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John

Hitlers underestimation of Russia.

Question

The Americans made an 8 part world war 2 documentary whilst the war was still going on. (propaganda documentaries)

In one of them, it describes how Russia had a population of, I think it was 160 to 180 million at the time Hitlers invasion started. (havent watched it for ages)

Im wondering if these population figures were known to Hitler before he invaded Russia ??

It was said that Germanys population, at the time, was around 80 million, about half or less than half of the Russians.

If Hitler was aware of this, then I wonder how he could have so badly underestimated the size & scale of their numbers ??

Twice he thought they'd run out of man power, at Moscow, then at Stalingrad.

At Moscow, he had accounted for about 3 million of them, plus many millions of civilians along the way.

But if he knew he was up against 160 million or so, then surely (you would think) he should have known there was still multitudes more to come, even with 3 million out of the way.

Im guessing he mustn"t have known the true population of Russia, at the time ????

Does anyone know ????

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True, but Hitler had a slightly different plan in mind.

He wanted to eradicate the vast majority of "undesirables" first, leaving only the ones that could be used for slave labour, and then populate the country with "aryans". But this was only of secondary importance to him. His priority aim was to destroy Soviet power & steal their resources to empower his own war machine still further, for battles that still lay ahead.

Not that the British behaved like "angels" in their rule over India. (from what Ive read), but Hitler was far worse, of course.

 

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When a country wages war with another,the 'population' as a whole of the latter is not really of concern.The comparative military might at the time,the weaponry & battle readiness,along with the terrain configuration/obstacles facing the aggressor,are equally important.The Russian 'misadventure' seems more a case of over confidence on the part of (so-he-thought) invincibility of his Army!Perhaps,his Generals were too scared to keep him properly up-dated of the growing successes of the advancing Allies on the Western & Southern  fronts.Ofcourse,the severity of the Russian Winter,the tenacity of the Russians & the extended & failing logistics & morale of the Germans,finally,quashed Hitler's dreams!

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4 hours ago, Harry Walia said:

When a country wages war with another,the 'population' as a whole of the latter is not really of concern.The comparative military might at the time,the weaponry & battle readiness,along with the terrain configuration/obstacles facing the aggressor,are equally important.The Russian 'misadventure' seems more a case of over confidence on the part of (so-he-thought) invincibility of his Army!Perhaps,his Generals were too scared to keep him properly up-dated of the growing successes of the advancing Allies on the Western & Southern  fronts.Ofcourse,the severity of the Russian Winter,the tenacity of the Russians & the extended & failing logistics & morale of the Germans,finally,quashed Hitler's dreams!

well i think people overestimate the rationality of hitler ,and hitler never wanted to even listen to his generals who werent generals at all in reality from july 41 onwards just figureheads and people to blame when things inevitably went wrong The winter only became a problem because hitler completelly changed the barbarossa plan in august 41 and the new plan delayed the moscow offensive almost 2months his army had been invincible before hitler took total control but the secret of that invincibility was flexibility of movement something hitler increasingly took away Its hard to even know what hitlers dreams were as i dont think he even wanted to win

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hitler also said"i will always have three levels of motive ,one for the public,one for my intimates,and one for myself",clearly then this shows nothing hitler said could be trusted to be his true opinion,people place too much importance on what he said.when as he said in this rare moment of truth he keeps his real motives totally to himself

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2 hours ago, John said:

The Americans made an 8 part world war 2 documentary whilst the war was still going on. (propaganda documentaries)

In one of them, it describes how Russia had a population of, I think it was 160 to 180 million at the time Hitlers invasion started. (havent watched it for ages)

Im wondering if these population figures were known to Hitler before he invaded Russia ??

It was said that Germanys population, at the time, was around 80 million, about half or less than half of the Russians.

If Hitler was aware of this, then I wonder how he could have so badly underestimated the size & scale of their numbers ??

Twice he thought they'd run out of man power, at Moscow, then at Stalingrad.

At Moscow, he had accounted for about 3 million of them, plus many millions of civilians along the way.

But if he knew he was up against 160 million or so, then surely (you would think) he should have known there was still multitudes more to come, even with 3 million out of the way.

Im guessing he mustn"t have known the true population of Russia, at the time ????

Does anyone know ????

Based on the census of 1939, the population of the USSR was officially declared as 170 million. However, according to some historians, this number was inflated by 3-5 million to hide mass purges of 1937-38. But Hitler certainly underestimated the Red Army size in both manpower and assets. 

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I seem to remember a comment by a German general in 1941, that they had estimated the size of the Red Army before the war, but the figures for the units they'd completely destroyed and captured was already 17 divisions larger than their estimated size for the WHOLE Russian Army.

