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Chapter Twelve.

Constructing an Alternate Historical Past:
Taking Moscow and Defeating the Soviet Union, August-October 1941

BY 5 August 1941, Army Group Center on the road to Moscow had beaten the Soviets and faced weak Soviet field armies, estimated earlier by the Germans at "parts and remnants" of fifty divisions and a combat strength of thirty-five divisions, compared with sixty intact, individually superior German divisions.{1} The crucial element was time. Although the Soviets stood helpless east of Smolensk, the Germans knew they had put together a total of twenty-eight new divisions, moderately well armed although badly trained. The Soviets massed them with a no-nonsense, survival instinct almost entirely around Moscow. That the Soviets concentrated their strategic reserve around the capital does more to buttress the theme that they had lost the war by early August than perhaps any other argument.

In past wars, the Russians had shown an ingrained mentality, always keeping a substantial reserve even in the most desperate situations.{2} It is not surprising therefore that the Soviet high command shrewdly held back large forces from the doomed front, seeking salvation in some unlikely but possible weakening or error by the Germans. The Soviet high command may also have felt that it had no time to set up additional effective defenses in the area just east of Smolensk. During the first days of August 1941 they would have to have reasoned that the Germans would soon launch yet another inimitable 300-400-km leap forward on the central front. Bordering on collapse, the Soviet high command had few options other than to concentrate the twenty-eight newly raised divisions at Moscow, in defenses before the capital. Soviet forces blocking the way to Moscow between Smolensk and Vyasma might have slowed the Germans enough to allow yet more forces to be concentrated around Moscow. Perhaps the Germans had been weakened by the stubborn defenses and profligate attacks of the Russian soldiers in June and July 1941. Yet the Soviet high command must also have thought that the Germans would dispose of the shaken Soviet forces opposite them in record time, even for Army Group Center. The twenty-eight untrained but moderately well-equipped Soviet divisions deployed around the capital would face, toward the end of August, most of sixty veteran, victorious German divisions. The Soviets faced a challenging situation bor-dering on a nightmare.

How Would the Germans Reach Moscow In August 1941?

Assuming that the alternate past is about to unfold, how would the Germans have reached Moscow in August? Since the Germans did get to Moscow in late November and early December 1941, placing troops in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, it is tempting to take the discrete, reproducible advances of October-November and back them into August. One problem is that the actual advance was discontinuous. The Germans won an immense victory in the double encirclement of Vyasma-Bryansk in the first half of October, then were mired in the mud of the unpaved Russian road system until the last half of November.{3} Recalling that a German offensive on 13 August 1941 would have met warm, dry summer weather, one could make a convincing case that a German summer offensive would have covered more or less the same ground of October-November 1941 in a much shorter time. The case is convincing because the weather would be better, mud would disappear from the equation, and the Soviet armies would be far weaker in front of Moscow. One could say, reasonably, that if the Germans broke through, encircled, and largely eliminated the forces in front of them in a battle from approximately 2 to 14 October 1941, they would take less time against far weaker forces in better weather and longer daylight. With the surrender or near-surrender of the Kessein in the initial advances, they would also be prepared to move on to Moscow almost immediately. When the Germans moved on Moscow early in October, OKH reinforced Army Group Center with the two high command reserve panzer divisions (2d and 5th Panzer Divisions) and armor from Army Group North including the 1st, 6th, and 8th Panzer Divisions. In the hypothetical advance of 13 August 1941 it is reasonable to assume that OKH would have similarly reinforced Army Group Center, especially since Halder insisted in July and August that Army Group North was fighting against a relatively weak opponent in difficult tank country.{4} Army Group Center can be assumed to have an extremely strong mobile force leading the advance. The army group would have held five more panzer divisions than it had in the attacks at Minsk and Smolensk, and it would have attacked its weakest opponent in Barbarossa to that date. The Germans would advance directly east toward Moscow, avoiding significant Soviet strength, dangerous but dangling, to the south around Gomel and similar forces around Toropets to the north. Bock notes that those forces would have been pinned down with similarly sized or even shghtly smaller German infantry forces. The result: Army Group Center would have opened its attack east with a mass of twenty panzer and motorized infantry divisions and approximately twenty-five infantry divisions against a severely shaken Soviet force equivalent to about sixteen numerically intact divisions. The Germans would have fought along a broad front with overwhelming numerical superiority and would have achieved, as attackers (with the initiative), far greater local superiorities. This astonishing situation highlights and underlines the fundamental reality of the German invasion of the Soviet Union: The Germans, who had planned to win quickly, could have done so in August.

