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The Soviet Union is a military powerhouse: it is the strongest nation in the game aside from the USA. Playing as the Soviet Union is relatively easy, and is often suggested for new players. New players can keep it simple, make many mistakes and yet still win! The Soviet Union has a huge advantage over Germany, especially if the game starts in 1936. Some of the advantages are:
- Five years of peace to build the military
- Large starting industry
- Good technology teams
- Self sufficient with resources
- Good leaders
The Soviet Union has above average technology teams. Start by researching industry technologies research industry bonuses and research time bonuses, do not research more than 1 year ahead of time. Only start to research military technology when industry technologies is to far ahead of time and only research what you will use. Air technology, particularly CAS and TAC, are next in importance though by no means essential, and naval technology can safely be ignored.
The most important thing to do if you are playing the 1936 campaign is to change from the Soviet doctrine to Spearhead doctrine since the game and all of its mechanics greatly benefits organization. And the bonuses to tanks and mobile infantry are also very good.
The USSR is essentially alone in the world, with only two opportunities for a new alliance: Brazil and Republican Spain. Due to these limited options, the best way to grow the Comintern is through the liberation of conquered land. In Europe, it is not necessary to liberate countries manually: with the defeat of Germany an event that "redraws the borders" will create Eastern European puppet states. A final option for growing the Comintern is through using coups, as discussed in the intelligence section below.
As a Left-wing radical nation, if the USSR establishes +200 relations, bringing Brazil into the Comintern will have a 31% chance (assuming Normal difficulty, and assuming Brazil does not change government types after an election). As a practical matter, getting Brazil into the Comintern is requires considerable financial resources. Even after normalizing relations through trade (e.g. a trade agreement will bring relations to +50 over the next year), around 15 "influence" actions would be necessary, at a cost of around $100 each (assuming 2 intervention moves), requiring a total of $1500. Brazil as an ally is not a particularly strong strategic partner during a historical WW2. During a late game, after the defeat of the Axis, if the cold war becomes WW3 then Brazil would act as an important strategic foothold in the Americas.
Historically, Communist China and the Soviet Union had a very tepid relationship, which is partly reflected in the game. While they begin with +99 relations, even with +200 relations with Communist China, there is a 0% chance for them to join the Comintern! Yet, a successful Communist China can be a helpful strategic Ally against Japan. In order for Communist China to be successful, two things are necessary:
- Make a free trade with Communist China to provide them some supplies, metals, energy, and rares.
- Nationalist China: In March or April, 1936, Nationalist China will have the Xi'an Incident. They must select "Arrest them all as traitors!" in order for Communist China to stay at war with the Nationalists, signaling the failure of the United Front. The chance the AI will select this option is only 10%, according to event 90.
On July 18, 1936, the Spanish Civil War will begin. Republican Spain will usually loose when the player is the Soviet Union; while the Nationalists will usually loose if the player is Germany. Thus, since a Soviet game is weighted against the Republicans, you can choose to ignore them completely, or make dedicated efforts to intervene in order to gain an important strategic partner in Western Europe.
If the Soviet player chooses to intervene, begin by sending aid to Republican Spain through the event. Immediately after that, send some free resources to the Republicans. Most importantly, however, the Soviet Union will need to have some transports (e.g. by building them at the beginning of the game), and send its relatively weak fleet to the shores of Spain to attack Nationalist Spain. Only an outright assault by Soviet forces will guarantee a Republican victory. The Soviet Union must do everything necessary for the Republicans to win by April 3rd, 1937. If Republican Spain annexes Nationalist Spain within this two month period until June 3rd, 1937, the Republicans will crush the Anarchists, and Spain will become "Left-Wing Radical". This then means that with +200 relations, they will have a 30% chance of joining the Comintern and radically shifting the balance of power in Western Europe.
A Republican Spain under military control by the Soviet player can mass troops on its Northern border. This then demands a serious military commitment from Germany, which results in a much smaller force on the Soviet border. If Vichy France does not join the Axis, Republican Spain can easily become an impenetrable barrier to Germany, which would only be able to access Spain via one mountainous land province.
The USSR will receive historical events that move the Diplomatic Sliders to within one step of full Hawk (Zet offensive, Chasan Lake, Khalkin Ghol) and within three steps of full Interventionism by 1940. There are several primary ways to adjust sliders:
- In 1936 move Hawk. Then move standing army. Then use GoI to get the rest of your intervention slider moves. Each move towards standing army gives 2% more organization along with cheaper upgrades.
