If Stalin was anything, he was paranoid. Some of his paranoia was well founded. He was a murderous, obstreperous tyrant who saw the world through only his own eyes. His police state apparatus was filled with informers and he was tipped off to a plot at the top of his officer corps to oust him. Perhaps there was. He acted before they could act and if this was the case, the plot was foiled. Kangaroo Court is an understated way of describing the iniquitous trials that put an end to the alleged conspirators. In 1936 Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the Chief of Staff of the Red Army was executed after a trial that lasted only a single day. The court martial assembled consisted of eight other high command officers that were there to condemn Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Six of those commander were themselves tried and executed shortly afterwards.
Only five command level Marshals were left. Three of them were also caught up in the conspiracy and executed. The rest of the Red Army high command was still in for a shock. Eleven Deputy Commanders were executed. Seventy Five of 80 high commanders were executed, and every single military district commander was executed. Thirteen of 15 Army commanders and 50% of all the Red Army Corps commanders and 30% of officers below the brigade level were also executed. The problem here was that a lot of these Russians who were at the business end of Stalin’s obloquy also knew how to fight. Included in this group were 90% of the tank commanders
And if you’re wondering why the Russians were overwhelmed by German armor, the problem wasn’t all personnel and leadership issues. In 1940, Russia invaded Finland and in the first phase of the operation the Finnish won. It was an incredible embarrassment and midwifed Hitler’s notion that the Russians were so incompetent that invading Russian would be a cakewalk. The commanders who lost in Finland were winners in Stalin’s roulette trials. So these weak combat veterans were the ones expected to hold off the Wehrmacht in June 1941. Of the 23,000 tanks that the Russians brought to the battlefield, only 8000 were combat ready. There were no spare parts, so entire tank battalions were cannibalized to keep a few tanks running. There was no real training. Most of the drills were little more than PR stunts staged just for the Politburo during visits from party leadership. Most of the divisions were around 6000 men short. One in six mechanized infantry lacked any armor. Only 75% of the motorized tank groups had tanks at all. The vehicles that were left were mostly out gunned by the new Panzers. The reason the Russian were overwhelmed at Barbarossa is simple: Stalin.