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History, Reference, Research, and GrogTalk => Military (and other) History => Topic started by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 12:58:54 PM

Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 12:58:54 PM
And lo, my often hinted-at project stands at last revealed! -- a chronological sequence for Victor Suvorov's Icebreaker Thesis material, as found in the 2012 editions of his English translations of Icebreaker and Chief Culprit!

Considering I have 875 pages of notes consolidated from those two books (and a few more pages still to add), I'm planning to post in several large threads to help with topical focus (and then also subtopics within those threads).

This post will be the Table of Contents links to other threads (and possibly to subtopics within those threads), to be updated as I go; and then an introduction to the topic in subsequent posts for this thread.

What am I even talking about...?! Roughly speaking, this is a theory about Stalin's grand strategic goals and policies leading into and through early World War II. It's a theory, and so also a story, as cold and sweeping as the Russian steppes! At the time of Suvorov's original publication of Icebreaker, it was also a highly controversial theory, although nowadays rather less so at least among military history geeks.  8)

As for more specifics, that's what the Introduction below is about.

And as for more detail (several hundred pages worth)... well, that's what the Table of Contents will be about. I'm aiming to catch up with June 21st 1941 entries by June 21st 2020, if I can, but we'll see...

TABLE OF CONTENTS (hyperlinked)

Introduction (this thread, duh)
Ultimate War (
The Nazis Arise (
Preparing the War (
Igniting the War (
Hell Freezes Over (
Unbearable Decisions (
Countdowns (
The Greatest In All History (
The Day Before (
The Day of Truth (
Against the Power that Rises in the East (

(now complete!)

(addendum threads maybe listed here eventually ;) )

Obviously, by posting this material I am also calling for extensions or corrective commentary from fellow Grogheads who may have more sources than I do on any of the topics involved! -- so feel free to comment freely, here or in other threads. (Just try not to get the thread sent to RPFW, please. ;) )
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:08:25 PM

Vladmir Bogdanovich Rezun, a former analyst for the Soviet Army intelligence branch (the GRU), defected to the United Kingdom on June 10, 1978, also smuggling out his wife and two children through Switzerland where he last worked for the GRU as an undercover agent in the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Since then he has written on a number of fictional and historical topics, under the pen name Viktor Suvorov (taking the last name of a pre-Soviet Russian General, for whom a series of Soviet military academies were also named, from one of which Rezun claims to have graduated, although I don't know how far that has been verified). He has written most notoriously on the geo-political and military strategy of Josef Stalin leading up to and through World War II.

This set of theories is usually known as the Icebreaker Thesis, after the name of Suvorov's first book on the topic, published in 1988, in English in 1990, and re-released in 2012 (with a few obvious updates for new information) in English as Icebreaker: Who Started World War II. More specifically, the thesis refers to Hitler being nicknamed the "Icebreaker of the Revolution", supposedly by Stalin. (Suvorov claims, in both books, that Stalin called Hitler this, but gives no reference I can find, either in Icebreaker or later in the more extensive Chief Culprit.)

Suvorov to date has published ten works on part or all of his thesis, the latest (and second) in English being 2012's (re-release of 2009's) The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II. This incorporates material from Icebreaker and four more books on the topic afterward. Razgrom, in English Defeat, is Suvorov's latest book on the topic to date (as far as I've been able to find), published in Russian in 2010, but has not yet been translated to English as of March 2020.

Since I cannot read Russian, I am restricted to the English sources, including two lectures given by Suvorov during 2009 in America (at the Woodrow Wilson Center of Congress, and at the Naval Academy) while promoting the first English release of Chief Culprit.
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:17:33 PM
The Icebreaker Thesis argues that Stalin encouraged and enabled Hitler to wage war upon Europe, so that Stalin would have both a political excuse and a strategic opportunity to attack a weakened Nazi Germany and Europe more generally later, and so to capture Europe for himself as Europe's savior. Thus the metaphor of Hitler being an "Icebreaker for the Revolution": on this plan, a true worldwide Marxist revolution of the workers against the property-owners, would be prepared by the Nazi regime crippling the power of the property-owners, acting like an "icebreaker" ship to break up sea ice so that other ships can get through.

