Annatar on Soviet Military Casualties

I have long been in the Krivosheev camp, but this sounds like very plausible:

The casualty estimates of Overmans and Krivosheev are off by significant amounts. On the German side, the first estimate of military losses was produced by Gregory Frumkin of the, editor of the Yearbook of the League of Nations, unlikely to be biased who estimated German military losses at 3.7m in Germany + Austria. A 1960 West German Govt analysis of the demographic balance put total military losses in Germany + Austria at 4 million. Most other historians like Müller-Hillebrand also put losses at 4 million. My own analysis suggests a figure of around 4 million for Austria + Germany makes sense.

For Soviet losses, the Russian Academy of Sciences figure of 6.8 million military deaths in Russia and 10.7 million in the USSR as a whole makes more sense.

Furthermore, civilians losses in the USSR were not evenly distributed, there is strong evidence that the vast majority of Soviet forced labour, including Russian that was worked to death was male, in addition you had more or less a continuous low level of starvation in the unoccupied areas of the USSR through the war, again more males tend to die then females in such situations.

One thing that has always struck me about the German-Soviet war is although Germany lost they destroyed the demographic potential of Russia and other western Soviet Republics. For decades German thinkers were obsessed with the issue that the Slavs were having more kids, in 1940 the Russian TFR was over 4 and Russia was primed for a few decades of extremely rapid population growth, the war destroyed that possibility, after the war, the TFR only recovered to around 3 and the potential for rapid growth was gone, partially as a result of the increased urbanisation the war caused, the rural areas of western Russia were de-populated and have never recovered. In Germany on the other hand, the TFR was around 2.2 – 2.4 in the late 1930’s and recovered to the same level in the 1950’s.

Basically, Russia went from a 70% TFR advantage over Germany in 1940, to around 20% in the 1950’s, without the war if you look at projections, the German population was projected to be around 85 million by 1970 whereas Russia was projected to reach 180 million. In reality, Germany got to 78m, 75 million if you exclude ethnic German immigrants, around 10% less then projected whereas Russia got to 130m, almost 30% lower then projected.

Germany lost the war but they destroyed the demographic potential of the USSR outside of Central Asia.

Somewhat off topic, I feel the question of the Soviet collapse of 1941 in which the entire standing Red Army of June 1941 was destroyed, some 4 million men killed or captured, 60 million civilians fell under German occupation of which around 12 million were exterminated and 2/3 of the industrial and agricultural capacity of the country was lost hasn’t really been examined in Russia. One has to say that the Soviet High Command looks like it was run by idiots who basically nearly lost the war, they somehow managed to lose 4 million men while only managing to eliminate 300,000 enemy troops.

Often the question about Operation Barbarossa is how the Germans could have done better, I think it is the wrong question, the Germans did as well as was physically possible, the occupied 1.5 million square kilometres of land, advanced a 1,000 km inside the USSR, overran 2/3 of the economic base of the country and eliminated 4 million enemy troops while losing only 300,000 men in what is probably the single most impressive feat of arms in modern warfare. If it was a video game, people would be complaining about the Germans being overpowered.

Related to this is the myth that Germany ran out of manpower by 1942, until early 1944, Soviet losses as a percentage of manpower exceeded German losses, that is until early 1944 Germany was outright winning the war of attrition as its losses as a % of its manpower were lower then Soviet losses, this also means the USSR had to call up younger age groups, such as those born in the 1920’s in greater numbers then Germany as Soviet manpower was being drained more rapidly from 1941-1943. Indeed, some have argued that had Germany been fighting only a single front war, then by the end of 1945 they could have bled the USSR so much that a ceasefire would have been reached, by late 1944 the % of Soviet recruits from Central Asia had risen dramatically as the Slavic lands had been more or less completely emptied of potential recruits.

Basically it seems pretty clear that the Soviet Union was extremely wasteful in its use of manpower, throwing away millions of men and also failing to prevent starvation in the unoccupied areas, something that resulted in the complete destruction of the 1920’s cohorts. The 1900’s cohorts were also as you have pointed out hit heavily by the fact that the USSR had to resort to recruiting older men before Germany did as its manpower was running out faster then Germany until early 1944. I am pretty sure Operation Bagration was the first major military operation in which the loss ratio meant that German losses were higher as a % of its manpower compared to Soviet losses.