- In 1936 move Hawk. In 1937, 1938, 1939 move to interventionism (both will be max in 1939). In 1940, move towards Standing Army. This method provides Standing Army bonuses earlier.
- If the Soviet player will not purge the officers: In 1936, 1937 & 1938 move Hawk (Hawk will be max by 1939). In 1939, 1940, 1941, move towards Interventionism, then Standing Army in 1942. This method provides Hawk production bonuses earlier.
- One way to avoid the interventionism slider moves is to use Blue Emu's Albania Gambit and Guarantee the Independence (GOI) of Albania or other European countries that will likely be attacked such as Denmark or Luxembourg. Each violation of a GoI gives two Intervention slider moves. In this way, the move to Standing Army can begin as early as 1937, or when not purging the officers, in 1939.
The USSR has the worst ministers of any major power, and very few useful ministers to choose from over the course of the game.
In 1937, two new ministers become available which are worthwhile to change: Uritskij –10% consumer goods, and Shaposhnikov +25% manpower –5% Infantry.
No minister changes are needed after 1937.
Historically, the Soviet Union had one of the best spy networks in the world. Unfortunately, the game does not reflect these advancements. Fortunately, in the early game the USSR makes a fairly large sum of money due to the enormous dissent levels the USSR must get rid of, which allows a player to address the first intelligence concern: create 10 spies in your own country, and then begin counter-espionage efforts.
Intelligence can be used for two primary gains:
- Stealing blueprints from your more advanced adversaries. Focus on Germany, Japan, UK, and USA.
- Couping minor nations (such as Turkey, Finland, Greece, Bulgaria, etc)
The Soviet economy has the potential to rival the US economy through massive IC building in the early game.
The USSR begins the game with two trades to Germany. Naturally, it is in the best interest of the USSR not to trade with Germany, since they are short of key resources. That being technically true, most players consider it gamey/unfair to not trade with Germany.
On January 2nd, 1936, you will have 700+ spare energy, 200+ metal, and 100 rares to trade away. Not many countries will give you a good deal due to your lower relations, however these nations are decent trading partners at the beginning of the game:
Generally, a series of 4 to 5 runs is considered the most appropriate for the USSR, since the war will not start in earnest until the summer of 1941. Running factories for 3 series ends by November, 1938 (depending on your slider moves); while a 4 series run ends October, 1939; and a 5 series run will end in October 1940. The USSR can support a maximum effective IC of 550 with its native resources. But you will have built up a reserve of raw materials that with proper trading could enable you to have an effective IC of 1000.
The use of IC towards upgrades is most effective as your technology increases, since upgrading units from 1918 infantry directly to 1941 infantry, for example, is much cheaper than doing the upgrade from 1918 to 1936 to 1939 to 1941. Also, dissent will come again during the great purge, and is best paid down after the Hawk (reduced dissent) and Interventionism (reduced demand for consumer goods) sliders are working to your maximum advantage. It is essential to get rid of all dissent before war with Germany, and is easily achievable before event the Winter War.
The key to the Soviet military is industry. The Soviet Union can produce a large amount of Tanks and motorized infantry and. These units make it possible to win quickly against Germany. Head Quarters (HQ) will soon become a key to Soviet success in conducting counter-attacks. A key tactical point is to change the Soviet military doctrines for Spearhead which makes it easier to win the game.
Air support is used by more advanced players to decimate the German forces more quickly, primarily with CAS and TAC.
Generally, the Soviet player has no need to create early wars, and very little to gain, from early annexations. Generally, the small IC gain (about 2 total IC gain) plus the dissent caused by a declaration of war does not make these wars a wise/efficient decision. SOV also have very low Ground Defence Efficiency [see below] which means much higher casualties in any early wars.
The Great Officer Purge
In March, 1938, the event "The Great Officer Purge" fires. It is one of the most punitive events in the entire game, and is certainly the worst event that happens to the Soviet Union. You have two options:
- Purge the Traitors: Gain 10% dissent, lose 10 manpower and 170 military leaders. 60 historical leaders will be killed, in addition to 110 randomly selected leaders. Additionally, lose six ministers and two technology teams.
- No need for Brutality: Gain 30% dissent, Hawk sliders move 2 towards Dove.
