Allied Leaders of World War II: Joseph Stalin (Part 1)

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11233

Whose side are you on anyway? First, the Soviet Union was at peace with Germany; then they fought each other in one of the bloodiest battles in history. Learn why and create a memorial for Stalingrad!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Did you know that the Soviet Union (present-day Russia) was not always a part of the Allied team during World War II? Let's find out how the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, took the Soviets from being a Nazi ally to Allied leader!

During WWII, the world was divided between the Allied powers and the Axis powers.

  • What countries were on the Allied side during World War II (WWII)?

Discuss your thoughts with someone. Look at the November 1942 world map below showing Western allies in blue, Soviet and allies in red, and Axis in black.

  • Which countries were part of the Allied side?
  • Which countries were part of the Axis side?
  • What is a neutral territory, pictured gray in the map?

Discuss the answers to these questions with another person.

WWII Allied and Axis Map November 1942

Image by Grachifan, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Each side of the conflict consisted of many countries, and was led by the three major powers that existed on each side. The major powers on the Allied side were Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union (present-day Russia). The major powers on the Axis side were Germany, Italy, and Japan.

In this lesson, you will study the role of the Soviet Allied leader, Joseph Stalin. Stalin was the Soviet dictator from 1929-1953, and is known for being one of the most brutal leaders in modern history. You could spend days studying Stalin's role in Soviet history, but in this series, "Allied Leaders of World War II: Joseph Stalin," you will study Stalin's role throughout WWII.

When WWII erupted, both the Allied and Axis powers wanted the Soviets on their side. The Soviet Union was one of the largest countries in the world, and each side wanted access to the massive Soviet army.

In 1939, Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Adolf Hitler, the German Nazi leader. As part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the two countries agreed to not attack one another. Stalin used this alliance with the Germans to expand the Soviet Union. Shortly after signing the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the Soviets annexed the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia). This means they took those countries and added them to the Soviet Union. The Soviet army also invaded Finland. It seemed there was no stopping the growth of the Soviet Union; that is, until Hitler turned on Stalin.

Almost immediately after signing the non-aggression pact with Germany, Stalin began receiving warnings that Hitler might turn on him and attack the Soviet Union. The British warned of these attacks, but Stalin just assumed it was the Allies trying to get him to distrust Hitler. Eventually, even Stalin's advisors began warning that Hitler would turn, but Stalin remained faithful to his pact with the Nazi leader.

Then, in June 1941, Hitler officially broke the Nazi-Soviet Pact by invading the Soviet Union. Since Stalin had refused to believe that a German attack was imminent, the Soviets were not prepared. Stalin offered the Germans land in return for peace, but this offer was quickly rejected.

For months, the Germans pushed Stalin's army farther back into Soviet territory as they conquered more Soviet land. Stalin aligned the Soviets with the Allied forces, hoping assistance from Great Britain and the United States would cause the Germans to retreat. The conflict within the Soviet Union lasted more than a year, until the Germans were forced out of the Soviet Union during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Learn why this battle was one of the most important battles in all of WWII by reading the articles Battle of Stalingrad (The History Channel) and The Battle of Stalingrad (The History Learning Site).

  • Why was the Battle of Stalingrad an important WWII battle?

Discuss your response with a teacher or parent.

After the Germans exited the Soviet Union, Stalin continued to work with the Allied powers to win the war and defeat the Nazis. You will learn more about the outcome of the war in the next Related Lesson, found in the right-hand sidebar.

For now, move on to the Got It? section to review what you have learned about Stalin and the Battle of Stalingrad.

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