The "Icebreaker" metaphor gives an impression by its association, that Hitler and Stalin were closely cooperating together the whole time, as a real icebreaker cooperates with the fleet it is trying to help; but the actual thesis involves Hitler and Stalin competing against one another to see who will be the true heir and enactor of Karl Marx's worldwide socialist revolution.

Suvorov repeatedly clarifies this, but his thesis also attempts to account, more cleanly than other theories, for Stalin's choices to briefly ally with Hitler in conquering Poland, and to supply Hitler, his own mortal enemy, with crucial war-making resources (without which Hitler's war in Europe would not have been possible) even while Stalin was preparing his own nation to fight Hitler.

Consequently, there are two main halves to the thesis, connected to but also somewhat independent of each other in category:

1.) Stalin's geo-political strategy to use Hitler and the Nazi regime to prepare Europe for his own conquest (i.e. the "Icebreaker" part of the Icebreaker thesis);


2.) Stalin's intention to invade Europe through attacking and defeating Nazi Germany (and Germany's ally Romania), using a surprise blitzkrieg of his own. This side of the thesis has much, much more material.
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:18:56 PM
The Icebreaker Thesis is very much a cumulative argument, based on hundreds of data claims connected by a proportionately complex overall rationale. This complexity makes the thesis hard to fully grasp; but it also makes the thesis hard to fully criticize and so also to fully rebut: significant portions of the overall thesis could be proven factually wrong and/or logically invalid, without necessarily killing the thesis and its key theories as a whole.

To pull a semi-random example: Suvorov's claims about the purely offensive nature and the generally superior quality of early Soviet military hardware, leading up to and through the German invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa), could be refuted at least in regard to the weight of his repeated emphases, without damaging his overall case for how that hardware was being strategically developed and deployed. Whether various speedy light tanks could only be feasibly used on offense (as Suvorov argues), or could also be feasibly used in a mobile defense across large areas (as his critics tend to rebut him), doesn't matter in the long run. If Stalin is arranging his light tanks in offensive ways, tactically, operationally, and strategically, as well as talking with his officers about using them on offense, and having his troops trained exclusively (or even very primarily) on using them offensively, with any defensive training being focused on creating stop-hit counterattacks (using counterattacks to stop attacks) but with clear evidence that Stalin did not expect his officers to need to use such defensive counterattacks -- if these and other such claims are demonstrably true, then they reveal Stalin's intentions for the design of those tanks. Even if a few of those other considerations are demonstrably false, enough may remain to solidly ground the theory that Stalin intended to invade Germany first, thus supporting the overall Icebreaker thesis to that extent.

That is the level of analysis required to evaluate the Icebreaker Thesis. Critical thinking has to be applied across a set of data as wide as the Russian steppes: including some strategic considerations of the implications of the Russian steppes themselves!

That means there's no easy way to evaluate the theory. Consequently, you should be suspicious of anyone trying to decisively promote or reject the theory based on a few relatively simple arguments. They might, of course, have far more detailed analytical reasons for their promotion or rejection, and may only have the time and energy, under the circumstances, to flick out a few samples. But if they try to claim that those few examples are sufficiently decisive by themselves? -- the only way to directly evaluate whether they've hit upon a decisive proof, for or against, in one or two examples, is to have a working grasp of the whole thesis.

And that isn't easy.
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:24:18 PM
Partly that isn't easy, because Suvorov occasionally appeals to classified or secret sources (although he also claims that he can provide them to researchers and critics upon request; though then again, in some cases he could at best provide notes he has taken from sources that he cannot access any longer.) Such claims, by their nature, can only be evaluated for logical validity, and in their factual plausibility compared to other claims which can be checked (or, ideally, which are already well known to be true).

But gaining a working grasp of the whole thesis also isn't easy because Suvorov tends to jump around a lot in his chronology and topicality.

Much of the Icebreaker Thesis involves proposing a more-or-less coherent strategic plan by Stalin over time, in relation to other people developing plans over time, with adjustments by the primary actors as time goes along. Therefore, I have decided to try summarizing the material chronologically.