The Advance of Army Group Center Into Moscow and Beyond

It is reasonable to reconstruct an advance of Army Group Center in August and to assume that the Army Group would attack with forty-five divisions, almost half of them mobile. It is also reasonable to project the advance from the same positions used by the Germans in the attack of October 1941, except for the southern part of the army group. In the hypothetical August battle, Guderian would have commenced the advance on Moscow farther north, although he probably would have traced an advance similar to the actual October battle. The Germans would have advanced on a narrower front at the start of the attack, so it would be reasonable to assume that Panzer Groups Hoth and Hoepner would have linked up near Vyasma, shaken free of the lines of encirclement in eight days, then advanced on approximately 21 August 1941 for objectives around Moscow. Guderian would not have been involved in an encirclement near Bryansk. He would have advanced instead directly through that city in a wide swing to the south of Moscow, probably seizing Tula, the great munitions center, about the same time Hoth and Hoepner were moving out from around Vyasma, about 190 km to the west.

Unlike in mid-October 1941, when they were halted by autumn rain and mud on an unpaved road system,{5} the Germans would have driven immediately into the Soviet strategic reserve around Moscow and the defenses being put up before the city. They would have enjoyed late summer weather, with long days and strong support from the Luftwaffe. They would also advance into reserve forces without combat experience, with only a scattering of T-34 tanks. In August 1941, the mobile forces of Hoth and Hoepner would have to be projected within a few days into aft area that they had reached later, after Hitler's strategic delay and the'twin disasters of mud and record cold. Within approximately five days, Hoth and Hoepner could be projected as moving to Kalinin and Klin, northwest of Moscow, and Podosk to the south. As Guderian converged on Minsk and Smolensk earlier in the campaign, he would now be converging to the east of Moscow and across the Oka River at Kolomna. On 26 August 1941, the Germans would have been near the locations reached in the campaign interrupted by Hitler, then delayed into October and November 1941.

Three days later, on 29 August, the three panzer groups would have converged on Moscow: Hoth's troops across the Moscow-Volga canal at Dimitrov to seize Zagorsk, Hoepner's forces into suburbs from the south, and Guderian's troops cutting the great highway between Moscow and Gorki at Noginsk, 50 km east of the capital. The Soviets appear not to have had any intention to fight in Moscow; the city had no citadel comparable with that at Brest, nor seacoast and great lake as at Leningrad, nor favorable strategic circumstance as in Stalingrad. The Soviets intended to evacuate the place, then begin to trade space for time to somehow survive east of the Volga. With powerful German forces all around a relatively indefensible city, it is tempting to conclude that the Germans would have possessed the capital in the next day or so, approximately 31 August 1941, in the middle stages of eliminating the pockets formed to the west and south of Moscow.

The Final Leap: Early Autumn Drive to Gorki, September 1941,
and the Destabilization of the Soviet Strategic Position West of the Volga

Assuming that Army Group Center would take approximately six additional days to capture the Soviets in the pockets around Moscow, it would then face five days of reorganization, rest, and maintenance of equipment in Moscow, in a great arc around it. Then, on approximately 11 September 1941, Army Group Center would have one more great pounce in it before the winter paralysis of large-scale offensive military operations. Seizing Moscow, Army Group Center would, in one stroke, have destabilized the Leningrad and Kiev fronts. The Soviets at Leningrad would have been automatically and immediately cut off from all the supply fundamentals— food from the greater food-producing areas of the state, ammunition, and fuel. Army Group Center in Moscow stood astride the rail, telephone, and road communications between Leningrad and the remainder of the Soviet Union. Only two moderate-capacity, tortuous connections would exist between the Baltic and the rest of Russia, and both would soon be cut by the Germans. Affixed strategic relationship existed between Leningrad and Moscow in the event of an attack by an enemy from the west. The fall of Moscow would lead automatically to the fall of Leningrad, whereas the fall of Leningrad leads only 650 km farther to the southeast to Moscow.

