: the engine and transmission housed close together;
- A diesel engine: light, economical, and most importantly – difficult to set ablaze."
(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “What tanks did Hitler have?”, pp. 279-280)

After reading these criteria, my first thought was that if the T-34 tank were capable of sustained flight, Rezun would have to add a sixth “design element” to that list. How so? Well, it seems to me that every one of these “design elements” has been matched specifically to the performance characteristics of the T-34 and KV tanks. But let us assume for a moment that my suspicions in this regard are incorrect, and take Rezun’s criteria at face value. Every one of his “design elements” prompts, or should prompt, an immediate query as to why that particular design decision is meaningful. Why a 76mm gun? Why must the engine and the tank’s transmission necessarily be “housed close together”? Let’s find out!

1. Why was the 76mm gun selected by Rezun as a criterion? Rezun makes absolutely no effort to provide any explanation for this, which lends credence to my theory that this particular calibre was chosen simply because that was the calibre of the main gun of the T-34 and KV-1 tanks. [Surely had Rezun had any explanation of his own, he would not have failed to trumpet it at every opportunity, given his tendency to vociferously argue even the most trivial of his hypotheses.] Thus, had the T-34 possessed a 57mm or a 85mm gun, Rezun would have undoubtedly used that figure instead of 76mm. In other words, first we find out the answer to the main problem from the back of the textbook, and then we tailor our written solution to suit the answer. Of course, Rezun wrote “at least 76mm”, but this threshold calibre is selected in a completely arbitrary fashion. Moreover, the criterion itself and Rezun’s sacred “76mm” has little to do with reality.

Even in the pre-war years, and certainly by the early period of the war, 76mm calibre guns were considered anything but “powerful” for a new heavy tank. Quite the contrary, they were thought of as relatively weak, which is why designers focused on developing 85mm and even 107mm tank guns. Even after the war’s start, with all its disruptions for the Soviet armaments industry, work on a new heavy tank with a 107mm main gun continued unabated.

There were also plans to rearm the T-34 with a more suitable and forward-looking gun system. The best prospect for “the main tank of the motorized and mechanized formations of the Red Army” was a 57mm calibre gun, not the 76mm weapon. Thus the phrase “a powerful long-barrelled 76mm main gun” is completely incorrect; the engineers envisioned different gun systems, of both medium and heavy calibre, for different perspective tank designs. The war’s start forced a substantial correction in research and development priorities, and many forward-looking projects were abandoned in favor of inferior designs already in production. This is how the 76mm gun had come to dominate the Red Army tank pool: the gun’s advanced production status and a wide range of available ammunition served as very powerful arguments in the Soviet war economy.

2. What about tank armor? Tank armor is also a somewhat more complex issue than Rezun makes it out to be. Certainly, the thicker the armor – the better for the tank, at least if one does not mind the associated negative effects, such as a significant increase in weight. The question is really this: did the German tank models circa 1941 have sufficient armor protection? Given the number lost in action from Soviet gunfire – probably yes. There is no need to cite various German commanders arguing the opposite, as generals always pine for a tank with impermeable armor and an unstoppable main gun. In reality, the Red Army’s main anti-tank asset in 1941 was the 45mm Battalion Gun, which could penetrate only 38mm armor from 500 metres and 50mm armor from 100 metres, and oftentimes even less due to the poor quality of its armor-piercing rounds. By contrast, the majority of German Panzer III and IV tank variants as well as the StuG-III assault guns had a frontal armor of 50mm thickness, in other words quite adequate protection from Soviet antitank gunfire.

The task of destroying Soviet infantry divisions was simplified even further as they weren’t issued all the guns listed in their tables of organization and equipment (TO&E). For example, according to a combat readiness report from the 27th Army on the North-western Front dated July 20, 1941, the most well-equipped division was the 5th Rifle Division, which possessed a grand total of 2 45mm guns and 11 76mm guns. That’s 13 guns of any kind for an entire division! Clearly the German tanks were not in dire need of increased armor protection, as the Russians often hadn’t anything to try and penetrate their armor with! Of course, not all Red Army divisions were so badly off, and some of them even managed to have nearly as many guns as they were supposed by TO&E.

3. What of wide tracks? Speaking strictly with respect to all-terrain manoeuvrability, the key metric should be not the width of the tank’s tracks, but rather specific ground pressure. The German tanks had “narrow” tracks, but so what? Even today both Russian and Western armies field some narrow-tracked AFVs. The BMP and BMD series, for instance, or the post-war PT-76 tank. To base one’s view of a tank’s combat mobility purely on the width of its tracks is technical nonsense. Some may point out, of course, that the BMP and BMD AFVs were post-war designs, and aren’t really “tanks” per se, but that isn’t the point. What I am trying to stress is that instead of “wide tracks”, Rezun should be focused on “specific ground pressure”. Which, in turn, is a metric vital to the performance of any armored fighting vehicle. One can say that this is a trivial detail, that I am splitting hairs, but really, is it possible to believe that this gross technical error is an outlier rather than a symptom?

Of course the low ground pressure of the T-34 and KV tanks was an important asset. But while some German tank models were considerably outmatched in this regard, others were not. In fact, Soviet designers themselves had considered reducing the track width by 100mm to decrease the tanks’ dimensions and thus mass (Soviet of the People’s Commissars of the USSR Declaration No. 1216-502cc, “On the production of T-34 tanks during the year of 1941”). In fact, this document openly suggests that a narrowing of the tracks is an “improvement” if coupled with adding extra armor (and thus increasing the tank’s overall weight), further exacerbating the issue of increased specific ground pressure. Does this perchance mean that Rezun’s one-sided view of the issue could be wrong? That Soviet designers were not afraid to increase our tanks’ average ground pressure? Not that I am implying that Rezun’s deduction is an outright lie in this case, rather a very narrow and one-sided view of the issue, which he did not bother to verify before using it to draw some very far-reaching conclusions.


"The German tank designers committed an unforgivable error: they opted for a rear-mounted engine but a front-mounted transmission. The same mistake was made by British, American and Japanese designers...
...the Soviet tanks had a rational assembly scheme, while German, American, British and Japanese machines an irrational one."
(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “What tanks did Hitler have?”, pp. 275, 279)

What is Rezun saying? Why was this design decision “erroneous”? Let us examine the facts.

For starters, installing the transmission system in the forward portion of the tank does impart certain advantages:
- The tank’s overall length is reduced as its steering and transmission systems are combined. This also allows for a larger crew compartment.
- The turret can be positioned in the centre of the tank, allowing for a more uniform mass distribution. Additionally, a longer main gun may be mounted without the risk of it “sticking in the ground” during cross-country manoeuvres.

On the other hand, a front-mounted gearbox carries with it a number of disadvantages:
- The machine’s height must necessarily be increased, as key parts of the motive system must be routed underneath the crew compartment. This typically has the effect of raising the compartment’s floor by 300-500mm, and the tank’s loader typically needs at least 1.6-1.7 meters in vertical space to operate at normal pace.
- A frontal installation of transmission components restricts the slope of the glacis plate.
- Transmission components become more susceptible to enemy fire. Even a hit that fails to penetrate the glacis plate can knock loose, damage or destroy key parts, potentially immobilizing the tank.
- Housing the gearbox in front of the crew compartment reduces its habitability and can potentially impact crew endurance – the gearbox is a source of considerable noise and heat that is difficult to dissipate.
- Engine and transmission maintenance becomes a significantly more complex task.

In similar vein, a rear-mounted transmission system enjoys the following advantages:
- Absence of transmission axles underneath the crew compartment allows a significant reduction in the height of the tank.
- The glacis plate is free to be installed at a slope equalling or exceeding 60 degrees.
- Installing much of the motive mechanism in the rear of the tank increases the machine’s overall survivability, as component housing is less likely to come under enemy fire.
- Heat dissipation becomes a considerably simpler task, and the tank’s habitability is greatly increased by installing the gearbox in the engine compartment.
- Removable rear armor plating allows for easy maintenance access to the tank’s motive systems.

At the same time, there are a number of drawbacks to a rear-mounted transmission:
- The tank’s length must be increased to accommodate a larger engine housing or else the crew compartment reduced in size.
- A longer machine section also serves to shift the heavy turret and the crew compartment forward, resulting in an uneven weight distribution and a disproportionate stress on the front roadwheels. This, in turn, can lead to frequent breakdowns, in particular under battlefield conditions.
- Moving the turret forward oftentimes leaves no room behind the glacis plate for a driver’s hatch. This forces the tank designers to either position the hatch on the glacis plate itself (as in the T-34 series), reducing the machine’s ability to withstand frontal hits, or else dispensing with the hatch altogether (the JS series), which forces the driver to mount the tank through the turret hatch and reduces his chances of survival if the tank brews up.
- Transmission controls must be extended to the front of the tank, which increases their complexity and reduces overall reliability.