The losses you indicate include overall casualties, which includes fatalities, the Germans did suffer 800,000 casualties in 1941 of which around 300,000 were fatalities.

In terms of industrial output, the German economy was roughly equal in size to the Soviet economy in 1940 if you look at indicators such as steel production. During the course of the war, German industrial output was far larger due to most of the Soviet industry having been overrun, in 1942 for example. Germany outproduced the USSR 3.5:1 in steel and coal, Germany produced 269 million tons of coal and 28.7 million tons of steel to the USSR’s 75 million tons of coal and 8.1 million tons of steel.

The destruction of soviet industrial potential as a result of the loss of the western territories was significant, in 1940 the USSR produced 18.3 million tons of steel, that figure fell to 45% of that level by 1942, it would have been even lower had the USSR not built new steel mills in the Urals in 1941. In terms of coal, output fell from 166 million tons to 75 million tons, down to 45% of 1940 levels.

The idea the Soviet economy was larger then Germany is unfortunately a myth that has been perpetuated in the post ww2 era, German industrial output was around 3 to 4 times that of the Soviet Union through 1942 and 1943. Soviet output of weapons was greater because Soviet equipment was less resource intensive and the Soviets devoted a larger percentage of their industrial output to certain weapon systems such as the T-34 tank then the Germans did. The USSR did not beat Germany because it had a greater industrial base, it won because of the way it utilised its resources.

German artillery ammunition consumption for example which was the number one expense for both sides and was what caused over 80% of casualties was far greater. In 1942, Germany expended 710,000 tons of ammunition to the Soviet’s 446,000 tons, in 1943, Germany used 1.1 million tons of ammunition to the USSR’s 828,000, the difference in per capita consumption is of course greater. The reason for this disparity is the Germans had a far larger industrial base so they could produce more ammunition overall and of course had far more in per capita terms, something which helped increase the combat effectiveness of the average German division as compared to its Soviet counterpart. For all the focus on Soviet artillery barrages, the German army used far more artillery, simply because they could produce more.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.



                           CHAPTER XV
                      Hitler's Invasion of Russia

    Hitler’s gamble ill Russia failed because he was not bold enough, and also through conflicting views in the German Command about the direction to be taken. At the critical stage. time was lost that could never be regained. After that he ruined himself, and Germany, because he could not bring himself to cut his losses.
    It is the story of Napoleon over again -but with important differences. While Hitler missed the chance of capturing Moscow, he came nearer decisive victory, conquered far more of Russia, and maintained his army there much longer, only to reach an even more catastrophic end.
    When launching the invasion in June, 1941, Hitler had counted on destroying the bulk of the Red’ Army before reaching the Dnieper. When that hope was disappointed- because the Russians proved tougher than expected -he and his generals disagreed on the question of what to do next. Brauchitsch and Halder wanted to continue the advance on Moscow, but Hitler preferred to clear up the situation in the South first, and got his way. After a great victory there. the Kiev encirclement, he let them have their way. The delayed advance on Moscow started with another great victory, but then became bogged in the autumn mud, and finally foundered in the winter snow. It had been launched too late.
    But that was not the only cause of failure revealed in what the German generals told me. Sometimes they themselves did not perceive the conclusions, having been too deep “in the trees to see the wood”. But they did provide the facts from which conclusions could be drawn.
    Here is the most startling of all. What saved Russia above all was not her modern progress, but her backwardness. If the Soviet regime had given her a road system comparable to that of western countries, she would probably have been overrun in quick time. The German mechanized forces were baulked by the badness of her roads.
    But this conclusion has a converse. The Germans lost the chance of victory because they had based their mobility on wheels instead of on tracks. On these mud-roads the wheeled transport was bogged when the tanks could move on.

  2. When Barbarossa began, Hitler already needed his allies to send troops as there weren’t enough Germans available. The Luftwaffe began with 160-220 hours pilot training depending on type of plane which decreased to 160 tops by 1943 then a measley 112 hours by 1945.

    The luftwaffe never had the ability to fix or maintain planes in the USSR . Planes needing service had to towed back to Germany or possibly only Poland.

