The Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army was the name given to the Soviet Forces that served in World War Two. It was established in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and honed its fierce and brutal qualities in the Russian Civil War. After this, the Soviet Union engaged in a series of conflicts with Poland, China, and Finland, (amongst others), meaning that the Red Army was not often inactive.
At the outbreak of World War Two, the Red Army invaded parts of Poland, making Russia a direct neighbour of Germany. This continued amiably until Hitler pushed the Wehrmacht forward to St Petersburg and Moscow in 1941, at which time the Red Army consisted of roughly 4.8 million soldiers. When Hitler invaded, the Red Army was rapidly expanded – an estimate of 30 million men were conscripted during the war – meaning that a significant proportion was not adequately trained for warfare, and the unexpected nature of the attack meant that the entire army found itself unprepared for the conflict ahead. A number of inexperienced officers were placed in the charge of divisions, meaning many strategic errors were made in the early stages of Soviet involvement in World War Two.
The machinery and equipment available for the Red Army in 1941 was inadequate next to the resources the Germans could boast . By the final years of the war, such rapid development had been made that Russian weaponry became some of the best on the battlefield – in particular, their tanks were considered vastly superior to those of the Wehrmacht.
The soldiers within the Red Army felt betrayed by Germany, since the Soviet Union had been led to believe that relations between the two countries would be cordial. As such, when the ground forces were mobilised for war, they were hungry for victory. They were also intensely nationalistic, being fed propaganda during the war years that spoke of the Motherland, and drawing on previous Russian victories dating back to the Napoleonic wars. The German Wehrmacht was ill-prepared for the harsh weather conditions they would meet on the Eastern Front, whereas the soldiers of the Red Army were hardened to the wind, snow, and sub-zero temperatures, meaning they could fight with tenacity during the Siberian winters when the Germans could not. The baptism of fire that the Red Army had during the Russian Revolution and Civil War set the precedent for brutality and ruthlessness within the soldiers, and their conduct within World War Two and the subsequent occupation of East Berlin was suitably fierce. The soldiers fought to kill, and German P.O.W.s captured in 1945 considered themselves lucky if they were captured by Western forces, since they could escape the vengeful treatment of the Red Army. Russia had an amount of soldier casualties between 8,668,000 and 10,922,000.