As you can see, neither transmission mounting provides an absolute advantage over its counterpart. Naturally, Rezun dispenses with the above analysis, selects one particular advantage and proceeds to draw a triumphant conclusion about the “well-built” Soviet and “poorly-designed” German tanks. This is yet another illustration of Rezun’s technical ignorance; I hope that the above analysis makes this fact and the true “value” of the author’s pontifications on “good” and “bad” tank designs self-evident.

In fact, it probably pays to briefly examine the particular disadvantages of a rear-mounted transmission based on the experience of the most common Soviet tank of the war – the T-34. The rear-mounted gearbox, a heritage of the outdated Christie tanks, necessitated a substantial reduction in the size of the crew compartment to avoid increasing the tank’s overall length. The design change also dictated a forward mounting of the turret, creating a considerable weight imbalance. This became the primary restriction on increasing the thickness of the T-34 and T-34-85’s frontal armor from the 45mm it was in 1940, despite the fact that Soviet designers had performed numerous tests confirming that “the T-34 tank’s frontal armor can be defeated by German anti-tank guns at all combat distances” as early as 1942. As mentioned above, shifting the turret forward forced the driver hatch to be mounted on the glacis plate, dramatically weakening it and creating an especially vulnerable spot on the tank’s front armor. A direct hit on this spot from even a 50mm anti-tank round collapsed the hatch killing the driver instantly and immobilizing the tank itself. Furthermore, for the same reason the machine-gunner hatch had to be discarded from the design altogether, ensuring that in the case of the tank brewing up the machine-gunner had comparatively low chances of survival as he frequently couldn’t get to the turret hatch quickly enough. All this is evidenced with numerous after-action reports from Soviet tankers, as well as by their post-war recollections. Of course, this does not mean that the T-34 was a poor design per se, but the apparent magnitude of the combat problems associated with a rear-mounted transmission makes Rezun’s statements on “rational” and “irrational assembly” sound laughable. How can the tank assembly possibly be “rational” when it so drastically reduces both the machine’s and the crew’s survivability?

A final note – it turns out that Soviet tank designers did utilize a front-mounted transmission, with all its flaws, before, during and even after the war. Naturally, Rezun simply didn’t care to notice these models – which included such “rare” specimens as the T-40, T-60, T-70, and T-80 tanks as well as a great multitude of SU-76 assault guns. [I have deliberately left out the T-26 and T-27 tanks, as while these models were produced in great numbers, they were essentially British designs.] Thus, according to Rezun, the most numerous assault gun of World War 2 (the SU-76) and the second most numerous (after the T-34) Soviet tank of the war, the T-70, were produced with a fatal design flaw. Clearly a case of sabotage on a mind-boggling scale! And even after the war Soviet designers continued to utilize front-mounted transmission in a number of Red Army AFVs. The ZSU-37 (self-propelled AA Gun), for instance, was based on a SU-76 chassis – and if the flaws of front-mounted transmission were so evident, why would the designers continue using it when all semblance of a military crisis had passed?

5. On diesel engines and the diesel tanks’ resistance to brewing up. First, the issue in Rezun’s own words:

"One of the best combat characteristics of Soviet tanks during World War 2 was that they were difficult to set ablaze. More difficult, in fact, than the tanks of any other army of the time.".
(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “The flammable tanks”, p. 234)

First off, notice how Rezun does not bother to substantiate this claim with one shred of factual evidence. The writing style is effective enough, of course – this has always been Rezun’s strength – but let’s examine the facts for a moment. For one, as of June 22, 1941, most of Soviet tanks had gasoline rather than diesel engines, precisely the type “susceptible to brewing up” according to Rezun. In fact, all of the following tank models had gasoline engines: T-18, T-26, T-27, T-37, T-38, T-40, BT-2, BT-5, BT-7 (except for 700 BT-7M tanks with an early diesel engine V-2), T-28 and T-35. Over 21,000 tanks in all.

Of course, in June of 1941 the Red Army also fielded tanks with diesel engines – the KV-series and the T-34s for a total of just under 2,600 tanks. In other words at the time of the initial German assault – the very time period that all three of Rezun’s books are focused on – roughly 85% of the USSR’s total tank pool was comprised of machines with “inflammable” gasoline engines. As such, Rezun’s “diesel advantage” is yet another falsification, utilized as proven and undisputed fact throughout his thesis!

Now, Rezun is correct in stating that diesel fuel is harder to ignite than gasoline; you can’t light it up with a match, for example. However, at the same time Rezun conveniently “forgets” that diesel fires are much harder to extinguish, as well as that tank fires are not started with kitchen matches. If a shell has enough energy to pierce a tank’s armor, shouldn’t it also have enough energy to light up diesel fuel? Furthermore, Rezun fails to mention that in a gasoline fire, the gasoline itself does not burn. Rather, gasoline fumes are ignited, leaving a thin layer of air between the flames and the affected surface, e.g. human skin, somewhat dampening the fire’s effects. By contrast, diesel fuel burns in liquid form, resulting in horrific burn injuries to any tankers unfortunate enough to get caught in a diesel fire. Given that during the war burns on over 40% of the body were typically considered lethal, outfitting a majority of Red Army tanks with diesel engines most likely had a highly negative effect on overall tanker survival rates.

Instead of discussing any of this, Rezun offers us his “bucket experiment” (a burning torch is extinguished after being dipped in a bucket filled with diesel fuel), as one actually performed at a Soviet tank factory while it was being visited by members of a government task force on tank diesel engine production. Yet even in describing this experiment Rezun neglects crucial details, namely that the task force, upon viewing this experiment, ignored it as irrelevant and “amateurish”.

Why amateurish? For the very reasons discussed above. Moreover, world's military experience has shown that there was little correlation between fuel type and tank fires. Diesel was selected as the primary fuel type for Red Army tanks mostly due to the specifics of the Soviet economy. Despite ample raw materials (crude oil), a chronically underdeveloped oil-refining sector meant that the country would simply not be able to produce a large quantity of synthetic or natural gasoline. Diesel fuel, on the other hand, can be “cracked” out of crude oil without requiring a high technology base, and is considerably cheaper to produce than either gasoline type. Furthermore, a gasoline engine itself does not offer any meaningful advantages over a diesel engine aside from its more compact size, while a diesel tank engine can generate considerably higher torque at lower gears. Thus, the gasoline engine was judged to be one of the main shortcomings of Lend-Lease tanks shipped to the USSR, and was one of the main reasons for the Red Army’s request for diesel (mark III) rather than gasoline (mark II) Shermans then in service with the U.S. Army, as well as for Soviet refusal of any further Lend-Lease tank deliveries once domestic tank production was restored to adequate levels.

Given Soviet economic realities, diesel fuel and a diesel tank engine rather than their gasoline equivalents proved to be the optimal design solution. This does not necessarily imply that the situation was not precisely the opposite in other countries, including the U.S. and Germany. Germany in particular was forced to rely on synthetic gasoline throughout the war due to its lack of access to sufficient sources of crude oil. Not because, as Rezun asserts (see the quote below), the German designers and generals could not muster enough intelligence to realize the obvious superiority of diesel engines.

Of course, there are many other advantages and shortcomings of both gasoline and diesel engines besides those already discussed – different torque, ignition types, etc. – however to even list them all would require considerable effort beyond the scope of this comparatively brief overview of the issue.

Let’s see what Rezun has to say about diesel engines (same chapter, pp. 236-237):

"The diesel engine was the invention of Rudolf Diesel – a German. The great merit of Soviet engineers was not that they had invented the diesel engine, but that they fully appreciated its potential. The Germans did not recognize their own genius – while the Soviets have..."

Etc. etc. ad nauseam. Reading this, an otherwise uninformed reader cannot help but notice how the clearly near-sighted Germans are outwitted at every turn by the crafty Russians. Not willing to take Rezun at his word, I took the liberty of going straight to the source – in this case, volumes 3 and 4 of the 12-volume Soviet “History of the Second World War” encyclopaedia, which Rezun actually cites as one of his sources. For added effect, I also threw in the memoirs of Albert Speer, the armament minister of those same “near-sighted” Germans who could not see the genius of Rudolf Diesel. Turns out the Germans weren’t that near-sighted after all – but that they had, instead, realized that opting for diesel tank engines would be practically suicidal. How so?

Germany’s strategic weakness stemmed from it simply not having enough crude oil. What oil stocks it did have provided just enough diesel fuel to sustain the German Navies and its submarines, while the Luftwaffe consumed all available natural gasoline. The Germans could synthesize gasoline, but not diesel fuel. Thus, installing diesel engines on German tanks would render the Panzer arm useless, as there would not be enough fuel in all of the Third Reich to sustain any large-scale operations. Compounding the problem, according to Speer, was a chronic shortage of aluminium, which is used for making diesel engine housings.