Seizing Moscow, the Germans predetermined the fall of Leningrad, but they had not entered into the same strategic equation with Kiev and the eastern Ukraine. In the south, Soviet forces in the Ukraine faced strategic disaster, but they could with difficulty be resupplied by rail and retreat from that vast theater of operations on the same rail lines. The Soviets had come under heavy pressure in the Ukraine between 13 August and II September. Army Group South fought the great encirclement battle at Uman, completing it by 8 August, and pressed on to eliminate the Soviet forces west of the Dnieper, including those in the great eastward bend of the river. Resisting the temptation to diffuse its strength in side excursions and to expect too much of its willing but weak allies, Army Group South gave the fourteen-division Romanian army and the smaller Hungarian and Italian forces the safe southern sector of the Ukraine. The Allied forces, totalling twenty division-and brigade-level formations, were to seal off the Soviet forces in the Crimea and advance on a moderate-width front directly east along the Sea of Azov. With a secure flank on the sea, the Allied forces would advance into the Don Basin against potentially strong Soviet forces. They would be accompanied to the north by powerful German force attacking with deadly final purpose in the Ukraine. The Allies would tie up important Soviet forces.

The Great Battle Southeast of Moscow

By 31 August 1941. the same day that Army Group Center seized Moscow and an immense arc around it, Army Group South concentrated the bulk of its forces—the 17th Army, Panzer Group Kleist, and the 11th Army (disentangled from the allies in the south)—in the great bend of the Dnieper. Generalfeidmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. a skilled commander and forceful and determined like Bock, resisted the lure of heading east into the Don Basin and southeast to Rostov, seeking instead a showdown with his stubborn and skillful opponent in the Ukraine. As the Germans closed on Moscow in the last week of August, it was apparent that the Soviet position at Kiev—and virtually the entire Ukraine— would be untenable, then encircled, if the Germans used their last two pounces in the campaign season of 1941. To develop a picture of the hypothetical defeat of the Soviet Union, a "pounce" is a useful term to describe a German panzer drive of about 400 km, lasting from two to three weeks, and causing great carnage and disarray within the opponent's forces. On 31 August 1941, OKH knew that Bock had one more pounce in Army Group Center, probably to start about II September. Simultaneously, OKH concentrated Army Group South in the great bend of the Dnieper against a shaken opponent.

About a week earlier, the Soviet command in the Ukraine faced the impending fall of Moscow and knew it would be left to fend for itself. The Soviet southern command knew that the supreme command was determined to defend Moscow and that the capital's fall would result in the destruction of the weakened but powerful forces defending it and annihilation of the Soviet strategic reserve. The mere presence of Germans in Moscow was a deadly danger to communications on the Soviet Ukrainian front, demanding an immediate withdrawal to the east out of range of the German capa-bihty in space (Moscow) and time (late August) to exploit the situation into a grand encirclement. With the collapse at Moscow, and while displacing itself far to the east across the Volga, the Soviet high command ordered the Ukrainian front forces to withdraw.

The German high command had won Hitler over to continuation of the offensive toward Moscow by guaranteeing that the fall of Moscow would lead immediately to seizing Leningrad and the Ukraine. Army Group South detected signs of a Soviet withdrawal in the last days of August and began to press OKH for a decision on the time, direction, and objective of a concentrated drive out of the great bend of the Dnieper. Brauchitsch, Halder, Bock, and Rundstedt had to make an immense, coordinated decision. They had won the war—exemplified by the seizure of Moscow—on 31 August 1941, but they still could lose it. For military leadership as decisively oriented as the German, the decision was a choice between turning about and destroying the Soviet forces around Leningrad and Kiev, or continuing the drive to the east.

Faced with lingering Soviet recuperative powers by the government and people and the necessity to finish the bypassed Soviets on the wings of the advance, the German leaders faced a cruel choice between being decisive in one direction or another. They were also forced by Hitler's nervous fears to halt the drive to the east to ensure the half-successes so dear to the heart, mind, and style of the supreme commander. The Soviet collapse at Moscow, however, opened new possibilities in the war; opposite Army Group Center, destruction of the Soviet strategic reserve forced Soviet armed forces remnants on the central front to escape—not trade space for time, but essentially escape—to the Volga. There, a remote chance existed that a discredited government might mobilize forces farther east and stay in the war at about half strength or less. In the first week of September 1941, considering the Soviets weakness, the Germans could perhaps have their cake and eat it too—they could advance to the east while destroying the most important target on the wings.