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Im no fan of Hitler of course, but I find this intriguing.

The figure he needed to be aware of, above all others, before invading, was the Russian population figure of 170 million.

Just from that figure alone, the Germans should have known, that even if they can capture & destroy armies of , say 5 to 10 million, they would still only be barely scratching the surface.

I find it baffling that neither Hitler or the Germans thought of this.

By the time of the battle for Moscow, the Germans had accounted for around 3 million soviet soldiers plus maybe a few million civilians caught in the trap, and the Germans were convinced the Russians were on their last legs and that their job had been pretty much done.

Strange !!!

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Census of 1939, huh ???

Thankyou for that.  It answers my question.

It means Hitler "did" know the size of the Russian population before he invaded, which makes the German woeful underestimation of the Russian giant, well, astonishing.

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When controlling an occupied country, Hitler always admired how the British managed India. That vast country with 318 million people was ruled by a very small group of British. Hitler thought he could do the same with Russia. 

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6 hours ago, John said:

True, but Hitler had a slightly different plan in mind.

He wanted to eradicate the vast majority of "undesirables" first, leaving only the ones that could be used for slave labour, and then populate the country with "aryans". But this was only of secondary importance to him. His priority aim was to destroy Soviet power & steal their resources to empower his own war machine still further, for battles that still lay ahead.

Not that the British behaved like "angels" in their rule over India. (from what Ive read), but Hitler was far worse, of course.

Worth remembering that the Brits neither invaded nor conquered India (and that back then, "India" didn't actually exist. Instead - much like Italy and Germany, the geographical space was occupied by a  bunch of small princedoms. Some of them traded with British merchants, first for goods, then for services, The Honourable East India Company was the "Haliburton" of its day, providing off-the shelf civil service facilities, tax collection... you name it, they could provide it.  Both sides made fortunes from the trading. Basically because the British merchants were far less corrupt, AND rather more efficient. Efficiency is a double edged sword. Leaving valuable assets unexploited is... inefficient.  The HEIC sold off surplus stocks of foo, increasing profits thereby... but destroying the Punjab's ability to survive bad weather, and famine. Short term profits can just be TOO tempting.The British government took over from "John Company", which was already a military power in its own right - as providers of Jannisary style mercenary armies to the local princes. The creation of ad hoc "mutual defence" alliances by the bought-in diplomats increased the combined potency of those troops. Not all princedoms approved of the foreigners - the French particularly were very happy to support any who disapproved of British influence. One of Wellington's greatest battles (Assaye) effectively destroyed French influence in India. The Indian "Mutiny" arose because of claims that the paper cartridges with which the Indian soldiers were issued had been sealed with either Pork fat, or Beef fat, rather than the mutton fat with which they were really treated. During that conflict both sides behaved dreadfully. But it might be fair to claim that by the end of the war the British had REconquered India - which was now a country.

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19 hours ago, Ron Walker said:

I seem to remember a comment by a German general in 1941, that they had estimated the size of the Red Army before the war, but the figures for the units they'd completely destroyed and captured was already 17 divisions larger than their estimated size for the WHOLE Russian Army.

Not surprisingly. On June 22 1941 - the day of the Wehrmacht's invasion - RKKA included about 5 million troops; another 5.3 million were mobilized by July 1, and another 4.5 million+ were mobilized by August 1 - and so on, and so on...    

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On 19.11.2017 at 3:27 PM, John said:

The Americans made an 8 part world war 2 documentary whilst the war was still going on. (propaganda documentaries)

In one of them, it describes how Russia had a population of, I think it was 160 to 180 million at the time Hitlers invasion started. (havent watched it for ages)

Im wondering if these population figures were known to Hitler before he invaded Russia ??

It was said that Germanys population, at the time, was around 80 million, about half or less than half of the Russians.

If Hitler was aware of this, then I wonder how he could have so badly underestimated the size & scale of their numbers ??

Twice he thought they'd run out of man power, at Moscow, then at Stalingrad.

At Moscow, he had accounted for about 3 million of them, plus many millions of civilians along the way.

But if he knew he was up against 160 million or so, then surely (you would think) he should have known there was still multitudes more to come, even with 3 million out of the way.

Im guessing he mustn"t have known the true population of Russia, at the time ????

Does anyone know ????

He probably did his guesstimating based on the Sovjet war with Finland where the Fins managed to defend against all odds. The Sovjets almost ran out of manpower as well. Both thanks to eminent Nazi tactics and thanks to their own waste of human lives. 