As a counter-argument, a Rezunist tried to argue that I know nothing of Chemistry and the oil “cracking” process, writing the following:

"May I remind you that ‘oil’ is comprised of a number of DIFFERENT hydrocarbons (loosely classified as light, medium and heavy). Gasoline is the lightest, kerosene is a bit heavier, while tar is the heaviest. That is, refining ANY type of oil will always yield some quantity of GASOLENE, KEROSENE, DIESEL, etc. And prior to the invention of the gasoline engine in the 19th century, producers of kerosene simply did not know what to do with all the gasoline and wound up burning it up as waste."
K. Zakoretsky

Every word of this email is true – however, the author, thinking himself a great chemist and clearly trying to sling some mud while he has the chance, did not bother to cite any specific figures, contenting himself with some generalities about “some quantity” of gasoline. “Some quantity” – what precision! What an insight into the author’s real level of expertise in this subject. And this is supposed to be a technical argument?

For the benefit of the reader, allow me to cite some specifics – the Rezunist quoted above might want to take some of this down so as to impress people with his new-found “knowledge”. The industrial process that Mr. Zakoretsky has attempted to describe is called Fractional Distillation. Fractional Distillation does in fact produce some quantity of gasoline, depending on the quality of the crude oil inputs. In a best case scenario, i.e. fractional distillation of so-called sweet crude (under 0.5% sulphur content), you would expect to convert approximately 20% of total input volume into gasoline, with the rest going to diesel, kerosene, industrial fuel oils, and other heavy oil products. During the 20th Century, the proportion of refined gasoline was improved by the invention of several cracking processes – notably thermal cracking (first used in 1913), where heavy oil fractions are broken down into lighter products, and its more modern equivalent entitled fluid catalytic cracking (first used in 1942), which utilizes heated fluidized catalyst to significantly improve overall gasoline yield.

The primary chemical process that takes place during any sort of cracking involves breaking heavier hydrocarbon molecules into their lighter derivatives. Generally, the cracking process is used on heavy hydrocarbons left over from fractional distillation of crude oil – lubricating oil, asphalt, diesel, industrial fuels, etc. In modern refineries, very heavy fractions (tar) can also be upgraded via a “visbreaking” process, essentially a secondary cracking. The inputs’ chemical composition is made up of mainly paraffin hydrocarbons of varying complexity (e.g. naphthenes, alkanes, etc.). So what exactly takes place during thermal cracking? The inputs are subjected to very high temperatures that break down long input molecules (e.g. alkanes – C20) into shorter hydrocarbons (C2 to C18). Hydrocarbons C5-C9 comprise the gasoline fraction, while C10-C15 make up the diesel fuel fraction. Breaking down the longer molecules also alters the proportionate carbon and hydrogen content in the reaction’s end products. In modern times, the old Thermal Cracking processes have become obsolete for some reasons.

In summary, it is in fact possible to crack heavier oil fractions to obtain some extra quantity of gasoline. Ordinarily, this would be great news for any gasoline-driven army, however, what if the fleet consumes all the heavier oil fractions? What’s left there to crack? Quite a vicious circle – the air force consumes all fractionally distilled gasoline, while the fleet consumes virtually all hydrocarbons that could have been subjected to thermal cracking to produce more gasoline. So what’s left for the army? The German solution to this problem was to make their tanks and AFVs run on synthetic gasoline. Contrast this with, say, the U.S., which had a well-developed refining industry set up specifically to extract the maximum quantity of gasoline from heavy oil products well before World War 2 had even begun. As a result, the U.S. Army had to rely primarily on gasoline engines throughout the war in lieu of refashioning the country’s entire oil industry to produce adequate quantities of diesel fuel, even though the Marine Corps actually preferred diesel tanks. The Marines got away with using diesel tank engines because they drew their fuel from the Navy’s own substantial diesel reserves – something the Army was not able to do. Clearly the choice of diesel over gasoline was more a matter of economics and logistics than combat performance.

Getting back to Rezun’s argument – same chapter, page 244:

"Just prior to the war, the Soviet Union commenced mass production of tank diesel engines and built up sufficient industrial capacity to allow production of any engine quantities during wartime.".

Rezun even highlighted the word “any” to drive his point home. And one paragraph earlier, he mentions the “modern” T-50 tank with its diesel engine design. Let’s examine the fate of the T-50 a bit closer. It turns out that the T-50’s entire production run amounted to just 64 vehicles! Why so few? Because of the tank’s diesel engine, or rather a lack thereof. Despite Rezun’s assertions, the Soviet armaments industry was able to manufacture only 64 T-50 engines through 1942, at which point the tank was taken out of production altogether as no more engines could be produced. Moreover, lack of diesel engine production capacity in 1941 resulted in the installation of M-17T gasoline engines from obsolete BT light tanks on some of the newly produced T-34s! A clear illustration of the USSR’s ability to produce diesel engines in “any” quantities. Nor does the counter-argument that the war interrupted production hold much water – if, according to Rezun, the pre-war Soviet economy was set up to produce diesel engines in “any quantities during wartime”, then the German invasion of 1941 should have had minimal if any impact on production.

Furthermore, although the T-50 was placed into mass production nearly six months before the start of the war, through June 22, 1941 the USSR did not produce a single V-4 diesel engine! Is this what Rezun calls “readiness”? Never mind that no pre-war plan had truly anticipated the scale of German penetration, nor the need to evacuate so many industries (including Factory No.174 responsible for production of V-4 engines). Even after Factory No. 174 resumed operations in November of 1941, having been transplanted to Barnaul along with all its diesel engine assembly equipment and documentation, it could not begin production of V-4 engines all the way through February of 1942, at which time it was ordered to focus on other manufacturing priorities. Over those three months, only fifteen T-50 tanks were produced – not fifteen thousand, just fifteen – and some evidence suggests that their engines were taken from pre-war stocks. This is what Rezun refers to as “capacity to allow production of any engine quantities.”

And here is an interesting quote from a brochure entitled “Design specifics of the Maybach-HL-210-R45 engine and drive train of the German heavy tank T-IV Tiger”, printed by the Red Army in 1943 (cited from A. Isaev’s “10 Myths of World War 2”):

"The German decision to use a gasoline rather than a diesel engine in the new tank model produced in 1942 must be explained by:
a) specifics of Germany’s fuel reserves, which are primarily comprised of synthetic gasoline, benzol and alcohol mixes, unsuitable for burning in diesel engines;
b) comparative superiority of the gasoline engine in such important categories as minimal dimensions for a given power output, starter reliability in wintertime, and ease of manufacture;
c) considerable percentage of tank diesel fires under combat conditions and the diesel engines’ lack of demonstrable superiority in this regard over their gasoline equivalents, especially if the latter include reliable automatic fire extinguishers;
d) the relatively short useful life of tank engines due to the tanks’ very low survivability under combat conditions, which implies that the economic benefits from utilizing diesel fuel rather than gasoline are too short-lived to justify the expenditure of high-strength steel and high quality labour, of which there is a wartime deficit equal to that of high-grade liquid fuels.".

Notably, the document accentuates the financial aspects of the diesel vs. gasoline debate, asserting that the economic cost of relying on diesel tank engines cannot be adequately recouped.


Rezun does not let up:

"First, besides the T-34 and KV tanks on June 22, 1941 the Red army possessed the newest T-40 and T-50 models. Our propagandists ‘forgot’ to include these tanks in their statistics.

(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “What tanks did Hitler have?”, p. 273)

All right, let’s address the propagandists’ obvious oversight. Out of sheer curiosity, can Rezun tell us exactly how many T-50 tanks did the Red Army have on June 22, 1941? Unfortunately, no – instead of providing the reader with any specifics on his “first”, our esteemed author immediately moves on to “second”. We, however, do have the actual figure. As of June 22, 1941, the Red Army had no production T-50 tanks in service. Not a one!

And how about the “newest” T-40 model? Well, as of June 22, 1941, the Red army possessed about 280 T-40 tanks. Not a lot, of course, but at least the number is greater than zero. What’s worse is that Rezun cleverly mentions the “newest” T-40 in the same breath as the T-50, the T-34 and the KV series. Yet the T-40 was armed with only machine guns and possessed only bullet-resistant armor, and moreover, equipped with a gasoline engine. These very characteristics, according to Rezun’s method, should render the T-40 “obsolete” and “highly flammable”, and so no better than its Western equivalents. Rezun even goes so far as to ridicule the German Pz II tank, which at the time boasted a truly “newest” 20mm automatic gun, even though the Pz II by far surpassed the T-40 in armor, armament and overall reliability. This is a classic double standard.

"In 1936, production BT-type light tanks were able to cross deep rivers almost entirely underwater. Even at the end of the 20th century, few tanks fielded by the USSR’s likely opponents have this capability.".

(“Icebreaker”, Chapter “Why do the Communists need weapons?”, p.28)

Few tanks...that is entirely true. Not all tank models have or have had this capability, not today, not 50 years ago. But let’s not nitpick at Rezun’s phrase construction – cleverly implying that the old BTs could force deep water obstacles while most modern models cannot, which surely means that the BTs are somehow superior to today’s Abrams, Merkava and Leopard tanks. While we’re on the subject of USSR’s secret weapons, the Red Army even had a KT tank [“Winged Tank” – Transl.] that could fly. At the end of the 20th century, "few tanks fielded by the USSR’s most probable opponents had this capability" – none of their tanks can fly! Does this mean, as Rezun would have us believe, that the world is utterly unprepared for Soviet aggression? Of course not – neither flying nor swimming tanks have any bearing on the Red Army’s offensive readiness, much like their diesel engines or track width.