Purging the officers is typically seen as the most beneficial strategy for the following reasons:
- The Soviet Union has a very large number of leaders
- The extra 20% dissent penalty from "no need for brutality" has a significantly negative economic affect
- The two moves to Dove from "no need for brutality" erase the 10% production bonus, and reduce dissent growth to -2% (from -6%) and manpower growth to just 2% (from 6%). Additionally, if you purge, the Soviet Union only needs one slider move (in 1936) towards Hawk. The rest can be done via events (mostly Soviet influence in China) and via Guarantees of Independence in Europe. Standing army means more organization and cheaper upgrades: By 1941 you can have 12 more organization with upgrades at 25% (from the army slider) instead of 50%. The net effect is 50% vs 75% including the Central Planning effects).
Some players advocate for saving the officers for the following reasons:
- Roleplaying a more benevolent USSR
- Saving historical leaders (such as Zhukov) that may have be randomly purged by the event
- Using a Soviet strategy that is *not* manpower/attrition focused, and could benefit from stronger leaders
- Tech team Alksnis, level 6, is the only team that can research air doctrines until 1940
- Tech team Tukhachevsky, level 5, is better than Shaposhnikov
- Minister Berzin, Head of Intelligence, is the only minister who provides a 5% research bonus
- Minister Alksnis, Chief of Air Force, is the only minister who provides bonuses for fighters and interceptors.
Soviet Ground Defense Efficiency
In Hearts of Iron 2
In order to simulate the ineffectiveness of Soviet defenses before the war with Germany, the Soviet Union has significant defensive penalties for its military that cannot be adjusted in-game by the player. The GDE (Ground Defense Efficiency) score is essentially a percentage of the effectiveness of your units on defense. Thus, a GDE of 0.2 means 20% effective, or put another way, fighting at an 80% penalty when on the defense. The normal value of GDE for other nations is 0.8: due to all the advantages defenders have in the game, GDE never rises above 0.8.
- The Soviet Union starts with 0.2 GDE.
- It increases by 0.1 in May 1940 and later years for a total of +0.4.
- When anyone DOWs you get all these future increases plus an additional 0.1 are received.
- When Finns offer you peace through the event you get +0.1 (note this is the event not any other offer of peace).
- Grand total gets you back to 0.8.
- AI gets +0.6 at the start instead of the above events EXCEPT that they still get the Winter War event allowing the AI to get 0.9 GDE.
Timeline of GDE values:
- Prior to Dec 12th, 1939, your GDE should be 0.2
- From Dec 12th, 1939 to May 1st, 1940, it should be 0.3
- From May 2nd, 1940 to May 1st, 1941, it should be 0.4
- From May 2nd, 1941 to May 1st, 1942, it should be 0.5
- From May 2nd, 1942 to May 1st, 1943, it should be 0.6
- From May 2nd, 1943 to May 1st, 1944, it should be 0.7
- From May 2nd, 1944 on, it should be 0.8
Being attacked by a major power (eg: Germany) will automatically boost your GDE up to 0.7 (after a random delay of a few weeks to as much as several months)... but ONLY if they attack you, not vice versa; and the last boost (from 0.7 to 0.8 GDE) only happens in 1944, regardless. Note that all of this applies ONLY to a Human-controlled Russia... an AI-controlled Russia has a GDE of 0.8 right from January 1936 on.
Details are available in this thread.
In Doomsday or Armageddon
There is a different event chain in Doomsday and Armageddon. One important difference is that the Finnish Winter War has no effect on the GDE. The Winter War is fought at 0.4 GDE. Then there are two GDE gearing up events in January 1940 and June 1940, raising GDE to 0.5 and then 0.6 GDE. In June ´41 the GDE gets the last but one raise to 0.7 GDE. The last raise to 0.8 GDE depends on whether the Soviet Union is human or AI controlled. The AI gets maximum GDE when they lost 10% of their provinces in the "Great Patriotic War" event. A human controlled Soviet Union gets the same event when it is under attack (!), lost 5% of its territory and lost one major western city OR by June ´42 at the latest.
- No Deal with the Enemies of the Workers: This option does not provide any benefits to the player.
- Accept the pact: You will receive many free territory claims as well as a free slider move towards Interventionism.