Late in August 1941, OKH anticipated the fall of Moscow about 31 August. The high command also observed signs of disengagement on the southern front. A crucial juncture had arrived in the Second World War in Europe, compelling OKH to issue the following orders on the last day of August 1941 to bring the war to an end in 1941:

1. General: Enemy confused and in disarray at Moscow. Signs of general withdrawal in Ukraine. Situation must be exploited immediately to destroy enemy forces still resisting and to seize territory east of Moscow crippling further mobilization and ending war in this year.

2. Missions: Army Group Center exploits enemy disorganization to advance to area Jaroslav, Gorki, Penza and organize winter positions. Center links up with Army Group South in area southwest of Yelets to encirde and destroy enemy Ukrainian front armies. Army Group South attacks northward immediately from great bend in Dnieper toward Kursk to encircle enemy in Ukraine. Army Group North pins down and destroys enemy in place exploiting new axis of advance from Kalinin.

3. Tasks:

a. Army Group Center: Pz. Gp. Hoth sends flying columns of one mobile division each to secure Jaroslow and Gorki prior to arrival of infantry. Mass of group concentrates at Murom and advances to Penza. Pz. Gp. Hoepner concentrates at Kashira and advances south to vicinity of Yelets to link up with Pz. Gp. Kleist and ensure destruction of enemy in Ukraine, 9th Army secures winter positions along front Gorki-Yurievets-Kostroma and seizes Volgda to block enemy communications to Leningrad. Army transfers three divisions to Kalinin for attack toward Leningrad under operational control of Army Group North, 2d Army advances east behind Pz. Gp. Hoth to set up winter positions along Sura and Uza Rivers to Pensk. Army transfers one division to Kalinin for attack towards Leningrad.

b. Army Group South: Pz. Gp. Kleist. 17th Army. and 11th Army advance across Dnieper between Kremenchug and Dnepropetrovsk. Pz. Gp. Kleist advances through Kharkov to Kursk to link up with Panzer Group Hoepner southwest of Yelets and destroy enemy trapped to west. Army Group takes over operational control of Pz. Gps. Guderian and Hoepner in area south of Yelets and coordinates entire battle of encirclement, 11th Army follows behind Pz. Gp. Kleist providing security for east flank and reinforcement as required on lines of encirclement, 17th Army advances inside (west) of Pz. Gp. Kleist intercepting enemy force withdrawing from Kiev and sets lines of encirclement, 6th Army engages enemy around Kiev and slows withdrawal movements to east. Army takes operational control over Army Group Center forces opposite enemy group at Gomel. Army Group follows destruction of enemy forces with move east into winter positions along line Penza-Rtischev-Novo Khopersi and a line farther south to assure occupation of the Donets Basin and Rostov.

c. Army Group North: 18th Army attacks enemy around Leningrad to break up and prevent withdrawal eastward, 16th Army attacks enemy west of Lake lirnen to break up and prevent withdrawal eastward. Army takes operational control of four divisions at Kalinin and drives westward into flank and rear of enemy.

Attacked and pursued under the above order in September 1941, Soviet armed forces on the central front, which had collapsed with the seizure of Moscow on 31 August, were forced to trade space for time and withdraw precipitously east of the Volga. Army Group Center executed the pursuit to the Volga and Sura rivers with the determination characteristic of its commander and, at the end of September, had deployed the twenty-one divisions of the 9th, 4th and 2d Armies along an extended, discontinuous front backed in depth by a mobile reserve comprising the eight panzer and motorized infantry divisions of Panzer Group Hoth. With German troops of Army Center in Kalinin (26 August) and Jaroslaw (3 September), OKH now found Army Group North essentially behind Army Group Center. OKH had encircled the Soviet forces on the Leningrad front by seizing Moscow and moving the 9th Army east and northeast beyond the capital. Soviet forces on the Baltic front were the weakest enemy during the campaign, and evidence exists to show that the Soviet high command sensed that of three critical areas—Moscow, Leningrad, and the Ukraine— that might have to be given up, Leningrad was the most expendable. Cut off entirely from the east with the accompanying fear and panic, bombarded by the air-delivered German surrender leaflets, and attacked from a decisive new direction by the Germans from the south-east, Soviet forces on the northern front disintegrated. OKH pressed Army Group North and the Finns to finish this battle quickly, then transferred the army group east during October and November 1941 to Moscow to serve as a great strategic reserve for the eastern front and a counterbalance to any Soviet attempt at revival during the winter of 1941-1942.