Regardless, according to Rezun, beginning in 1936 production (not prototype!) BT light tanks could undertake near-submerged river crossings. The language used by Rezun is a bit confusing – perhaps due to imprecise translation - “almost entirely underwater” and “deep rivers”. The maximum depth of a ford that a given tank can cross is a known quantity – for BT light tanks this amounts to 0.85-0.90 metres [roughly 3 feet – Transl.]. Hopefully, no one will insist that a 0.90-metre deep river can be classified as “really deep”. Thus, the crossing of any more substantial bodies of water requires specialized equipment, right? Right. And Soviet engineers were in fact developing this equipment under the heading “PKh” [“Underwater Movement” – Transl.]. So why did Rezun say “almost entirely underwater”, when the only visible part of the submerged tank would be its “schnorkel” (see the drawing)?

In truth, while PKh equipment was tested on prototype BT and other tanks, the USSR had no mass-produced “swim-tanks”, while the much ridiculed by Rezun Germany managed to have production Pz III and Pz IV tanks equipped for underwater river crossings. To reiterate – the USSR had only “daring projects and pretty pictures”, to use one of Rezun’s favoured expressions, while Germany had mass-produced the things. So much for Germany’s “total unpreparedness” for war with the USSR. Once again, Rezun manages to attack or ignore all evidence to the contrary while lauding whatever convenient facts there may or may not be. Still more double standards.

"In 1938, the USSR began installing diesel engines on its BT light tanks. The rest of the world will follow only 10-20 years later".

(“Icebreaker”, Chapter “Why do the Communists need weapons?”, p.28)

Technically, the first production BT tanks with the V-2 diesel engines appeared in 1939, not 1938. At that moment, UK, Italy and Japan all possessed prototype or production diesel engine tanks – not “10-20 years later” as Rezun would have it. While a relatively minor point, it is the aggregate of these “minor points” and “innocent” misconceptions that fuels Rezun’s far-reaching conclusions and the main thrust of his thesis. It is this that forces me to dwell on “minor points”, rather than a desire to split hairs.

Instead of addressing the issue in any way, shape or form, Rezun treats the existence of diesel engine English, Italian and Japanese tanks as an insignificant detail:

"There were some attempts to utilize [diesel engines] in certain Japanese, Italian and American tanks, however these engines were weak and comparatively primitive".

(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “On flammable tanks”, p. 234)

Clearly an issue not worth discussing any further, so far as Rezun is concerned. And Rezun himself explains why – A historian’s chief concern is fact; an agitator’s – intonation (“The Last Republic”). On what basis does he regard the foreign diesel models as “some attempts”? Why are mass-produced tanks proclaimed to be “attempts” while our own largely ineffective PPh tank prototypes are declared to be “production tanks”? Care to hazard a guess? Rezun is simply trying to play the reader for a fool, betting that no one will actually bother to verify his “facts”. Rezun openly mocks foreign diesel engines, implying that only an idiot will try to argue with his indisputable logic! And what reader wants to be “the idiot”? Truly, the man’s understanding of human psychology is first rate.

If Rezun insists on using BT tanks as an example, it is probably worth for us to spend a little more time on them:

"The first BT tanks could achieve speeds of 100 kilometres per hour. Soviet sources cite the tank’s maximum speed as 86 or even 70 kilometres per hour – and the reason is very simple. The condition of Soviet roads was such that a too powerful engine tore up the tank’s power drive train, and as a result the tank engines had to have a power restrictor installed. When on paved roadways, the power restrictor could simply be removed..."

(“Icebreaker”, Chapter “Why do the Communists need weapons?”, p. 27)

I would be very curious to see if Rezun could elaborate on his “power restrictor” concept a bit further. In truth, neither the BT light tanks, nor their precursors – the American Christie tanks – had any type of “power restrictors”. I would sincerely suggest Mr. Rezun dispense with his “power restrictor” in favour of a “lie restrictor”. I would also like to know where Rezun got his 100 kilometres per hour figure. According to M. Pavlov and I. Pavlov’s book “Soviet Tanks and SP Guns”, the maximum road speed of BT light tanks only amounted to 71-72 km/h. Perhaps Rezun was referring to the original Christie tanks purchased in the U.S.? No, the Christie didn’t exceed 70 kilometres per hour on paved roads. Even the BT-7M only managed 86 km/h. Curiously, Rezun explains this as follows (same chapter, p.27): “The best Western experts believe that the BT’s maximum road speed was not 70 kilometres per hour, but 70 miles per hour.” What experts, precisely? Rezun conspicuously fails to make any specific attributions – we are supposed to take him at his word. To be perfectly honest, I fully expect some Western book to have made that mistake – substituting miles for kilometres. But I doubt that this would be very widespread, and that the “best Western experts” would explicitly write, “the BT’s road speed was really 70 miles and not 70 kilometres per hour”. In any case, Western sources tend to be fairly inaccurate when it comes to technical characteristics of Soviet tanks, as anyone who has had the chance to compare Soviet and Western literature can tell you. Western historians themselves readily admit this and gladly draw on Soviet sources for this type of data. And so, just where did Rezun get his 100 kilometres per hour is unknown. Given that all the other sources I could find provide substantially different figures, and that Rezun cites these very same sources in his bibliography, the inescapable conclusion is that Rezun deliberately lied.

In any case, why would a tank need a “power restrictor” in the first place? How would limiting the engine’s power output cap the tank’s road speed? Rezun would have been better off talking about restricting the engine’s RPM – but instead he keeps mentioning power, power, power. If the engine was so powerful that it “tore” the power drive train off-road, why wouldn’t it continue to “tear” the power drive train on paved roads if the “power restrictor” were removed? In reality, certain engines (including the V-2 diesel engine) did have a regulator that prevented the engine from falling apart at very high RPM, but not some mythical “power drive train” (another technically ignorant term) that was supposed to be “torn”. This “restrictor” restricted specifically the engine’s RPM, not “power”, and its design did not anticipate easy removal. Quite unlike the “easily removed” “power restrictor” in the quote above. The number of these technical inconsistencies points to one fact – not that Rezun made an innocent error or misspoke, but that Rezun really is ignorant of the subject.

"Here some will interrupt me: why didn’t the Soviet advantages manifest themselves in June of 1941?..
The Red Army was preparing for an aggression, and so its tanks were assembled on the border itself. The German attack was so sudden that the tankers were gunned down before they could reach their machines, while the tanks themselves were destroyed or captured without crew. (Our own surprise attack could well produce the same effect on the German side, except that the Germans had seven times fewer tanks and so the task of destroying the enemy tank arm was simplified.)"

([“The Last Republic”, Chapter “How to equate prison and Kremlin rations”, p. 399)

One has to be a complete ignoramus to write something like this! Does Rezun seriously believe that all 24 thousand Soviet tanks were parked within 500 metres of the border with Germany, and as such the Red Army tankers just couldn’t get to their machines in time? If so, can he perchance deign to offer up a shred of evidence of this “fact”, something he never bothers to do in any of his books? And for the record – “kitchen logic” does not serve as valid evidence. Neither do any hearsay recollections of some unidentified source – Rezun’s “Western experts” come to mind – purportedly saying something to someone at some point in time.

One does not need to be a genius or a military academy graduate, or to draw on some ultra-secret source, to prove the falsehood of Rezun’s assertion. One glance at any map displaying actual deployments of Red Army armored forces on June 22, 1941 should suffice. Such maps tend to be easily available, as the “Kremlin-Lubyanka historians” had never made any efforts to conceal them.

"By 1938, the Soviet Union begins intensive development of a most unusually named tank, the A-20...
I have long searched for the answer to this question, and found it at Factory No. 183.
...War veterans insist that the initial meaning of the letter ‘A’ in A-20 is “Avtostradnyj” [“Roadway” – Transl.] – though I do not know whether this interpretation is correct. Personally, I find this explanation believable. The A-20 tank represents the next step in the evolution of BT-type light tanks. If the main distinguishing characteristic of the BT tanks are embodied in their official designation [BT stands for “Bystrohodnyj Tank” or Fast Tank in Russian – Transl.], why not that of the A-20? The main purpose of the A-20 – to get to a paved roadway using tracked movement, then to transform into the king of speed by discarding the tracks."