- Propose an alliance with Germany: If it is accepted, the USSR will be in the Axis. It will lead to a bizarre game where fascists and communists are allied together to defeat democracy.
Historic Molotov Ribbentrop national provinces:
It is not necessary to declare war on the Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia) if SOV get the historic Moltov Ribbentrop treaty. Beginning on May 17, 1940, the USSR will have a 20% chance of successfully demanding territory (in the Diplomacy screen) to annex the Baltic States. Historically the Baltic states folded in stages in spring and summer 1940. You can also use the acceptall diplomatic cheat to simulate the historic events. Romania should also give up three Bessarabian provinces via the Pact on 27 JUN 1940.
The Winter War
Assuming Poland has been annexed by Germany, a historical event fires in November 1939. The event gives you an option to give an ultimatumn to Finland, demanding two border provinces near Leningrad (Viipuri and Sortavala). AI Finland refuses to cede over the provinces 99% of the time, triggering a war. It is generally best to press claims as Stalin did historically since refusing to demand the provinces changes your Interventionism value by -1.
If you plan to choose the "Press claims" option and therefore almost certainly start the war, it's best that you prepare for the conflict before it breaks out, during the summer months of 1939. Remember to concentrate your army near the Finnish border in time. Also if you haven't upgraded your divisions by now prioritize the divisions you're planning to use for the war and move the upgrade slider just enough to turn their equipment more lethal.
The quick way to win
Send most of your mobile troops to the Finnish border around june of 1939, including your starting 10 Motorized Divisions and 4 tank divisions. Use these 14 divisions as your main strike force: split them up into 2 motorized and one tank division. Deploy close to 30 infantry divisions close to the Finnish border and have at least one 11 division plus the one "Stavka" the hq unit in one big army under a Field Marshal. To win quickly in less than a month attack the middle of Finland and do NOT attack the fortified areas, you only need to take a few of the middle provinces cutting Finland in half and then a screen will pop up where you can get what you originally asked for or take the whole of Finland.
There is an interesting alternative approach: build 2+ transports and make landing on Finnish costal provinces (including Turku and Vaasa) and send one huge juggernout to Viipuri-Helsinki. You don't need Marines because there is no defense usually. If things go well, you'll annex Finland in 7 days without diplomatic penalty before peace event fires.
The end of the Finnish Winter War
Once you've taken Helsinki or approximately four Finnish provinces, event #2627 will fire. You'll get a chance to re-state your ultimatumn, which this time will be accepted 99% of the time, or continue the war in hopes of annexation ("Let's bring them Socialism!").
This time deciding which option is the best one is a bit more debatable. Settling for two provinces bordering Leningrad means that you'll have to divert your attention (and around 20-30 divisions) to the northern front once Operation Barbarossa starts, while going for the annexation shoots up not only your Interventionism (by 1) but your belligerence as well, and immediately ends any existing non-aggression pacts with Germany, France, Great Britain and USA. Both selections also have their positive effects: Settling for two provinces lowers your dissent value by an impressive 10 (altough there's a 1% chance it goes up by 5), and annexation means you get the IC's and resources of Finland. If your dissent is over 10%, then it's a no-brainer to settle what you asked for. But otherwise it's up to you.
War with Germany
Everything the USSR player does should be directed towards the ultimate war in Germany, which will usually begin around June 22, 1941. The player should ensure that all dissent is gone, and all upgrades are complete before June, 1941. At the beginning of the war, an event will ask regarding the movement of industry to Siberia. There is no reason not to accept this event, as it greatly helps the USSR.
The really quick way to win
To win quickly against Germany all you need to do is this
- In 1936 change the doctrine from Soviet land Doctrine to Spearhead
- Make sure to build industry all the way up to Feb 1940
- In Feb 1940 start to build Motorized infantry and tank divisions.
- When Germany Is in France, but before France, has fallen attack Germany or Romania, Romania can be a better choice since then Germany will Declare war upon you.
By doing these 4 things you are guaranteed to win before the end of 1940 despite the fact that your Gde is very gimped.
What you need to do is to have 2 motorized divisions for every 1 tank division and each one under a skilled Major General, and for every 12 divisions place a field marshal.
Research tactical bomber and fighter technologies since you already have some built, and upgrades those before you attack.
By correctly attacking and using your air power you can win over Germany in late 1940.
Force Deployment & Tactics
If you choose not to attack in 1940 but want to wait for the Axis to attack you then you should build up your industry all the way until summer 1940.