OKH faced its greatest danger and opportunity in the south. The seizure of Moscow had made the Ukraine untenable, forcing Soviet forces to withdraw to the east. These extremely powerful forces could not be followed east, for if they made it back to the Don and Donets intact they would represent a concentration of "unbeaten" strength, a catalyst to revive a discredited government and a beaten armed forces. Certainly, few doubted by the end of September 1941 that the Soviets had been soundly defeated at Leningrad and Moscow.

OKH ordered a decisive drive of Panzer Group Kleist into the area around Tim (east of Kursk) to intercept Soviet forces in the Ukraine and force them to fight with their front reversed. The 11th and 17th Armies attacked, with the mobile force to the northeast, echeloning their divisions behind Panzer Group Kleist to intercept the Soviet forces attempting to return through Sumy and Kursk to the east. Ten days after the advance started, mobile divisions of Panzer Group Kleist were in Belgorod, with an advanced detachment halted by strong Soviet resistance at Obojan, 70 km farther north. The Soviets, closely pursued by the 6th Army and nine divisions of Army Group Center from the Gomel area, were determined to keep open a wide escape corridor north and south of Kursk. Checked at Obojan on 9 September 1941, Kleist shifted two of his following divisions farther east to seize Tim, on the great road east out of Kursk, and block Soviet forces attempting to break out south of the city.

On 8 September 1941, the six divisions of Panzer Group Hoepner advanced southward along two axes to link up with Army Group South. Shortage of fuel forced Army Group Center to start the operation with only Hoepner's divisions and order Guderian to advance about 10 September, when army group supply and transportation would have relieved the temporary shortage. Hoepner's lead divisions advanced very fast through terrain partly cleared of Soviets by the earher advance to Moscow. They entered terrain only Ughtly held by an enemy withdrawing southeast to the Volga, unable to be redirected by a disrupted Soviet command to hold up the panzer group. The leading division seized Yelets and the bridge across the Sosna River in a coup de main during the early morning of 11 September 1941. Hoepner moved two divisions through Yelets, to the east and southeast, to block the terrain north of Kleist's units at Tim. By 12 September, strong Soviet forces moved through the unoccupied space between the two German mobile division, but by evening two more German divisions were in position, and by noon next day a total of six German divisions blocked the Soviet retreat north of Tim. The battle was centered just east of Kursk in relatively open terrain, favorable to the encircling Germans. The violent battle continued until 19 September, when the pattern of mass surrender in the other great pockets repeated itself, and the Russians surrendered in droves. By 23 September 1941, Army Group South had largely eliminated the Kursk pocket and gave its formations five days for rest and maintenance prior to moving to winter lines for the year.

The casualties, estimated at almost five million, must be added to the German occupation of the mobilization center of Soviet Russia between Moscow and the Volga. The Germans had inflicted so many casualties and occupied so much of the heavily populated area of Soviet Russia that they had fundamentally changed the strategic balance in the war. They had accomplished a similar result by seizing a large percentage of the industrial capacity of the Soviet state.

The data for the year 1955 show that depending on the analysis by city or by region, the Germans occupied in the hypothetical advance by 10 October 1941 between 39 and 49 percent of the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union as distributed geographically in 1955. The distribution, however, was different in October 1941, concentrated farther west, even considering the frantic and effective Soviet transfer of industrial plant toward the Urals. A reasonable estimate of the percentage of Soviet industrial plant seized by the Germans by 10 October 1941 would be greater than 39 percent—the minimum possible using 1955 data for output by cities—and is estimated higher, at approximately 45 percent of the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union in 1941. The percentages for industrial output by regions indicate that the industrial output seized by the Germans in the hypothetical case could be somewhat higher.