While I currently lean somewhat strongly in favor of the Icebreaker Thesis, I have no ideological or political or other stakes in its general truth -- mostly because I don't regard its general contentions as being especially controversial. If the material thus arranged reveals substantial holes, so be it. I consider this a personal exercise in better understanding a topic I find interesting. Perhaps my results will also be helpful for other people to understand the thesis, and even to improve their arguments, whether for or against it.

Occasionally, I will supplement the claims of the thesis with interesting material I consider relevant, such as Hitler's first attempt to invade Poland immediately after agreeing to the Ribbentrop Pact -- an aborted effort which Suvorov, for whatever reason, doesn't mention. (It isn't well known; but it also bumps a little into his account of the Hitler/Stalin negotiations and plans over removing Poland.)

And, as you may have already noticed, I'll occasionally critique Suvorov's data or logic or presentation along the way! -- which could strengthen or weaken his thesis overall (or even both). Stringing together his data has allowed me, perhaps, to provide an answer to a substantial puzzle left over by Suvorov up to 2012 -- a puzzle connected to his mocking critique of both Hitler and, to a much less degree, Stalin in their steps toward war with each other. (More about this much, much later...)
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:26:32 PM

On June 22, 1941, Germany under the Nazi leadership and government attacked Russia under the Soviet leadership and government. (Thus usually I'll talk about "Nazis" vs "Soviets" even though not all Germans attacking Russia were part of the National Socialist Party. Similarly I'll often shorthand the governments, as Suvorov does, to their respective autocratic tyrants, as Hitler vs. Stalin.)

The Soviet government at that time (and long before and long afterward) controlled the media with a tight grip, often authoring the propaganda of the media directly -- as also in Nazi Germany. Starting soon after that day, Communist propaganda starts talking in thousands of books, and tens of thousands of articles, and radio and TV broadcasts, about the dastardly Nazis of course -- but also about the Red Army's blatant unpreparedness for military action. All those sources paint a picture (as Suvorov was well familiar with, growing up with an analytical interest and talent in Russia's military history) of cowardly Stalin, who foolishly trusted Hitler, and who acted stupidly in preparations before the war. They don't start talking about him being murderously and self-destructively insane until his successors arrive, but they go quite far in denouncing him as almost-fatally incompetent, and authoritatively responsible for the disaster.

They talk about how Stalin, the man who gave himself the name of "man of steel", was so scared that he went into hiding and would not show himself. They talk about the Red Army that had no good commanders -- partly because Stalin had killed them all! They talk about the terrible ineptitude of the Soviet military leaders whom Stalin preferred to survive his Great Purge, and about the absence of their war planning. They talk about how Soviet tanks were outdated, and how Soviet airplanes were just "flying coffins"; all of them vehicles which Stalin had approved as fit for Soviet defense.

Hundreds of Western historians naturally picked up these authoritative Soviet accounts, and incorporated them into their own accounts of the war. After all, if Stalin who controls the media with an iron grip is not only allowing his own media to talk this way about his incompetence, but is even authoring such propaganda himself...

...then, it must be true?
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:28:03 PM
Suvorov grew up hearing and reading about this, but also coming to learn and understand that as a rule Soviet propaganda thoroughly hid any mistakes, accidents, and catastrophes in the Soviet Union; or tried to downplay what happened as not that bad; or tried to blame it on the nefarious enemies, while avoiding crediting the enemy as much as possible: the enemy cheated, that's the only way they could do that.

The official Soviet propaganda about Barbarossa did talk about the Nazis as cheaters who attacked by surprise without declaring war and without even giving formal grievances for attack; but also talked about how the Nazis were so much technically better than Soviets at that time: much better equipment, much better training for their troops, much more skilled in their leaders.

Soviet propaganda didn't want to talk about an earthquake leveling a city of one hundred thousand people -- but wanted to talk about bad tanks authorized by Stalin? Soviet propaganda wanted to hide any number of bad harvests, or blame them somehow on being surrounded by capitalist nations -- but wanted to talk about radical mismanagement of the Soviet military?

In 1942, the Red army suffered monstrous defeats in the Crimea, also near Kharkov, also at Leningrad, also at Rzhev. One of Suvorov's own most virulent critics among professional historians of the Soviet war, David Glantz, discovered traces of insanely huge tank battles lost by the Soviets in the first half of the war -- lost to history, too, due to Soviets intentionally destroying those records (and to Nazis destroying their own records generally when they later realized they were going to lose). How did Glantz find out about these larger precursors to the later and far more famous armored battles of Kharkov and Kursk? By using the same methods of Suvorov, of course: indirectly tracing the battles by checking production numbers and the memoirs of Soviet and Nazi commanders, and other such things. (Thus, incidentally, confirming many of the details he has denied when Suvorov presents them!)

