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The Soviet Union in World War II
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As the Red Army reeled under the stupendous blows of the German armies, Stalin began frantic efforts to remove industrial plants and workers from the path of the invader and relocated them in and behind the Ural Mountains. Much of what could not be removed was laid waste in accordance with a "scorched-earth" policy.
For a time the German blitzkrieg appeared successful, as millions of Soviet soldiers were encircled and annihilated or captured. In the Baltic states, Belorussia and the Ukraine, the invaders met with a friendly reception from those who had suffered most under the Stalinist yoke. The atrocities of the Germans, however, stiffened Soviet resistance. The advance on Leningrad (now St Petersburg) was checked in September 1941, but the city was besieged until January 1944; casualties there ultimately exceeded 1,250,000. The advance on Moscow was stopped in October 1941.
The Battle of Stalingrad
In the south the Germans were more successful; they took the entire Ukraine, and pressed on towards the Volga to sever Moscow and Leningrad from the Caucasus and south-west Asia. They were finally halted and defeated in the epic Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgorad) (August 1942 through January 1943). This battle was the turning point of the Russo-German war and one of the decisive engagements of world history. Thereafter the Germans were driven steadily westwards. In the spring and summer of 1944 the Baltic states and the Ukraine were practically cleared of enemy forces; by the end of August, Soviet armies were fighting in Poland and Romania. Other victories followed. On April 22, 1945, Soviet forces entered the outskirts of Berlin; three days later Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe. The war in Europe ended on May 8.
Three months later, in accordance with a secret agreement, the USSR declared war on Japan. In a series of swift moves against crumbling Japanese resistance, Soviet armies occupied most of Manchuria, northern Korea, the Kuril Islands, and the southern part of Sakhalin Island, which had been a Japanese possession. On the basis of these actions the USSR claimed a share in the victory over Japan.
By the end of the war, the Soviet Union was recognized as one of the great powers of the world. Stalin participated with the heads of government of the United States and Great Britain at the Tehran Conference in 1943 and at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences in 1945 to decide the overall military and political strategy of the war and a common post-war European policy.