Stalin’s intentions in 1941, and whether he planned an attack on Nazi Germany, have caused extensive and contentious debate amongst historians. The question remains unresolved, primarily due to a fierce split of opinion, and limited and questionable resources. Some believe – famously the historian Victor Suvorov – that Stalin planned for an offensive on the Germans in June or July 1941, strategically mobilizing the Red Army and positioning troops, tanks and planes, along with field command posts, along the border, known as the ‘Polish units’. Opposing historians suggest that Stalin had ordered defensive preparations, taking precautionary measures to demonstrate Soviet strength and prepare against possible German attack. On 22 June 1941 Hitler launched a huge military attack with Operation Barbarossa, and invaded Russia in what some claim to be a pre-emptive strike, yet one that Stalin was expecting. It was the start of a ferocious battle between two powerful dictatorships that would ultimately decide the outcome of World War II.
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