The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is often looked upon as a monolithic bloc, however the individual republics that made up the Soviet Union saw significantly different death impacts. Belarus and Ukraine lost 25 and 17 percent of their respective total populations during the war. This reflects the bloody back and forth between German and Soviet forces. In fact, there were four named battles reflecting the city of Kharkov’s fate between these two battling entities. On the other end of the spectrum the Soviet Republic of Moldova saw the lowest death rate at 6.9 percent. Even Moldova’s relatively low percentage compared to its sister republics dwarfed that of USA and UK.
Deaths in the Republics
In all the fifteen republics suffered a civilian and military death total approaching twenty-seven million. Three republics; Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, each sustained over a million civilian and military deaths. Russia had the most with 13,950,000 deaths, followed by Ukraine with 6,850,000 deaths, and finally Belarus with 2,290,000 deaths.
Military deaths were 10.6 million, civilian deaths due to military activity and crimes against humanity were ten million, and civilian deaths due to war related famine and disease were an additional six million. In total 26.6 million civilian and military personnel died in the Soviet republics. Civilians died at a three to two ratio versus military deaths.
Civilians were killed extensively in retaliation to partisan activities. The German Army set up special units to secure their rear areas and their responsibilities included dealing with the partisans. These units’ anti-partisan actions were often indistinguishable from the ethnic cleansing of Jews and Slavs. In Mein Kampf Hitler outlined his vision for Jews and Slavs. With the Holocaust Nazi Germany killed an estimated six million Jews through massed shootings, forced labor, concentration camps, starvation, and disease. In the USSR two million Jews were killed contributing to that six million total.
The Siege of Leningrad from September 8, 1941, to January 27, 1944 (2 years, 4 months, 2 weeks and 5 days) a total of 872 days. Resulted in over 800,000 civilian deaths mainly due to starvation and disease. Rations for elderly and children dropped to 125 grams of bread a day, the equivalent of three slices.
Germany launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 and in the next six months more than 500,000 Soviet troops were killed and 2.4 million were captured or missing in action. Most captured Soviet military personnel eventual died due to forced labor, starvation, disease, or were killed outright.
Soviet military tactics led to many deaths. Human wave attacks were used repeatedly especially in the early years. As the Soviets identified better frontline officers, trained their enlisted personnel, improved their tactics, and developed or obtained better equipment the massed charges became infrequent.
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USSR World War 2 Deaths by Republic Data
|wdt_ID||Republic||1940 Population*||Military deaths||Civilian deaths**||Civilian deaths***||Total||% 1940 population|
* (within 1946–91 borders)
** Civilian deaths due to military activity and crimes against humanity
*** Civilian deaths due to war related famine and disease
Source: Wikipedia, “World War II casualties”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties
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