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Worth remembering that Russia, back in the day, was NOT like other countries. Hitler was demonstrably  worried about the solidity of his support by the German people. Not that long before, there had been a civil war, which concluded with a victory for the Army/Monarchists/Fascists, but NOT with the extermination of the Navy/ Communists; they were still around. True, their former leaders were being fished (in bits) out of the Landwehr Canal for several weeks after the war ended, but within Germany were a substantial number of former communist sympathisers. In Russia, people who disagreed with the leader simply disappeared.The NKVD was far more prevalent than the Gestapo. If Stalin said "Hop", The Russian people asked "How High?" I went on a guided tour of the Moscow Metro system a couple of years back - the guide seemed oblivious to the fact that it had been substantially built with slave labour: slaves in the form of political prisoners, who had increasingly become a mainstay of the Russian economy. People were arrested for the most trivial reasons - being late for work, not wearing the correct gloves with your uniform... Maybe merely because the Secret Policeman hadn't yet met his arrest quota for that week, and you happened to catch his eye.(It happened!) The point being that Russia's army wasn't exactly a paragon of professionalism. If all you're looking for is cannon fodder, all you need to do is point at a few thousand peasants and workers, hand them each a uniform, and... you've got a fresh new division.

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23 minutes ago, Ron Walker said:

Worth remembering that Russia, back in the day, was NOT like other countries. Hitler was demonstrably  worried about the solidity of his support by the German people. Not that long before, there had been a civil war, which concluded with a victory for the Army/Monarchists/Fascists, but NOT with the extermination of the Navy/ Communists; they were still around. True, their former leaders were being fished (in bits) out of the Landwehr Canal for several weeks after the war ended, but within Germany were a substantial number of former communist sympathisers. In Russia, people who disagreed with the leader simply disappeared.The NKVD was far more prevalent than the Gestapo. If Stalin said "Hop", The Russian people asked "How High?" I went on a guided tour of the Moscow Metro system a couple of years back - the guide seemed oblivious to the fact that it had been substantially built with slave labour: slaves in the form of political prisoners, who had increasingly become a mainstay of the Russian economy. People were arrested for the most trivial reasons - being late for work, not wearing the correct gloves with your uniform... Maybe merely because the Secret Policeman hadn't yet met his arrest quota for that week, and you happened to catch his eye.(It happened!) The point being that Russia's army wasn't exactly a paragon of professionalism. If all you're looking for is cannon fodder, all you need to do is point at a few thousand peasants and workers, hand them each a uniform, and... you've got a fresh new division.

True, but "the slaves" did not just build Moscow Metro system. They also mined metals and built water ways, rail roads and weapon factories of all kinds. So, contrary to the popular belief, RKKA had plenty of assets to waste. 

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1 minute ago, George Collins said:

True, but "the slaves" did not just build Moscow Metro system. They also mined metals and built water ways, rail roads and weapon factories of all kinds. So, contrary to the popular belief, RKKA had plenty of assets to waste. 

That's precisely my point. A nation of people who have developed a habit of doing what they were told - without question.And that in turn goes back to being conquered by the Mongols. The Mongols were at the time of their conquests, unbeatable. If you fought them YOU WOULD DIE.And then, furious at being defied, the Mongols would then kill your family, your friends, your dog, your farm animals...  Wise people DIDN'T fight them. The Mongols had no need to leave behind a garrison to control their conquests: they just left the same rulers in charge, now tasked with fulfilling a list of payments as a form of "tribute" to the conquerors. Those payments stripped the conquered people down to starvation rations. But they paid, because if they didn't the Mongols would return, and they'd kill you, and your family, and your dog and...(you get the idea) Worse, if someone else paid a visit to the Great Khan, and claimed that HE could extract even MORE tribute.. he'd be given the opportunity to try. People lived their lives in total terror, and on the brink of starvation.  Kind of like being a resident of Auschwitz, except that it lasted not for just a few years... but for several complete generations. Obviously, eventually the Mongol Empire imploded, and things "went back to normal" in Russia. But after several generations of being vassals, what "Normal" meant, had changed. Russia was now free to write their own laws... but, curiously, those laws didn't reflect the nation's aspirations, but instead continued to perpetuate the kind of society that had existed under the daily threat of extermination by the Mongol Hordes. And, to some degree that has continued down the generations. Random arrests, total absence of control over your life, shortages of everything... Life under Stalin can't have been that different to life under Ghengis Khan, except perhaps for the hope of a better future, brought about by the Communist Party.

 

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MMmmm...Im not sure here how I respond to each message. This site works a bit differently.

Good to see plenty of people here who've done plenty of homework on these topics.

Its my dream to visit Russia one day (as long as its safe to do so) and see all their WW2 museums & visit some of their main battlefields.

Per Christian Veberg... From all appearances, it certainly looked like the Russians had run out of manpower in front of Moscow.