(“Icebreaker”, Chapter “Why do Communists need weapons?”, pp. 30-31)

First and foremost, note the conspicuous absence of any named “war veterans”. Again with the “someone said something somewhere to someone at some point in time”! And this is deliberate – first, to render impossible any attempt at verification of Rezun’s assertions, and second to increase his credibility with the reader: “look at what a thorough researcher I am, I’ve searched for the answer to this for oh so very long, couldn’t even sleep at night, eventually wound up going all the way to Factory No. 183 and interviewing all the war veterans and finally found the answer that the Kremlin historians didn’t want me to find!” And since the A-20 designation really stands for “Roadway-20”, Rezun is free to draw conclusions of truly cosmic scale, that the USSR was at last stage of preparing for combat operations in Germany (where, as “everybody” knows, there are plenty of good paved roads).

In reality, the “A” designation was assigned to all tank models under development in Kharkov''s Factory No.183 [much like the “X” designation assigned to prototype U.S. military aircraft – Transl.]. The A-20 model was, in fact, being developed as a dual mode wheeled/tracked tank, however Soviet designers were also working on a fully tracked counterpart, the A-32. And another A-tank in pre-war development – the A-34 – was also fully tracked. Perhaps Rezun was not aware that the A-34 was eventually put into service as the T-34, since according to Rezun, the “A” index means that the T-34 was actually a “roadway” tank!

Also mistaken is the thesis that a wheeled tank cannot be used in the USSR, requiring something like the German Autobahn to operate effectively. How exactly would the Soviet designers go about building a “roadway” tank in the first place if they didn’t have anywhere to test-drive it? There are reams of documentary and photographic evidence of successful trials and combat employment of wheeled BT tank models in the USSR and specifically in rough terrain. The main design goal of a wheeled tank is actually not to attain a higher top speed (which, by the way, has little to do with the overall speed of a tank column in march order). Rather, the switch to a wheeled mode of locomotion is made in an attempt to conserve track life, which at the time did not exceed a few hundred kilometres. Later on, a new track type with much smaller links and a greater useful life was developed, and wheeled movement became completely unnecessary. [Contrast, for instance, the useful life of a BT-type track – about 500 kilometres – with the useful life of a small-link T-34 track – nearly 2,500 kilometres.]

Rezun asserts that Zhukov allegedly did not like wheeled BT tanks based on their performance during the battles at Khalkhin Gol. Perhaps. But how is this relevant to the events of 1941? Even if Zhukov did not personally like wheeled BT tanks, this would have happened in 1939, when the question of combined wheeled/tracked tanks was still vigorously debated in design bureaus and at all levels of the government. In the end, in that same year (1939), the design bureaus held parallel trials of the wheeled/tracked A-20 and its fully tracked counterpart, the A-32. As a result of these trials, the fully tracked design won over, and the A-32’s successor – the T-34 – was built as a fully tracked machine. All this took place a year and a half before the USSR’s war with Germany. I reiterate, A FULL YEAR AND A HALF BEFORE THE WAR WITH GERMANY, STALIN CONSCIOUSLY REJECTED THE “ROADWAY” TANKS SO NECESSARY TO MOUNT AN INVASION OF GERMANY.
Feel free to draw your own conclusions from this...

"The Red Army was planning a sudden attack on July 6, 1941, and as with any grandiose undertaking, found itself in the midst of feverish preparations. In the tank arm, this meant replacing tracks and road wheels, reassembling transmission systems, taking apart weapons – and before work can be started, removing all fuel, oil and ammunition from the tank itself. (The Germans have gone through the exact same preparations in mid-June.) A sudden assault on any army in this condition is its death sentence".

(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “How to equate prison and Kremlin rations”, p. 399)

Of course, if an army is led by mindless dilettantes or by escapees from an insane asylum, Rezun’s assertions would be absolutely accurate. Fortunately, both the Red Army and its Western counterparts have typically tried to keep such men away from positions of authority. In other words, the above passage is not military reality; it’s ravings of a lunatic! I hope the reader can forgive my harshness in this, but there is simply no other way to describe it. No sane military commander would ever allow for a state of zero battle-readiness in his unit. Because unlike Rezun, this commander would have gone through a military academy of some sort, and would know that his unit was either battle-ready or it was not – not battle-ready “for attack only”, or “for defence only”. And that a commander who knowingly allowed zero battle-readiness in his unit for any period of time would be summarily court-marshalled. That’s why maintenance and rearming are always done sequentially, by battalion, never all at once across an entire division (let alone an entire army). As such, most of a given formation is always ready to engage in combat operations unless this formation has been removed well into the army’s rear to be reformed or for massive replacements.

Of course, prior to any march or combat engagement a tank needs to be inspected, especially its most unreliable components. But this does not require taking apart the machine’s transmission, draining all fuel and oil from the engine and removing the tank’s ammunition! There are strict regulations on tank maintenance covering oil checks (and topping it off rather than draining it!), fuel line checks, coolant checks, battery checks and so forth, most requiring a visual inspection. It is not actually necessary to take the tank apart! All the necessary technical information on any given tank is contained in the tank’s technical manual and is or should be well known by any driver, mechanic, tank commander, company maintenance officer and so forth. Furthermore, these technical manuals are by and large unclassified, and today can be found in almost every substantial technical library. And so Rezun’s assertion that “I spend virtually all my money on books. My library, of which I am very proud, contains 407 volumes on tanks alone” (“The Last Republic, Chapter “What tanks did Hitler have?”, p. 282) looks to me like a deliberate falsehood design to gain reader trust. And quite vulgar as well: to have not less than 407 volumes on tanks and not bother going through even one T-34 manual (more than 65,000 of which were printed!) – please!

It’s the same way with the A-20. There was never a need to invent a touching story about a visit to Factory No. 183 and non-existent conversations with nameless veterans. All one needs to do is open a copy of “Youth And Technology” [Soviet equivalent of “Popular Mechanics” – Transl.] from 1983 that ran an article by I.P. Shmelev entitled “The Famous T-34” in the “Our Tank Museum” section. A full third of the article is devoted to the story of the A-20 and A-32 tanks. There are even colour illustrations of the A-20 by M. Petrovsky. Can anyone really believe that “Youth And Technology” magazine was a top-secret publication by the “Lubyanka historians”??? There is no need to inflate one’s credentials with talk of “407 volumes on tanks alone”. Especially as nearly every Soviet book on the T-34 tank also covers the A-20 and A-32 prototypes. One has to believe that Rezun either did not read any of his “407 volumes”, or is deliberately advancing a false interpretation of the “A” in A-20.

2. Rezun on Red Army’s shortage of maps of the USSR

In “The Last Republic” chapter entitled “Why did Comrade Stalin not execute Comrade Kudryavtsev?”, Rezun insists that the Red Army did not have any maps of the Soviet Union precisely because it never planned to conduct defensive operations. As proof, he offers up a touching story of the only map possessed by one of the divisions in the 22nd Army. Except that Rezun fails to mention that our military began to experience map shortages not at the outset of the war, but rather after they retreated behind the Dnieper River. At that point, there really were map shortages as pre-war Soviet war plans did not anticipate such a deep penetration of the USSR’s borders – it was always assumed that any invader would be quickly thrown back to his starting positions. But Rezun never does mention any of this, because it flatly contradicts his theories. He must have known about it, but did not mention it, except once when he must have misspoken. In November of 1941, Golikov was a Lieutenant General commanding the 10th Army…but the problem remained: “We had only two maps – one kept by me, the other by my chief of staff.” [“The Last Republic”, Chapter “Why did Comrade Stalin not execute Comrade Kudryavtsev?”, p. 252]

Dear Mr. Rezun – you yourself have just informed us that you are talking about November. Out of sheer curiosity, where exactly was the frontline at that exact point in time? Anywhere near the German border?

3. Rezun on Soviet artillery

"The Chekists’ offensive plans are evidenced by the howitzer regiments fielded by the NKVD. Small and medium calibre guns fire directly, and so are good for defence: direct fire forces an attacking enemy to stop, lie down, dig himself into cover. But if we are on the attack ourselves, and our enemy is defending from the comfort of prepared trench lines, direct fire helps us very little: the firing trajectories are low, and shells harmlessly pass over enemy trenches – it is then that we need howitzers. Howitzers are distinguished from guns by their steep firing trajectories…If we are preparing for offensive operations, we have to produce howitzers, for defensive operations – guns, and of course prior to a defensive war we would have armed Red Army combat units, not NKVD detachments."

(“Icebreaker”, Chapter “Why do the Checkists need howitzer artillery?”, p.70)

Picturesque, isn’t it. Howitzers are great on offence while direct-fire guns, especially of small and medium calibres, are downright horrible. Thus, we must deduce that the relative quantity of guns and howitzers in an army can tell us if that army is preparing to attack or defend. If there are a lot of howitzers, it must be readying itself to attack, while a lot of guns means preparations to defend. And this artillery is, of course, distributed to regular combat units like rifle divisions. All right, let’s believe Rezun for the moment. Here is a quote from “Day M”, chapter “On artillery regiments”, p.464:

"Besides increasing the number of artillery regiments themselves, there were other ways to increase the army’s firepower. Prior to the Fall of 1939 each rifle division had 18 45-mm anti-tank guns. After Khalkhin Gol, the number in each division was tripled to 54. Outwardly, the same exact division, but with triple the anti-tank guns.".

