I'm looking forward to reading it! Your articles are always a good time.Der Alte Fritz wrote: ↑11 Aug 2023 14:30For me the continuing reliance of the General Staff historians on the idea of strategic directions as shown in their 1961 work stresses their importance even this late into the war and as I argue in my next paper, we should look at the war through this prism from the Soviet side.
And all of this planning happens in just under a calendar month!
The creation of the 4 strategic directions (NW, N, W/Main, and S) in Spring 1944 gets mentioned frequently and, as you said, comes directly from the General Staff's writings on the war.
By 1944 there were "directions" (departments) under the GenStaff Operations Directorate corresponding to each Front. They monitored implementation of orders and communicated the daily situation of each Front up the chain to the Ops Chief & Deputies, CoS, SVGK, and Stalin. They also drafted orders for their assigned area. Each one would have 3-7 people. You also had a central apparatus of ~20-30 people (not 100% sure off the exact number).
You also had the Group/Corps of General Staff officers under Ops, about ~80-100 staff officers by the late war. They helped supervise the planning of operations as well as their organization and implementation. Their powers and responsibilities took a while to clearly formulate, and they didn't truly mature as an institution until mid-late '43. For "Bagration", each Front had a group of 6-8 of these officers assigned; 5-10 was the norm from Summer '43 on. During that operation they worked with Corps.
Finally, you had the Representatives of the SVGK. They were senior officials with substantial political (Voroshilov, Timoshenko) or institutional (Zhukov, Vasilevsky) authority. Their powers and responsibilities were, as far as I'm aware, not formally defined. As Stalin's plenipotentiaries, it was difficult to turn them down and impossible to ignore them.
For the Summer 1944 operation, Zhukov was the representative with 1st Ukrainian, 1st Belorussian, and 2nd Belorussian Fronts. Vasilevsky supervised 3rd Belorussian, 1st Baltic, and 2nd Baltic (from 7/9). Timoshenko supervised 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ukrainian Fronts. From fall 1944, Govorov of the Leningrad Front would supervise the Leningrad, 2nd Baltic, and 3rd Baltic Fronts, alternating with Vasilevsky at different times until 1945.
In Fall 1944, Stalin asked the General Staff whether the institution could be abolished altogether. They opposed it, because of the length of the Front and complex situation in each theater. Stalin retained Govorov/Vasilevsky in the Baltic and Timoshenko in the Balkans while Zhukov became commander of 1st Belorussian Front in November. The 4 fronts on the Western/Main direction - 3rd Belorussian, 2nd Belorussian, 1st Belorussian, and 1st Ukrainian - would be directly managed by the Stavka. Vasilevsky returned to Moscow after he was injured in a car accident, and was sent to coordinate the 1st Baltic and 3rd Belorussian Fronts in East Prussia in February '45.
How were strategic directions in '44 managed in practice at Ops? I didn't spot anything concrete, but it seems like they were a concept for planning and thinking about the war but not management. After all, by 7/9 SVGK rep Vasilevsky was now managing Fronts across 2 directions (NW and West/Main). This doesn't reduce the strategic directions' importance - far from it - but it does separate them from the '41 institutions which had their own staffs.
(Will respond to the rest of your post separately!)