Stalin and the Generals: Reconstructing Trust during World War II
During the years of the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, the Stalinist system of rule changed.
Under the extreme circumstances of war, the practices of collective leadership expanded at the highest levels
of power, while regional governance and state ministries were decentralised. An important aspect of this
process of change was the revision of Stalin’s relationship with the military leadership. This article
examines three interrelated phenomena central to the reconstruction of Stalin’s trust in his generals. The
first is the evolution of the policy of repression from arrests and executions to demotions. The second is
the relaxation of political control together with the elevation of the status of the army command. The third
is a shift in strategies for addressing the dictator’s dilemma, that is, the contradictions between the
growing influence of those who carry out orders (in this case, military leaders) and the further
consolidation of Stalin’s sole authority.