What a passage! So after Khalkhin Gol our army must have been intensively preparing for defensive operations, since it tripled the number of small-calibre (45mm) direct-fire guns in its rifle divisions rather than increase the number of howitzers in NKVD formations!

How could Rezun allow for this discrepancy? Evidently he seeks to interpret the very same set of facts in whatever manner suits his current thesis. Again with the double standards!

Rezun’s embarrassment also lies in that not one of his assertions on guns and howitzers quoted above is actually correct. Both guns and howitzers are required in both attack and defence. Being a complete dilettante, Rezun must be imagining a strategic offensive in almost action movie-like terms. Yet every large combat operation (and yes, every large offensive) entails all tactical elements, attack, defence, etc. The attacking troops can be called upon to repulse sudden counter-attacks, and guns were used to target not just enemy trenches, but bunkers, gun and MG nests, houses, and counter-attacking tanks and infantry.

A Rezunist once said to me that I “probably [am not] aware that 45-mm guns were anti-tank, and so were meant specifically to destroy enemy tanks.” Of course I had no idea that the 45-mm Battalion Gun Model 1932/1938 with factory index 19-K was classed as “anti-tank” because it was the infantry’s main anti-tank weapon. How could I possibly know this? I just don’t understand one thing – if the gun was designed for tank killing why two thirds of the standard ammunition package for it consisted of high explosive anti-personnel shells?

4. Rezun on artillery shells “on the ground”

"In April of 1941, the Main Artillery Directorate of the Red Army received the following order: production of the People’s Commissariat for Ammunition is to be transported to the Western border and placed on the ground. Ask any war veteran what this means. Even the Kremlin-Lubyanka historians are forced to admit that Stalin was preparing an aggression, Stalin was preparing to enslave Europe, but, they say, Stalin could only have done this in 1942. Let’s ask these historians, is it rational to leave out in the open to suffer the Autumn rains, the Winter snows and the Spring mud some quantity of ammunition, let’s say five hundred thousand tons?..
The order to leave these shells on the ground signified a decision made in 1941 to begin the war in 1941; there is simply no other way to explain this fact."

(“Day M’, Chapter “How to build gunpowder factories?”, p.420)

Has the honourable Mr. Rezun innocently forgotten to include a footnote on this purported document? How odd, given his propensity to footnote every single, however irrelevant quotation! Regardless, I wasn’t embarrassed to admit that I knew little about ammunition storage, and, following Rezun’s suggestion, sought out the relevant literature. And as it turns out, the real answer to the “shells on the ground” question is far from the one suggested by Rezun himself. It seems that storing ammunition in open air is not only permissible, but even encouraged. Not quite “under the open blue sky”, of course, but under a tent or some comparable cover. Why? Because a full-blown ammunition warehouse is a very expensive proposition. Shells can be kept for years in open-air ammo dumps with no ill effects because the storage conditions are carefully monitored, each shell is covered in a layer of oil or paint, and the shells themselves are packed in sturdy wooden crates.

Notice that Rezun never really explains what the phrase “shells on the ground” really means. Contrary to an image of shells literally strewn about on the ground (which is what Rezun implies), the term does not mean, “dump the shells into whatever mudhole you can find”. Rather, the Red Army term “placing shells on the ground” means precisely establishing the open-air ammo dumps I have described in the previous paragraph – tented or covered wooden crates on boards or some other artificial surface. A knowing wink does not mean that the phrases “on the ground” and “in the mud” here mean the same thing – they do not!

As to the order to transport ammunition to the Western borders, I would like to point out Rezun’s clever sentence construction: “...production of the People’s Commissariat for Ammunition is to be transported...” Every artillery shell is “production of the People’s Commissariat for Ammunition”. Therefore even if I dump only a single shell in a wood near the Western border, the statement “he transported the production of the People’s Commissariat for Ammunition towards the Western border” would still be correct! Even though psychologically the reader is tempted to read “all production...” The omission of one small word, “all”, changes everything! It could well be that the directive cited by Rezun really meant for only 10%-15% of the shells to be transported westward, with the remaining 85%-90% kept elsewhere. Clever, isn’t it? And yet a careful read somehow dispels the illusion of aggressive USSR stacking shells in open air in the woods near its border with Germany.

So, were the shells transported westward or weren’t they? Some quantity probably was, don’t border formations need ammunition? The question is what that quantity was, and where exactly were the shells stored. Let’s take the example of the Western Special Military District (WSMD). All distances cited refer to the ammo dumps’ closeness to the Western border, while figures indicate the number of shells in the inventory of a specific storage facility:

3rd Army:
- Grodno (30 kilometres) – RAD - 856, PSS - 1,498, RFS - 919, PFS -1,020, RPS – 817, PPS – 1,241
- Lida (120 kilometres) – RFS – 928, PFS – 1,022, RPS – 816
- Mosty (110 kilometres) – RFS – 929, PFS – 1,033

10th Army:
- Hainuvka (70 kilometres) – RSS – 838, PSS – 1,447, RFS – 926, PFS – 1,048
- Belostok (80 kilometres) – RFS – 920, PFS – 1,040, RPS – 1,048
- Mon’ki (40 kilometres) – RFS – 923, PFS – 1,019
- Chervonnyi Bor (?) – PFS – 1,018
- Volkovysk (120 kilometres) – PFS – 1,044, RPS – 818
- Bel’sk (50 kilometres) – RFS – 925, PFS – 1,038

4th Army
- Bronno Gura (120 kilometres) – RSS – 843, PSS – 1,483
- Pinsk (170 kilometres) – RSS – 847, PSS – 1,484
- Kobrin (50 kilometres) – RFS – 921, PFS – 1,034
- Cheremha (40 kilometres) – RFS – 927, PFS – 1,024
- Oranchitsy (100 kilometres) – RFS – 930, PFS – 1,023
- Lahva (210 kilometres) – RFS – 933, PFS – 1,025
- Brest-Litovsk (0 kilometres) – RPS – 821, PPS – 1,321
- Luninets (210 kilometres) – PPS – 1,319

RSS – Regional Shell Storage
PSS – Primary Shell Storage
RFS – Regional Fuel Storage
PFS – Primary Fuel Storage
RPS – Regional Provisions Storage
PPS – Primary Provisions Storage

The “primary storage” areas were most likely comprised of ammunition train cars parked at railheads.

As can be readily observed from the list above, few artillery ammo dumps were situated close to the Western border. Storing ammunition even 80-100 kilometres inside Soviet territory cannot serve as evidence of imminent aggression – even the most long-range of Red Army guns had a maximum firing range of under 30 kilometres. As such, if we had been planning to bombard German territory, we would have positioned both our artillery and its ammo dumps no further than 20-25 kilometres from the border. Situating the ammo dumps further away speaks to precisely the opposite intentions – of conducting defensive operations. The artillery was sited BEHIND our planned defensive lines, so as to be able to provide adequate artillery support while remaining well out of range of any German counter-battery gunfire. The ammo dumps followed the artillery. Why else warehouse artillery shells up to 500 kilometres away from the border? What’s left for the units on the border itself?

I wonder if Rezun fully comprehends how many shells a single howitzer requires for, say, an hour-long bombardment. And what that quantity of shells physically looks like. I suspect he does know the answer to both these questions, but chooses to remain silent. Many of his readers, however, probably don’t know, and so can find it reasonable to envision the Germans capturing gigantic ammunition dumps in the border districts. The dumps themselves may be gigantic in size, but does that also imply a huge quantity of actual shells?

As an example, let’s take the widely used Soviet 122-mm Field Howitzer M-30. Its technical characteristics state that the howitzer can fire six rounds per minute – however let us assume it actually fires at only half this rate. Thus, over the course of firing a one-hour bombardment, the howitzer will consume 3 x 60 = 180 artillery shells. That’s over 200 shells for ONE howitzer to fire ONE hour-long bombardment at a drastically reduced rate of fire. Now imagine a bombardment that lasts two hours, or three. How many shells will ONE howitzer go through over three hours? What about a battery of four howitzers? Or an entire howitzer regiment?

My edition of “Day M” includes – presumably for added effect – a photograph (included here) of a destroyed ammunition train with multitudes of shells scattered along the ground. And an appropriate caption as well – my God, how many shells! While in reality, the number shown probably wouldn’t suffice for a single bombardment fired by one howitzer regiment.