By starting on building up industry in 1936 preferably to the east of Moscow so that it is hard to get to by enemy forces, and using ALL available IC to build industry. Make sure to asign all divisions under logistical wizards so that they consume as little goods as possible and do not reinforce them until you need them.
Only reinforce those units you are going to use in the winter war and only upgrade those and do it at during the summer of 39.
Make sure that you have researched the spearhead doctrine since it is several times better then the games “soviet land doctrine”, doctrine. And the point is to win as quickly and as easily as possible.
If you do this and do it properly then by the Summer of 1940 you should have an effective IC anywhere from 650-850 depending on how well you trade and what slider options you have chosen.
During the summer of 1940 start by building tanks and motorized divisions and tactical fighters and headquarters. When the war comes in 1941 you will have a large motorized army which can easily destroy the attacking axis within a few month and you never need to lose a single province.
Winning the Easy Way with the Soviet land Doctrine
The Soviet Union is extremely powerful, and beating Germany is quite easy using the correct approach. Two simple steps, also known as "spamming industry & infantry", will ensure an easy victory:
- 3 rounds of using all IC for factory building
- Then, massive parallel serialized builds of infantry (though taking care to pay down all dissent, upgrades, and reinforcements): 400-500 infantry by the time of Barbarrosa is a good figure. Combined with Milita, and the USSR can easily attain 600+ army units.
Using this method, it is possible to never surrender a single province to Germany, and to essentially go on the offensive at the very beginning of the war. In fact, if done with careful effeciency, the Soviet military will be so strong and so overpowering that the German AI, knowing how massive the Soviet army is, will not dare declare war! If a Soviet game goes into the summer of 1942 without a German declaration of war, it means the Soviet player has created a massive military that will steam roll Germany all the way to Berlin and beyond. :)
Alternative War Options
War with China
For the expansive player who likes to conquer everything in sight, an oft neglected direction is China in 1936. Why China? It's a large land mass that no one in the west is going to go to war with you over. I generally do not like to share with anyone so I personally often find ways to eliminate or isolate Mongolia from the war effort, but that's of minor importance. Their are two main ways to enter China. Either you can smash through Japan and her puppet Manchouko, which will bring you into war with Japan as well which you probably don't want.
Or you can skip war with Japan all together by invading through Sinkiang. The main problem here is that invading through Sinkiang means crossing those damn mountains and that can take 6 months to a year, if not more. Additionally you should either have conquered Mongolia (puppet state of USSR I know, but still) or moved troops their so they can invade Shanxi. Main reason? Keeping the Japanese out.
The two times I've done it, Japan did not go to war with China, but I don't guarantee that they won't, however, you don't have to go war with them. If that happens you'll be in a race with Japan to capture all the territory you can.
It is a tough war though, and winter 37 is going to be very tough. Generally going through a careful step by step invasion process pushing for the pacific, you can be done with war in China by late 1938 (including all warlord states) no later than may of 39, so you can still have all your army back in Europe just in time for the winter war. You'll have the advantage of going into the winter war, and then world war 2 with the most experienced army in the whole game. In fact, I'd recommend that any units left behind in China be newer units so you can fully benefit from that edge.
From this point on, the war in the game should play out as mentioned in the war with Germany section, other than the advantage you'll get in additional manpower, resources, and IC, but of course, you're not going to war with China because you need something. You're doing it because it seemed like a fun idea, (at least in my case)
Additionally, if you're looking for war with england, you'll suddenly find yourself in perfect location for a two pronged strike into India. However if you do this, you still need to keep a strong army at the polish (and later german) border because Germany will declare war on you no matter what you're doing to England.
In a Multiplayer game, Germany is the most serious enemy of the Soviet Union, and will typically force Barbarrosa in May, 1940. Germany will be technically superior to the Soviet Union in every way at this time, and may even have more industrial capacity. Wise German adversaries will focus on land doctrines, infantry, armor, and air superiority. All German units, especially in 1940, will be a level more advanced than Soviet units.
To win easily in Multilayer as the USSR if you start in the 1936 scenario change to Spearhead doctrine, Build industry for 2-3 rounds and then build motorized units and tanks and combine them in 1 tank 2 motorized groups each specific division under s killed Major General and of course 1 Field Marshal for every 12 Divisions that you have