How do the casualties inflicted, the populated area seized, and the industrial capacity taken affect the issue of the Germans' winning the Russian campaign? The &gures are so overwhelming that they support a conclusion that, even if the Soviets managed to suborn the Russians into continuing the war, the result was foregone by October 1941. In 1941 the Soviet Union was European Russia, a vast area stretching from the old Polish border to the Urals. That Russia represented a special synthesis of Russian people (largely Russian Slavic). Russian space, Russian resources, Russian strategic relationships, and a special half-Russian bureaucracy. By October 1941, that synthesis, which represented so much political and military strength, had been changed greatly—bent to the point that it could be considered broken. Otto von Bismarck, uni-fier of modem Germany and a tough realist, described Russia as an elemental force, rather like the weather, and essentially bigger than life. By October 1941, the German army had seized half of European Russia, including Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Gorki, and Kharkov, the five most populous cities in the state,{6} and reduced Bismarck's Russia to less than "elemental" proportions. A relatively unscathed German army, though admittedly tired and impressed with its accomplishments, controlled half of European Russia and, perhaps more important, did so with a psychological superiority reflected in the words of a Russian officer prisoner: "The Germans will take Moscow. It will be a tough fight but the Germans will take Moscow." This psychologically accurate statement says it all: The Russian officer perceived that the war would end with the capture of the region around the capital because the Russians would have neither the physical strength nor the will to continue the fight.

It is not known if in the German advance to the Volga in October 1941 the Soviet Communists could have kept the Russians fighting determinedly in the war. From an analysis of casualties, population base, and industrial plant, even if the Communist leadership had managed to keep resistance alive, it could not have been sustained by the reduced amount of support. This generalization about Soviet resistance seems true, particularly against a physically intact and psychologically supreme invading army. From it stems the interpretation of the Second World War in Europe that the Soviet Union would likely have been defeated, despite coherent and determined resistance in the spring of 1942. It is also possible to visualize a disintegration of Communist control in the east, reflected in a Communist retreat with a small cadre of forces to a remote corner of the Soviet Union. Then, the war would have been largely over by 1941 instead of clearly and irrevocably won.

The Germans, by taking Moscow relatively easily in August 1941, would have won the war based on another factor not yet discussed. In 1941 Moscow was the center of the European Russian rail, automobile highway, and telephone systems. That year, strategic movement in European Russia was almost entirely by railroad. The unpaved automobile road system, impassable in autumn and spring and difficult during heavy snowfall in winter, made it subordinate to the rail system for shifting troops and moving supplies and industrial production. The Soviet defense of Leningrad and the Ukraine depended on controlling the rail lines and vast marshalling and storage facilities of Moscow. When the Germans seized the great Soviet rail system hub on 31 August 1941, they controlled all of Soviet Russia to the north, west, and south of the hub. The Soviet field armies west of Moscow were cut off strategically from the remainder of the state and would be forced to withdraw or be destroyed.

The Germans had taken Moscow with light losses and moved well to the east before being halted by a combination of muddy roads and outrunning the supply system. Then, the Germans needed time to push the rail heads forward into the Soviet Union, particularly Moscow, and then expand to the east and southeast. Curiously, the timing of events was almost ideal from the German viewpoint. Forced to halt by the unpaved roads, they decided to winter close to their positions and had the opportunity to extend the German normal-gauge rail lines to rail heads close by. As Army Group Center moved out from Moscow in the second week of September 1941, the railway pioneers and supporting labor service battalions had connected Smolensk with Moscow by one normal-gauge double-track line. With a rail head at Moscow and significant numbers of captured Soviet vehicles, the Germans survived the attrition of their supply services trucks from the rail heads to the advancing troops. The German rail head at Moscow assured Army Group Center of logistic supply to continue the advance eastward until the autumn mud. The Germans aggressively regauged the Russian rail system radiating from Moscow to the east and assured themselves of the logistical capability to maintain the initiative should they encounter strong Soviet resistance along the Volga. For the Soviet high command, German seizure of the Moscow rail hub splintered the existing front into three pieces, each isolated from the other. Those to the northwest, around Leningrad, and southwest, around Kiev, faced quick destruction. When the Germans entered Moscow, they reduced the &ghting quickly to a single, compact central front. The north was immediately sealed off and the Soviet forces trapped there quickly destroyed. The south was half isolated, and strong Soviet forces in the Ukraine would be intercepted and destroyed. The remaining territory in the Caucasus was outflanked strategically by the Germans, more than 1,200 km away at Moscow, but in command of the Soviet rail net.