5. Rezun on the thousands of “war-ending” TB-7 heavy bombers

"With thousands of invincible TB-7s, any invasion can be pre-empted. All one has to do is invite the military representatives of certain states to a firing range somewhere in the Volga steppes, and have them watch the bombers dump from incomprehensible altitude FIVE THOUSAND TONNS OF BOMBS. And to tell them this: this demonstration has nothing to do with you, but rather is a surprise for the capital of whatever state chooses to attack as. Precision? None whatsoever. From whence? We’re bombing from incomprehensible altitude. But a lack of precision will be offset by repeated bombardments. Every day, five thousand tons dropped on the aggressor’s capital, and then on some of his other cities, until we reach the desired result. By the time it takes the enemy to reach Moscow, can you guess how much will be left of his cities? The TB-7s are practically invincible in the air, and their bases are too far inward and too well protected to be reached by invading ground troops. And our probable opponents don’t have strategic bombers of their own. And now, gentlemen, let us drink to everlasting peace...
...so could Stalin’s diplomats address the foreign delegations, had the USSR had a thousand TB-7s. But Stalin refused to build a thousand TB-7s...
If the five thousand tons of bombs dropped in a single TB-7 raid are translated into the language of modern strategy, they amount to FIVE KILOTONS. That’s the terminology of the nuclear age. If five kilotons aren’t enough, two raids will yield ten. And twenty kilotons – that’s roughly what was dropped on Hiroshima."

(“Day M”, Chapter “Why did Stalin destroy his strategic bombers?”, p.353)

During the war, the Allies dropped enough bombs on German cities to make up several hundred Hiroshimas. The destruction was immense, but the German war industry never ceased to function, and the war did not end until Germany itself was overrun. Moreover, the Wehrmacht was still somehow capable of mounting meaningful counter-attacks on two fronts at once. So I’m afraid that two or even five thousand TB-7 could not have averted the war. At worst, the Germans would have busied themselves with developing appropriate countermeasures – e.g. extra-long ranged anti-aircraft artillery and high-altitude interceptors. Although during the war, the Germans did develop a number of super-weapons, to little avail.

Rezun is clearly trying to impress the reader by describing the supposed might of the TB-7 in terms associated with the nuclear age. A few raids by a thousand TB-7s somehow equals a 20-kiloton nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But let’s ask ourselves this – why is it that not a single opponent of nuclear weapons has ever surrendered to their wielder? Not Korea, not Viet Nam, not Iraq in 1991. [This article was written well before the U.S. attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq 2003, though arguably those two regimes were overthrown after suffering conventional military defeats rather than via the threat or actual use of nuclear weaponry – Transl.] That their opponent (the U.S.) possessed one of the most powerful armies in the world and nuclear weapons meant not an iota! They didn’t wind up crawling on their knees before Uncle Sam, begging him for clemency and toasting “everlasting peace”. Instead, they took up arms, and history proved that even a weak and technically backward army can force a powerful nuclear-armed enemy to retreat and sue for peace. So why should Hitler have been afraid of TB-7s, especially since, after all, a TB-7 was not actually a nuclear bomb?

The very approach to the TB-7 question in the above passage is flawed; militarily speaking, a thousand TB-7s cannot be crudely equated to a single atomic weapon. Under this logic, you could translate some large quantity of hand grenades into megatons and try to frighten some enemy with the resulting figures – “just try and attack us, we’ll toss a nuke at you...from our trenches!” Quite a "fearsome" boast!


The pre-war realities of Soviet industry did not permit the engineers and government leaders to entertain any illusions with regards to building that many TB-7s. This is demonstrated by numerous period documents describing actual production plans – they speak not of a thousand, and not even of a hundred, but of barely one or two dozen! Contrast, for instance, the numbers cited in the following two excerpts with Rezun’s “one thousand”:

"In order to provide the Air Force with four-engine military transport and long-range bomber aircraft, the Defence Commissariat orders:
1. To make Narkomaviaprom – Shahurin, A.I. and director of Factory No. 124 Shteinberg – responsible for organizing production of TB-7 aircraft at Factory No. 124. To find that the TB-7 aircraft must fulfil the following functions:
a) long-range bomber;
b) a military transport.
2. To institute prior to the end of 1940 the following TB-7 delivery schedule at Factory No. 124 (in excess of 2 aircraft delivered in the first quarter of 1940):
With engine AM-35A (without ACN-2) – 10 aircrafts;
With engine M-30 – 1 aircraft;
With engine M-40 – 1 aircraft;
With engine M-40F – 1 aircraft.
Total – 13 aircrafts."

Commissariat of Defence Order No.227cc dated May 25, 1940

And the second cite:

7. Due to the delays in prototype construction and the start of mass-production of the TB-7 aircraft (since 1935), which have rendered certain flight performance characteristics of the TB-7 aircraft obsolete compared with other aircraft types, and also due to the lack of combat experience in employment of this aircraft type, the necessity of mass-production of the TB-7 aircraft is placed into question. Maintaining production of the TB-7 aircraft does have a number of advantages:
a) The aircraft’s partial obsolescence is explained by its underdevelopment, which means the full technical potential of the aircraft has not yet been reached;
b) Combat experience with the TB-7 aircraft may be acquired in the near future, as Factory No. 24 has already produced on series (3 units) of the aircraft for testing;
c) The four-engine bomber concept is being heavily promoted overseas;
d) Ending production of the TB-7 would be a serious blow to our production capacity for heavy aircraft (as we do not currently possess a heavy bomber with better performance characteristics);
e) Factory No. 124, which has mastered TB-7 production with considerable difficulty, would have to be switched to producing a different machine, which would delay its full production ramp-up for another two years.
Given this, it is imperative to maintain mass-production of the TB-7 aircraft. At the same time, the Factory No. 124 Design Bureau could be tasked with designing a new, modern plane on the basis of the TB-7."

Explanatory note to the annual report of 11 GU NKAP, dated January 1940

Let’s look at this last phrase one more time – “designing a new, modern aircraft on the basis of the TB-7” – and let’s look at the date – January of 1940. This means that as early as the start of 1940, the TB-7 was already considered to be obsolete.

A very good analysis of the TB-7 is provided by historian Sergei Kharlamov in his critique of Rezun thought his article is in Russian.

6. Rezun on defeating Germany through an assault on the Ploesti oil fields in Romania

"If even a thousand Soviet tanks are committed to destroying the 60 Rumanian machines, hundreds and thousands of other Red Army tanks can engage in an unobstructed advance on Ploesti by the most direct route. Assuming a top speed of 25 kilometres per hour, we would need only 7-8 hours to reach it. One night. Except that ours are not ordinary tanks – they are fast tanks especially created for this type of operation. The terrain before Ploesti is open, with hard ground and good roads. The BT tanks can easily reach 40-50 kilometres per hour, or even 70-80 kilometres per hour if they remove their tracks. THREE hours to reach Ploesti.
And it’s not necessary to have all the tanks reach the oil derricks: just ten would be enough. The oil fields can be ignited with incendiary shells…or a soldier’s lighter."

(“The Last Republic”, Chapter “How many hours to Ploesti”)

I would pay good money to see how Rezun plans to ignite the oil fields with a soldier’s lighter. But let’s press on (same chapter):

"On August 23, 1939, Stalin (with the hand of Molotov) signed in Moscow a pact giving Hitler a war on two fronts, one that allowed the British fleet to blockade Germany and prevent any oil imports by sea. Germany had only one meaningful source of oil remaining. Its loss would have caused Germany’s industry and its army, navy and air force to grind to a halt. It is impossible to wage war without oil. Oil is not just fuel, it is a vital input for the chemical industry, for which there is no substitute. If one Soviet company of ten tanks appears near Ploesti, and if every tanker has a single matchbox in his pocket, the war in Europe will end with the destruction of the Third Reich".

And, finally, Rezun’s summation (same chapter):

"Conclusion: beginning in August of 1939, from the moment the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed, all of Continental Europe lived under the threat of the Soviet axe. A strike at the oil heart of Europe could have been its death knell. All Soviet tanks, both old and new models, fresh from the tank factories or in use for years, constituted a threat not just to Germany, but to all of Europe".

Let’s review: Rezun alleges that to defeat Germany, and perhaps all of Europe, it is sufficient to capture or destroy the Rumanian oil fields.

All right, let’s turn to another source for a moment. For instance, the Military History Journal that Rezun himself so likes to quote. According to its data, in 1941 the Reich itself produced 1.3 million tons of liquid fuels and synthesized a further 4.1-4.3 million tons. Total imports, including from Romania, comprised 5 million tons. Reserves on hand amounted to 8 million tons. Unfortunately, the Military History Journal does not state exactly what proportion of oil imports came from Romania. For argument’s sake, let’s assume Romania accounts for all German imports, and that all of Rumania’s Ploesti output flows into Germany, even though this can’t really be the case – even after Rumania’s incorporation into the Reich, some of its oil production was still being sent to Italy. Thus, in the course of one year and assuming full utilization of existing oil reserves as well as no ability to increase production of synthetic fuels, the total quantity of oil that could be consumed amounts to 18.5 million tons with Rumanian imports, and 13.5 million tons without. As such, even under this theoretical worst-case scenario, the German armed forces’ overall fuel supplies decreased by at most 27%. To reiterate, this scenario assumes that all Rumanian oil flows to the Reich, and that Germany has no other sources of oil imports. The conclusion – the longer the war goes, the greater the impact of losing Rumanian oil, but given the very narrow time frame for the war envisioned by Rezun the loss is fairly meaningless to the German war effort.

