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Pravda: Stalin Ignored Warnings of Nazi Invasion

May 8, 1989 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Dictator Josef Stalin ignored warnings from Soviet spies that Nazi Germany was planning to invade and failed to prepare his country for a war that cost 20 million Soviet lives, Pravda told its readers on Monday.

The full-page article in the Communist Party newspaper came on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II. It marked a sharp break from the traditionally patriotic and positive reminiscences of Soviet heroism.

The article also contrasted with a festive mood in the capital, which was festooned with red banners for Tuesday’s holiday. On Red Square, a large banner stated simply, ″1941-1945,″ the years of the war.

Western historians have written much about how Stalin ignored intelligence reports about Hitler’s invasion plans, but little has come out in the Soviet Union. The dictator typically had been portrayed as a brilliant wartime leader who rallied the nation against Nazi invaders.

But under President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost, or openness, historians and others have condemned Stalin’s repression of his own people and recently have begun to re-examine his wartime role.

Last summer, Pravda published a chapter of a new book about Stalin that denounced him for signing a friendship treaty with Nazi Germany, purging the Red Army when the nation was on the brink of war, and ignoring warnings that war was imminent.

Monday’s Pravda further rewrote an embarrassing page in Soviet history and gave Soviets a fresh, bone-chilling look at what Soviet spies learned about Nazi war preparations.

Pravda said the article’s author, history professor A. Baidakov, gleaned the accounts from classified state security archives. He said the state security agencies infiltrated the German secret police, aviation ministry and coding service.

Baidakov wrote that security officials forwarded concrete information to Soviet political leaders about Hitler’s invasion plans as early as November 1940. German forces invaded June 21, 1941.

But, the historian said:

″The leadership of the U.S.S.R. people’s commissariats (ministries) of state security and defense did not, in my view, do everything to convince Stalin and the country’s other leaders of the inevitability of an imminent confrontation with the Germans.″

Then, he added, ″But the main blame for miscalculating the time of the start of the war, for the country not being turned into an armed camp in time, for not being brought into a state of full military preparedness, lies with the U.S.S.R. political leadership of that period.″

Pravda’s editors added their criticism, saying in an accompanying note that the information ″was supervaluable, however the political situation devalued it.″

Baidakov revealed several intelligence reports that he said were sent to Stalin and his foreign minister, Vyacheslav M. Molotov.

In April 1941, he wrote, Soviet spies learned that Hitler told a Yugoslav prince that an invasion of the Soviet was planned for June. Later that month, German troops began massing on the Romanian-Soviet border later that month.

In early June, Soviet agents intercepted a Romanian police telegram directing that ditches be dug by June 15 in German-populated areas to protect against air bombardment.

Baidakov also wrote that Stalin was told a source close to Hermann Goering, a key Hitler aide who founded the Gestapo and headed the Luftwaffe, had ordered maps of targets in the Soviet Union.

Also, Soviet agents in Berlin reported June 12 that aviation officials had been told a final decision to attack was taken and that ″therefore an unexpected strike should be considered possible.″

Stalin also was told that German reconnaisance planes and agents had repeatedly violated the Soviet border, Baidakov wrote.

Then, on June 16, this urgent message was delivered to Stalin and Molotov:

″All military operations of Germany on preparation of a military aggression against the U.S.S.R. have been completely stopped, and a blow can be expected at any time.″

The next day, Baidakov wrote, Stalin asked intelligence officials whether the sources who wrote the message were reliable. Stalin was quoted as saying, ″There isn’t a German besides Wilhelm Pieck, who can be trusted. Is that clear?″ Pieck was a German Communist leader.

Before the information could be rechecked, the Germans invaded.