When the Soviets gave up Moscow on 31 August 1941 and began to trade space for time to reach the Volga, they lost the strategic center in European Russia and any traditional focus for continuing serious resistance. A fair question is, where would the Soviet government set up its new capital, and how would that capital reflect Soviet chances of winning the campaign? Kazan and Kubyshyev were too close to the Volga, and Perm or Sverdlovsk, in the central Urals, so distant as to highlight the Soviet defeat. With the Germans in Moscow and Gorki, what credibility resided in the Soviet Communists, and how could they coordinate a war from, for example, Sverdlovsk? Even at Perm, the Soviet government would be fighting for its own legitimacy and credibility. The relocation of the capital to a location as far east as Perm (modern Molotov) not only focuses the fundamentally changed strategic relationships but also portends the likely collapse of the Soviet government.

However, the great unknown in the hypothetical events of August-October 1941 is not whether the Germans won the campaign against the Soviet Union. The casualties inflicted, mobilization base seized, industrial output denied, and the special transportation and communications advantages acquired by taking Moscow point with certainty to a German victory by October 1941. The most important unknown is whether the Germans could finish the campaign, occupying most of European Russia and keeping the Soviets by bay with an occupying force. The occupation forces would be impressive, even including a strong operational mobile element to conduct panzer forays from a kind of Militargreaze (a military frontier, with implications of fluctuation and dispute) in the Urals. The panzer forays would resemble the Mongol golden horde against Muscovite Russia on a previous occasion, using flying columns of superior steppe cavalry to penetrate the forest country, extracting tribute, ensuring obedience, and then departing.

Under the favorable strategic calculus of November 1941, the Germans could have taken advantage of the frozen ground from mid-month onward to launch panzer raids eastward{7}. These would keep the operational situation fluid and, in one or two areas, seize and hold territory. Hypothetically, operations resulting in a German advance to the Volga would permit the advancing field armies to winter on a line between Penza and Balashov, about 150 km northwest of Saratov. This was an industrial center on the Volga in the center of a transportation network, the last effective link between the Soviet rump area to the east and the Caucasus. By 10 October 1941, the Germans concentrated most of Panzer Groups Guderian and Hoepner facing Saratov. They could have taken that city and the surrounding area after the ground-hardening freezing weather with the assistance of the 6th Army, which moved into the area after September operations in the Ukraine. That move would reduce the possibilities of successful Soviet resistance in the Caucasus and kept the Soviets off balance on the Volga.

This discussion represents, of course, the worst case for the Germans. In this case. the Germans have won the war by maintaining their strength intact and fundamentally changing the strategic balance in their favor. The Germans cannot lose; the question is when the campaign can be considered finished. The Soviets have denied reality and are determined to bring down the state with them in a continued, bloody, conventional war. At the end of the war, the Soviets would attempt to conduct protracted guerrilla warfare in the Urals. Then, the Germans would probably have ended the conventional war by mid-summer 1942, occupying the Caucasus and territory east of the Moscow-Gorki area close to the Urals.

In contrast to that analysis, which highlights the worst case for the Germans, it is probably as reasonable to consider a course in which the Soviet Communist government collapses after revealing its incapacity to secure the capital of Soviet Russia. Even by imperial Russian standards of centralized bureaucratic excess and local landlord severity, the Communist dictatorship had been harsh. As in the past, the Russians had suffered such treatment because of a pervasive national fear of the outside world, but once the brutal, familiar dictatorship could not keep the enemy out of its own capital, they had cause and opportunity to rid themselves of a dictatorship tainted by its emphasis on nonnational urban workers of the world in a state dominated by peasantry with roots in a different past. The opportunistic call of the Soviet government on 3 July 1941 for a patriotic war was flexible but desperate and transparent. If the Soviet Communists could provide evidence that they would win, the Russians peasantry would continue resistance in a unique national brotherhood—Communist with Russian.

With the attack of Army Group Center on 13 August 1941 and the fall of Moscow on 31 August 1941, one must consider that the Soviet government could have lost its capability to mobilize the peasants and would have disintegrated politically. Strong anticommunist currents survived in Russia, which could have combined to end the war in late autumn 1941 with mass support of a peasantry unwilling any longer to be shot either by Soviet commissar or German combat soldier. Then, the campaign could have ended with "negotiations" between a Russian government and the National Socialists, while the German army advanced eastward against a small, rump Communist government and forces loyal to it. Regarding the potential for collapse of the Communist government, these possibilities are summed up effectively in the words of a Russian prisoner in July 1941 to his captors: "Where have you been; we have been waiting for you for 23 years."