In 1941, Ploesti was bombed by the Soviet “DB” bombers. According to Soviet data, the bombings reduced the oil fields’ production capacity by more than 70%. In 1944, Ploesti came under repeated attacks by Allied bombers, and production fell by 50%. In August of 1944, Ploesti was finally overrun by Soviet troops, but German resistance continued until May of 1945 with massive counter-offensives mounted on both Eastern and Western fronts.

Turns out Germany really could continue the war without Rumanian oil. Unsurprisingly, Rezun prefers to omit any actual figures in his discussion of Rumanian oil, lest his theories burst like so many soap bubbles.

7. Rezun on the SU-2 aircraft

"Besides that, during work on the “Ivanov” project someone’s invisible but powerful hand was directing those who strayed from the general course
...Pavel Sukhoi made his first “Ivanov” entirely of metal. Simpler – said someone’s intimidating voice. Leave the wings metallic, but make the fuselage out of plywood. The speed will fall? That’s all right, let it fall. Strange inclinations of Comrade Stalin? No. This is implacable logic: we will strike suddenly, and destroy the enemy air force on the ground, after which we will have the skies to ourselves. The enemy aircraft will become a rarity in the skies.".

(“Day M”, Chapter “Regarding Ivanov”)

Same book (“Day M”) but different chapter – “The Winged Genghis-Khan”:

"Stalin’s plan: create an aircraft that can be produced in quantities far exceeding those of all combat aircraft in all other countries of the world put together. Production plans for the main “Ivanov” model envisioned 100-150 thousand aircraft.
This poses a question: if we produce 100-150 thousand light bombers, won’t our neighbours become disconcerted? Let’s not ask such questions. Let’s not count ourselves as smarter than Stalin. Let’s give our due to Stalin’s cunning.
Stalin never planned to mass-produce the “Ivanov” in peacetime. Not at all. The Soviet mobilization was divided into two periods: open, and secret. The secret mobilization entailed production of a small (by Soviet standards) number of aircraft – only a few hundred
After our first strike, the “Ivanov” will be mass-produced by the tens of thousands. “Ivanov” is an invisible mobilization reserve.".

I don’t quite understand how the USSR can neutralize all (!) enemy aircraft in a single strike if 100 thousand SU-2 bombers will only be produced after the war begins? What exactly will the enemy aircraft be neutralized with? Paint ourselves into a corner again, did we?

I would also like to ask Rezun about the source of his “100 thousand” figure. Rezun himself never bothers to explain this – for him, 100 or 150 thousand is all the same, never mind the 50 thousand (!) difference. Further on down (same book and chapter):

"If along with the SU-2 they had ordered an appropriate number of escort fighters, the SU-2 could have been used under any combat circumstances, for example to mount counter-strikes against an aggressor.
The SU-2 production was halted. It was not necessary for defensive warfare."

So if we’re getting ready for a war of aggression, we need more bombers than fighters, and if we’re planning defensive operations, we need more fighters than bombers. Very well. Now, let’s look at some documents – for instance, a resolution by the Soviet of the People’s Commissars dated April 12, 1941 entitled “On the current production orders of the Defence Commissariat, Fleet Commissariat and the NKVD for the second quarter of 1941” (Russian Federation Archives, F.93). To the reader’s considerable surprise, it turns out that notwithstanding Rezun’s assertions the orders for fighter aircraft significantly exceeded those for bombers:

Fighter aircraft – 2,179 units;
Sturmovik (ground attack) aircraft – 402 units;
Bombers – 1,099 units;
Naval reconnaissance aircraft – 20 units;
Training aircraft – 776 units;
Transport aircraft – 60 units;
Aircraft engines – 9,325 units.

Here, the fighter orders are nearly double those for bomber aircraft. So under Rezun’s logic, what kind of war was the Soviet Union preparing for? Clearly a defensive one!

By the way, the appendix to the same document breaks the figures down by aircraft type. Turns out that during the second quarter of 1941, the total SU-2 production was set at 190 units. Not 190 thousand units, merely 190 units!

Rezun’s “100 thousand” SU-2 aircraft merits further attention. Reading and re-reading Rezun nets zero supporting evidence for this figure. In other words, Rezun made it up. But he did so cleverly – first he throws the number “100 thousand” out there, and then over the span of several pages in the chapter (“The Winged Genghis-Khan”) he repeats it in practically every paragraph. Only when the book reaches its next chapter (“The Incubator”) does he suddenly “explain” the 100 thousand figure:

"This is, of course, merely a coincidence but a Soviet one: in 1936 Stalin issued a secret order authorizing the development of the “Ivanov” aircraft, of which 100-150 thousand units could be produced, and in that same year the Soviet youth organizations decide to train 150 thousand pilots."

Notice Rezun’s cleverness – first he throws out a figure “100 thousand aircraft”, and then adds to it the prototypical Bolshevist slogan “Let’s train 150,000 pilots!” Anyone who had lived in the USSR well knows that there were thousands of these “Let’s” slogans plastered on practically every building, and they were hardly ever taken seriously. By coincidence, the two figures matched, and Rezun discovered Stalin’s grandiose top-secret plans. Though realistically speaking, Rezun probably noticed the “Let’s” slogan first, and then figured that 100 thousand pilots need 100 thousand aircraft. And only then thought up the whole “secret order” story, along with some made-up math to make the story believable.

"The Osoaviahim organization grows steadily. By the end of 1939 it includes 4 flight instructor schools, 12 technical schools, 36 glider clubs and 192 aviation clubs.
How many aircraft did Osoaviahim have – I do not know. However each aviation club is, first and foremost, an airfield. An airfield probably had more than one or two aircraft – why else build it?.."

And so forth. By means of this “kitchen-logic”, the reader is led to believe that the Soviet Union had a veritable horde of aircraft because there were lots of airfields, because there were many aviation clubs. Somehow the fact that several clubs could be attached to the same airfield is conveniently left out. With even two or three clubs attached per airfield, Rezun’s “horde” of aircraft is reduced measurably – and in reality, oftentimes a single airfield hosted a good deal more than three aviation clubs.

Translated by: Gene Ostrovsky
“The History of World War Two” Encyclopedia, 1975, volumes 3-4
Military History Journal 1990-1998
“The Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”, edited by V. Zolotarev et al., 1998, volumes 1-4
G.M. Tretjakov, “Artillery Ammunition”, Voenizdat, 1947
Albert Speer, “Memoirs”
A. Isaiev, “Antisuvorov: the big lie of the little man”, Jauza, 2004
A. Isaiev, “10 Myths of World War Two”, Jauza, 2004
V. Chobitk, “Theory and history of tank design”, article submitted to the journal “Polygon”
T.Jentz, "Panzer Truppen", vol.1, Schiffer Military History, Atglen, PA
U.Feist "The German Panzers from MarkI to MarkV Panther", Aero Publishers Inc.
W.Spielberger, U.Feist "Sturmartillerie" Aero Publishers Inc.
M. Svirin, “Main guns of Soviet tanks 1940-1945”, Armada-Verticale No. 4, 1999
I. Zheltov, M. Pavlov, I. Pavlov, “BT Tanks”, Armada
M. Baryatinskij, “Medium tank T-34”, Armor-collection No.3, 1999
I. Zheltov, M. Pavlov, I. Pavlov, “Soviet medium tanks of the pre-war period”, Eksprint, 2000
Report on numbers and condition of Red Army tanks dated June 1, 1941
Soviet of the People’s Commissars, “On the current production orders of the Defense Commissariat, Fleet Commissariat and the NKVD for the second quarter of 1941”, April 12, 1941
Note to Red Army deputy chief of staff major-general A.M. Vasilevsky entitled “Tank deliveries to newly-formed mechanized corps”
Article by Vasilij Chobitok
Article by Sergei Kharlamov
Article by Mikhail Svirin
Article by Dmitri Khazanov
Web site of M. Geras’kin

Rate this article:
( 15 Votes )
  • markiz
    Posted at 2012-03-24 18:43:56

    Very weak article.
    This seems rather like a personal attack and not constructive critique.
    I was hoping for something better actually, because like you I tend to disagree with Rezun on some matters.
    I've read all of his publications. Although I agree with big percent of his theory, because it's core is proven fact to me or at least makes much more sense than what is common belief about Red Army from that period. On the other hand though I think he gives Red Army too much praise overall. After reading Icebreaker, Day M and Last Revolution and also book about great purge, you got the impression that it was nearly perfect. What he forgets to mention is all of the flaws that occured in the same Red Army and which he described in his first book, which is a big compilation of examples how an Army so great on paper suffers from ridicolous flaws that are consequences of Soviet system.
    Overall Rezun has his view, I've got mine, slightly different, the truth is probably very similar to his version, but not 100%.
    And btw. Rezun never insisted he was a historian actually. He rather describes himself as an amateur. To me he is certainly a source of information of greater value than some proper historians, simply because he was an intelligence officer.

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