Sunday, December 30, 2018

October 7, 1941: Stalin Gets Religion

Tuesday 7 October 1941

A German Sdkfz 250 passes by Russian Eastern Orthodox Church. 7 October 1941
A German Sdkfz 250 passes by a Russian Eastern Orthodox Church.
Eastern Front: On 7 October 1941, Joseph Stalin does something that only a few months previously would have been unthinkable: he lifts the ban on religion in order to boost morale. This is one of a series of moves that Stalin makes to reintroduce defunct aspects of Russian Empire ways, such as removing Commissars from the decision-making process at all army headquarters. Due to previous persecution, in 1941 there are only about 500 churches remaining open out of the 54,000 in existence prior to World War I. However, this decision by Stalin permits thousands of Russian Orthodox churches to reopen until there ultimately are 22,000 in the 1950s.

Women of Ambulance Service receiving decorations at Buckingham Palace 7 October 1941
"Mrs. Armitage (left) and Miss Betty Leverton, of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service, leaving after being decorated by the King at a recent Investiture at Buckingham Palace. Both received the British Empire Medal." 7 October 1941. © IWM (10556138)
The importance of this cannot be overstated. The Russian Empire prior to the 1917 Revolution was a very religious place. The Russian Orthodox Church wielded a great deal of influence and enjoyed official status. The Communist government quickly began suppressing or at least greatly discouraging religion in the 1920s. It founded the League of Militant Atheists in 1925, for instance. Suppression and discouragement of religion was a central tenet of the Soviet State, reflecting Vladimir Lenin's famous comment that:
Religion is the opium of the people: this saying of Marx is the cornerstone of the entire ideology of Marxism about religion. All modern religions and churches, all and of every kind of religious organizations are always considered by Marxism as the organs of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the working class.
Given this attitude toward religion, Stalin must be very worried to go to the extreme of allowing it again.

Soviet soldiers at Kursk
A Soviet soldier kissing his Cross just before the Battle of Kursk in July 1943.
Indeed, Stalin has good cause to be worried, even frightened, by the pace of the Wehrmacht advance on 7 October 1941. The German panzers shrug off the light snowfall during the night. It melts quickly but does have the unfortunate effect of making the dirt roads even muddier than before. The panzers make good progress anyway as Soviet resistance falters. German 10th Panzer Division (General Fischer) enters the Vyazma suburbs by 10:30 and completes the city's capture later in the day. Fischer's men continue north and link up with 7th Panzer Division of Panzer Group 3 (Reinhardt). This closes another massive encirclement around more than four Soviet armies (16th, 19th, 20th, 24th and part of the 32nd Army).

Aborted prisoner swap, 7 October 1941
"A wounded German prisoner, a walking case, coming ashore from the hospital ship." This photo was taken on 7 October. It shows the end of an attempted prisoner exchange, where wounded German POWs were to be exchanged for similar British ones at New Haven and Dieppe. However, Hitler changed his mind at the last minute and blocked the exchange. The German POWs on board hospital ships HMS Dinard and St. Julian were disembarked back in England, as shown in this photo and sent back to their camps or hospitals. © IWM (A 5687).
The Soviet troops in the new pocket, however, are not beaten yet. General Yeremenko (Eremenko), who was wounded on Monday while at the front but escaped from the fast-moving spearhead of General Guderian's 2nd Panzer Army, arrives in Bryansk only to find panzers outside his headquarters and is forced to flee again. Stalin has called in Georgy Zhukov, his top man, from Leningrad to take over Ivan Konev's critical Western Front and finds there is no continuous Soviet line any longer. Zhukov has to talk Stalin out of finding Konev guilty of incompetence and executing him. Late in the day, with the situation crumbling everywhere, Stalin bows to the inevitable and orders a general withdrawal back toward Moscow.
U-190 in
U-190 was laid down on 7 October 1941. This is a photo taken of U-190 after its surrender on 14 May 1941 at Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. Note the numerous late-war enhancements, including the raised snorkel by the man which has the round Wanz radar warning receiver at the top. Behind it on the bridge is a raised periscope and a longwave antenna (starboard forward corner). The "slimming" of the deck in the foreground is not the end of the submarine but rather a cut-away upper deck which it was felt would reduce time to submerge (John Taylor, RCNVR of Hamilton, Ontario, via Bill Taylor and

October 1941

October 1, 1941: Germans and Finns Advance in USSR
October 2, 1941: Operation Typhoon Broadens
October 3, 1941: Air Battles Near Moscow
October 4, 1941: Stalin Contemplates Defeat
October 5, 1941: Hoth Goes South
October 6, 1941: First Snowfall After Dark
October 7, 1941: Stalin Gets Religion
October 8, 1941: FDR Promises Stalin Aid 
October 9, 1941: FDR Orders Atomic Bomb Research
October 10, 1941: Reichenau's Severity Order
October 11, 1941: Tank Panic in Moscow
October 12, 1941: Spanish Blue Division at the Front
October 13, 1941: Attack on Moscow
October 14, 1941: Germans Take Kalinin
October 15, 1941: Soviets Evacuate Odessa
October 16, 1941: Romanians Occupy Odessa
October 17, 1941: U-568 Torpedoes USS Kearny
October 18, 1941: Tojo Takes Tokyo
October 19, 1941: Germans Take Mozhaysk
October 20, 1941: Germans Attack Toward Tikhvin
October 21, 1941: Rasputitsa Hits Russia
October 22, 1941: Germans Into Moscow's Second Defensive Line
October 23, 1941: The Odessa Massacre
October 24, 1941: Guderian's Desperate Drive North
October 25, 1941: FDR Warns Hitler About Massacres
October 26, 1941: Guderian Drives Toward Tula
October 27, 1941: Manstein Busts Loose
October 28, 1941: Soviet Executions
October 29, 1941: Guderian Reaches Tula
October 30, 1941: Guderian Stopped at Tula
October 31, 1941: USS Reuben James Sunk


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