    Many generals and officers knew Barbarossa would fail. Some expressed this and were fired. Others like Manstein shut up and went along. The troops even knew it as diaries and graffiti from the opening months reveals that they thought they were going to lose before the first winter.

    No one in German high command understood the seasons of mud despite to two nations sharing a border at various points of time. This brought the Wehrmacht to a standstill as they stood looking at each asking What do we do?

    They didn’t understand the different geography of northern (swamp & Forrest) vs southern (steppe) Russia and what problems
    These environments would bring to an army.

    Blitzkrieg was impossible in the vastness of the USSR.

    They never succeeded in conquering European Russia let alone the entire USSR. Even if they’d treated the local sympathizers better, this was always unwinnable.

  3. For the Germans to win a war of attrition the keeping of the strategic position of Romania was essential. Romania’s defected from the Axis on 23 August 1944 opening a direct line to the heart of Germany and participated in the offensive against Hungary. On the 29 October Soviet and Romanian troops reached Budapest.
    But most important was the loss of the Romanian oil fields, which eventually starved of fuel the German war machine.

  4. Regarding the Soviets scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of manpower, here is a quote from “Hitler and His Generals” on the TIK YouTube channel with Hitler talking about the state of Soviet divisions in November 1944.

    “as everyone says, that the [Soviet] divisions are so weak that this character is making a huge bluff with his so-called “divisions.” That’s what’s being said on all sides. He’s counting on his artillery. He is concentrating it. Apart from this, his divisions are so weak – just a few thousand men… We’ve had pockets with 7 divisions inside, where we took 2,000 prisoners and killed another 2,000. But where are the rest? And then it is said that he attacks with huge crowds of infantry. But if we ever made such an encirclement, there was never anything in it.

    By 1944 Soviet divisions were often very small, even earlier in the war the Soviet High Command operated with very small divisional sizes, a mistake in my view as it meant that losses were much higher with even small losses rendering whole divisions combat ineffective. In a 3,000 man division, losing a 1,000 men basically means the division becomes combat ineffective and falls apart which drives up losses whereas in a 10,000 man division, a loss of 1,000 means the division can continue to hold its position and remain combat effective. Smaller divisions basically mean units hit the point at which damage output starts to fall rapidly relative to damage taken much earlier which results in much higher overall losses and less damage inflicted.

    The Soviet High Command’s decision to keep larger numbers of small divisions instead of fewer large divisions resulted in higher losses throughout the course of the war.

  5. By 1944 it no longer mattered what would Romania do. It only mattered to Hungary because it would mean that the 1938 border between the two countries would be restored.

  6. You think that the speedy penetration of the Red Army in Bulgaria (inducing her to declare war on Germany and participate in actual fights) and Yugoslavia did not matter to the Germans? And that would not have been possible without the defection of Romania and its contribution to the offensive against Germany (cca 500,000 troops).
    And you really think that the loss of Romanian oil fields and the minor Hungarian oil fields did not matter to the Germans?

  7. reiner Tor says

    The German-Romanian front collapsed following the commencement of the Soviet offensive on August 20, 1944. Do you seriously believe that the Soviets would have been unable to capture Bucharest and the oil fields? Once they are in Bucharest, the fall of Bulgaria (not in a state of war with the USSR anyway) and then the Soviets crossing the South Carpathians (where there was no well prepared defensive line) was inevitable.

    Ironically, your position is similar to the position of many Hungarian nationalists, who cite Romanian “betrayal” as the main reason for the fall of Hungary in the subsequent months. They claim that the Soviets would’ve been unable to break through the Árpád Line (a well prepared line of fortifications in the Eastern Carpathians), nor the South Carpathians (this latter is especially dubious in the absence of a well prepared defensive line). Even if it was true (I highly doubt it), the Germans were losing on each other front, so it’s unlikely Romania had a lasting effect. The main effect was slightly shortening the war, while giving the whole Transylvania to Romania.

  8. Seraphim says

    One cannot really say with any certitude how long the Romanian Army could have resisted the offensive and stall the advance of the Russians (on the Carpathian line and on the Focsani-Galati fortified line), because on 23 August the King arrested Marshal Antonescu and ordered the Army to stop fighting announcing that an armistice was signed. In reality the armistice was signed only on 12 September after the Soviet troops crossed the Southern Carpathians in Transylvania.