In 1941, on this day fortunes in the decade-long Great Patriotic War unexpectedly swung in favour of the armed Russian Partisans when a Luftwaffe Heinkel bomber operating east of Moscow scored a direct hit on the special train carrying the hopelessly incompetent Soviet leadership out of the abandoned capital.
Tipping PointThree days before the expectation that the Wehrmacht would enter the city had thrown the Capital into panic. By then not only had Stalin himself been forced to accept the view of the Muscovite population, but he had been infected by their panic, sitting at his desk in the Kremlin asking himself again and again, "What shall we do? What shall we do?".
Even though the war with Germany was no surprise to Stalin, he had no answer to this rhetorical question. Instead he signalled that all was lost by boarding a special train two days later, surely a cruel metaphor of the reversal of Soviet fortune. And a contrasting mirror image of the triumphant arrival in St Peterberg, which Stalin himself acknowledged with his bitter parting words, "Lenin left us a great legacy, and we have f*cked it up".
In contrast, as the Wehrmacht occupied the major urban centres east of the Volga, Hitler was triumphant, having every reason to believe that he had defeated the Soviet Union. Although the Red Army had ceased to offer any centralised organized resistance, in the mountains of the North Caucasus and the forests of Russia, Belorussia and the Ukraine, armed partisan groups soon began to form. By the following summer the Wehrmacht would be fighting a vicious guerrilla war against a new and insiduous enemy which roamed across the terrifying vastness of German-Occupied Russia.