The crucial point of comparison here, is that Soviet propaganda didn't want to talk about those losses in their accounts of the war soon afterward, and in their textbooks for a long time going forward. It was not acceptable to talk about the defeats of 1942 -- so why was it acceptable to talk about the defeats of 1941, soon afterward and in their textbooks going forward?

Moreover, in July, August, September, and October of 1941, the Red Army suffered crushing defeats near Viazma, Uman, Kiev, and most importantly Smolensk -- most importantly because that crushing defeat nevertheless derailed the Nazi blitzkrieg and could be easily argued as the reason the Soviet Union survived until 1942! Soviet history books did not, and into the early 21st century still did not, want to mention those defeats. It was not acceptable in propaganda control to talk about the specific defeats of 1941, soon afterward and in their textbooks going forward -- and yet, soon afterward, and in their textbooks going forward, Soviet propaganda, even controlled and authored by Stalin, wanted to trumpet its own criticism of how stupid and unfit for a fight the Soviet military was, especially under Stalin, which led to those specific defeats?!
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on April 03, 2020, 01:30:50 PM
Suvorov found this increasingly bizarre. There were two stories, one being told, one not being told, and yet the self-critical story being told should have led obviously to the very same self-criticism in the story not being told.

Beyond that, however, was also a second story being told (yet also not being told, in its own way): not in Soviet propaganda, but in the memoirs of Soviet leaders and commanders. Suvorov first clearly noticed this second story when eagerly reading the release of Marshal Zhukov's memoirs; and arriving at Zhukov's casual revelation that Molotov had in fact received a declaration of war from the Nazi government before they attacked. Only just before, of course, for tactical and strategic reasons, but still this absolutely shocked Suvorov: for it had been drilled into all Soviet citizens, and into the world generally, including at the Nuremburg trials, that Germany had never declared war on Russia, much less presented a formal list of grievances.

After that, Suvorov started over again on Zhukov, paying closer attention. Zhukov was telling a different story about Soviet preparations, mentioned offhand while on different topics. From there, Suvorov went on to other memoirs, and paid closer attention again: same results.

This started a professional hobby that he continued alongside his regular work, until he decided to defect to the West with the data he had gathered.

"Icebreaker", and "Chief Culprit", and the four books between them (down to "Razgrom / Defeat" afterward), collect and tell that unofficial yet also highly official story -- a story of events rooting back into the end of the nineteenth century.

[Next up, IceBreakChron I: Ultimate War (]
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: Ssnake51 on June 04, 2020, 12:49:41 PM
I am curious as to why you are spending so much time on Suvorov.  Most historians of WW2 are quite critical of him and his thesis.
Title: Re: ICEBREAKER THEISIS CHRONOLOGY -- ToC and Introduction
Post by: JasonPratt on June 04, 2020, 06:43:27 PM
Because in order to understand their critiques (pro or con), it's easier if his claims and arguments are sorted in a chronological order as much as possible, which he doesn't have a good habit of doing, which naturally looks like he's hiding problems by shuffling the ball around (or that's how I felt anyway.)

So I sat down to work out his claims and related arguments for his thesis in sequence as an exercise. That way when I consider one part of his argument I can get a better idea of how well it fits with his overall thesis, and when I read a critique of him I can get a better idea of how well that critique fits with his overall thesis.

If the project helps make the critiques against him clearer for their strengths, whatever those are, then great, glad to be of some help!  O:-) Or if it shines a light on inconsistencies in Suv's approach, and makes those clearer, then great again.

Or if it helps defend him more clearly, then great again. I don't have a stake either way, I just want more clarity about what he's doing. Personally, I came to a better appreciation for his argument overall (even after turning up some problems I didn't notice before), after doing the project. But other people may come to a better result the other way.

Also it helps that I like grand strategy, and the theory does present a hell of a grand strategy (if it's significantly accurate).