Professor reveals info on Stalin disappearance

By Jeneva Garrett

NIU associate professor of history Albert Resis Thursday night revealed new information on the 12-day “disappearance” of Joseph Stalin after the German invasion of Russia in 1941.

Resis discussed the new details on the historical mystery in his talk, “Moscow, Leningrad, October 1988: Glasnost and Perestroika in Action,” which was sponsored by the NIU History Club.

Resis told the about 90 people who packed the Moot Court Room in Swen Parson Hall of his findings while in Russia last month for a 10-day international historical symposium. His source was a high-ranking Soviet historian commissioned to write the first official Russian biography on Stalin.

Resis said Moscow’s chief of Military History, Col. Gen. Dimitri Volkogonov, gave him an “hour-by-hour account” of the 12-day period beginning Sunday morning, June 2, 1941, during which Stalin was not publicly seen or heard.

Even though Stalin had advance notice of the attack, he was “shook up,” Resis said. “He (Stalin) did not want to speak to the Soviet public until he had a victory to report,” Resis said he was told by Volkogonov.

The Russian buildup was on the border, Resis reported, and “when the Germans attacked, Stalin rejected suggestions for fullback positions. … In the prewar planning, he rejected any plans for defense in depth.”

Stalin was OK, Volkogonov said, until June 28, when the Germans penetrated 200 miles into Russia, devastating the city of Minsk. At that time, Stalin was “prostrate for three days” due to a nervous breakdown, Resis said.

On July 3, Stalin addressed the Soviet people “with a broken voice,” Resis said. Stalin, according to Resis, said the Red Army was retreating because the Germans had violated a non-aggression treaty they signed with Russia in 1939.

Volkogonov’s information was not the only eye-opener on the Russian trip. Effects of glasnost, Resis noted, include television talk shows and suddenly-in-demand newspapers containing freer discussion of Soviet problems and letters to the editor.

Of the conference on U.S.-Soviet relations and the history of World War II, he said, “It was fascinating to meet with people who years ago would have thought us as part of the ‘evil empire,’ as bourgeois falsifiers of history.”

Despite these encouraging signs, Russian historians still are barred access to many archives, Resis said. And, he told the crowd, “You can be sure that Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev is not a card-carrying member of the ‘Soviet Civil Liberties Union.'”

Despite improvements in industry and education, Resis said Soviet industry still is plagued with inefficiency. Twenty-five percent of the eggs brought to market are rotten because it takes so long to get them there, Resis said.

“In a sense, it is an underdeveloped country, full of contradictions.”

Resis said workers at a Soviet television factory told him that they “goof off and drink tea” for the first three weeks of the month, then hurry to make production quotas in the last week. The workers hammer in screws to save time, Resis said.

Resis challenged the audience to re-examine their views of the Soviets.

“The new political thinking, this is something completely new in the Soviet Union. Can’t we use a little of that in our own country?” Resis asked.

Resis has taught Soviet history, Soviet foreign relations and Soviet culture at NIU since 1964.