Why did the Russia tend to suffer disproportionate casualties?

Lee-Sensei

Ad Honorem
Aug 2012
2,151
Was it just part of their military culture? I was reading about the Battle of Khalkin Gol. That battle was hailed as a significant victory of the Red Army over the IJA, but they suffered almost twice as many casualties even though they had twice as many troops, had far more tanks and planes and probably higher quality equipment given Japans relatively weak industrial base.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,392
Kansas
Was it just part of their military culture? I was reading about the Battle of Khalkin Gol. That battle was hailed as a significant victory of the Red Army over the IJA, but they suffered almost twice as many casualties even though they had twice as many troops, had far more tanks and planes and probably higher quality equipment given Japans relatively weak industrial base.
The Soviets wondered the same thing. They were not happy with their performance given the manpower and technology advantages they had. I would suggest the army purge probably weakened the lower levels of the officer corp.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,111
There's a concept, "Subaltern battles" which refers to battles fought inexpertly by junior officers, or officers quickly promoted beyond their actual level of proficiency. They are typically characterized by a lot of unnecessary losses.

Since the Soviets armed forces went through the officer purges in 1934-39, it suggests itself that might have been part of the problem? Aside from sheer underestimation and lack of Soviet preparation, it's something generally assumed to have been part of the Soviet army's poor performance initially against Finland also in 1939.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,301
Actually, when one puts prisoners aside (since soviet prisoners were mistreated by germany and died in large numbers), the ratio of WW2 soviet to axis military casualties is very similar to the ratio of allied to axis military casualties in Europe
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,111
Perhaps, but it's not really relevant to Japan or Finland, and certainly not to the fighting in 1939. All prisoners were released and repatriated in short order. The Soviets just took massive and disproportionate casualties in the fighting.

(In the Winter War the Finns outright killed 150 000+ Soviets troops, wounded another 250 000+, while taking only 5600 pows. (For a Finnish army total peak strength of 250 000, and 23 000 KIA and 44 000 WIA, 1000 POW.)

Later on the Japanese took no Soviet pows for obvious reasons. The Finns did, but your survival rate as Soviet POW with the Finns was at least twice what it was with the Germans.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,301
Perhaps, but it's not really relevant to Japan or Finland, and certainly not to the fighting in 1939. All prisoners were released and repatriated in short order. The Soviets just took massive and disproportionate casualties in the fighting.

(In the Winter War the Finns outright killed 150 000+ Soviets troops, wounded another 250 000+, while taking only 5600 pows. (For a Finnish army total peak strength of 250 000, and 23 000 KIA and 44 000 WIA, 1000 POW.)

Later on the Japanese took no Soviet pows for obvious reasons. The Finns did, but your survival rate as Soviet POW with the Finns was at least twice what it was with the Germans.
Those are rather short campaigns (about 3 months)... And I think the figures you have are rather on the high side for the finnish war..... Also the atrocious weather conditions (another idiotic decision by the genius Stalin to start the war in winter ..... in fact a significant numbers of soviet casualties in WW2 can be traced back to Iosip's military incompetence) account for part of the casualties
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,111
Those are rather short campaigns (about 3 months)... And I think the figures you have are rather on the high side for the finnish war..... Also the atrocious weather conditions (another idiotic decision by the genius Stalin to start the war in winter ..... in fact a significant numbers of soviet casualties in WW2 can be traced back to Iosip's military incompetence) account for part of the casualties
Yes, "subaltern battles", as I initially proposed. ;)

As for the casualty figures, the Finnish ones aren't in any way controversial.

The Soviet ones I posted are actually the lowest of ALL estimates, including the official Soviet ones from back in the day.

The official Soviet KIA figures for their own was 132 747. The only WIA figures that are lower than the ones I posted are also the official Soviet ones fram back in the day (by about 100 000). All other estimates are higher – and never mind the Finnish – including the Russian ones from after the end of the USSR, back in 1992 when it was possible to access the Soviet archives about it. So if they are off, they are rather underestimations. (Of course since then the Putin government's swing to nationalism has engendered all kinds of funny business, weird denials, smear-jobs and general Russian official lying about history, according to the old Soviet pattern.)

There is also controversy over what happened to the Soviet POWs the Finns returned to the Soviet authorities in 1939. Nobody rightly seems to know. It is possible the Soviets sorta kinda after the fact ended up just including them in the official KIA figure.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,392
Kansas
Actually, when one puts prisoners aside (since soviet prisoners were mistreated by germany and died in large numbers), the ratio of WW2 soviet to axis military casualties is very similar to the ratio of allied to axis military casualties in Europe
I have not read the source material, but an article I stumbled across a couple of years ago suggested that the vast majority of soldiers captured in the first year of Barbarossa were mostly auxiliary and support troops, and actual combat or line troops casualy rates were below the average for the rest of the combatant nations.

Given Soviet performance after the battle of Moscow, in spite of being on the attack, was rather good. I wonder if there may not in fact be a little truth to this concept.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,703
I would imagine that in the battles with Finland and Japan, the purges may have made Soviet officers over cautious, trying not to do anything they could be criticized for, as well as making some passive-aggressive and hostile to the regime. When the Soviet Union was invaded, the Germans got close to Moscow, and treated Soviet civilians and POWs really badly, attitudes probably changed. Also, Stalin's leadership was effective and respected.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,301
Also, Stalin's leadership was effective and respected.
This is a joke, right ?

When was it effective ? When he claimed multiple times until June 21st, 1941 that Germany would not attack in 1941 ? When he rubber stamped an idiotic soviet forward deployement in 1941 pretty much ensuring a catastrophe in early Barbarossa ? When he let 700 000 men be encircled in Kiev ? When he gave idiotic counterattack orders ? when he ordered to attack Finland in -40 temperatures ? or when he purged thousands of officers just before a major war ?

And you are confusing 2 words: Feared does not equal Respected


And old man goes to a demonstration with a sign that says: “Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for my happy childhood!”
A police officer sees it:
‘Hey, comrade, that makes no sense. You’re too old; when you were a child Stalin wasn’t even alive!’
‘Yes, and my childhood was really happy without him. I’m thankful for that!’