(Apart from the siberians used in the surprise counter offensive.) Yet, over the next 3 years of war, Stalin still somehow managed to find many millions more troops to throw into the line. Where he found them, I dont know. it makes me wonder where all these new troops were at the time of crisis for Moscow.

Its fascinating how with all the massive losses, day after day, the Russian war machine, instead of decreasing in size, seemed to be actually increasing, as time went on.

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28 minutes ago, John said:

MMmmm...Im not sure here how I respond to each message. This site works a bit differently.

Good to see plenty of people here who've done plenty of homework on these topics.

Its my dream to visit Russia one day (as long as its safe to do so) and see all their WW2 museums & visit some of their main battlefields.

Per Christian Veberg... From all appearances, it certainly looked like the Russians had run out of manpower in front of Moscow.

(Apart from the siberians used in the surprise counter offensive.) Yet, over the next 3 years of war, Stalin still somehow managed to find many millions more troops to throw into the line. Where he found them, I dont know. it makes me wonder where all these new troops were at the time of crisis for Moscow.

Its fascinating how with all the massive losses, day after day, the Russian war machine, instead of decreasing in size, seemed to be actually increasing, as time went on.

RKKA never recovered in size from the collapse in the summer and fall of 1941, actually. We're talking about disappearing armies, hundreds of tanks, aircraft and vast quantities of munitions and fuel, not to mention production capacity - like, for example, the main Soviet tank production facility in Kharkov, Ukraine.    

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7 hours ago, John said:

MMmmm...Im not sure here how I respond to each message. This site works a bit differently.

Good to see plenty of people here who've done plenty of homework on these topics.

Its my dream to visit Russia one day (as long as its safe to do so) and see all their WW2 museums & visit some of their main battlefields.

Per Christian Veberg... From all appearances, it certainly looked like the Russians had run out of manpower in front of Moscow.

(Apart from the siberians used in the surprise counter offensive.) Yet, over the next 3 years of war, Stalin still somehow managed to find many millions more troops to throw into the line. Where he found them, I dont know. it makes me wonder where all these new troops were at the time of crisis for Moscow.

Its fascinating how with all the massive losses, day after day, the Russian war machine, instead of decreasing in size, seemed to be actually increasing, as time went on.

I've visited Russia (and Eastern Europe) a lot since 1991. And I was at school in the UK during the brief period (the 1970's) when it became fashionable to learn Russian. The result is largely confusion... You can't learn a country's language without learning about the country as well, and Russia today is NOT the same place as the USSR was in my schooldays. Similar in some ways, but not the same. A visit to GUM on Red Square rubs that in: in the 1970's the USSR's biggest department store had very little to sell. Forty years later, the departments sell all manner of luxury items - Rolex watches, diamond rings... When you enter a restaurant these days, the items shown on the very impressive menu WILL be available (In the 70's, the best policy was to ignore the menu and ask "What HAVE you got?") And My wife and I visited St Petersburg during Boris Yeltsin's presidency, which had the flavour of 1920's Chicago. Just around the corner from our hotel was a row of parked Mercedes and BMW cars, al with tinted windows, where pedestrians would walk up to a car, hesitate, an electric window would wind down and small package would be passed through. "Vozhd". (Meaning "Roof". As in "I've paid up, so please don't burn down my business".)

Where did those Siberian troops come from? Siberia! Thanks to the work of a (now famous) KGB agent named Richard Sorge who had infiltrated the Japanese War Ministry, and was able to pass back to Moscow the word that the Japanese did NOT plan to go to war with the USSR, which allowed the Russians to move a lot of troops away from the border with (Japanese occupied) China. The year before last we took a trip on the Trans Siberian Railway, from Moscow to Bejing, via Ulaan Baator. The trip (which was fascinating) drew my attention to the fact that Siberia is NOT just a vast empty space that's east of "proper" Russia: Russia's two biggest cities (Moscow and St. P) are in "European" Russia, but the third and fourth biggest are in Siberia. The completion of the Trans Siberian Railway was very much a product of Soviet Communism, and the final stretch (BAM- the Baikal-Amur Mainline) Was a matter for celebration when I was a teenaged student of things Russian. Hard to imagine anywhere safer these days (aside from Beijing, maybe) but annoying that you have to turn up in person at the Russian Embassy to get a Visa.

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Yes, I knew about the Siberian army.

70s Russia must have been a dangerous place for a westerner to visit.

Hopefully things have improved nowadays under Putin ???

Theres no country on earth that could have more reason to be prouder of their military history, than Russia.

I have another question to ask .....

Could Russia have won the war against Hitler, without Stalin at the helm ?????(Given his ruthless preparations for war, despite his  purges & bunglings for the first 6 months of it)

I suppose another way to put the question, is to ask "Could any other war leader, in Stalins position, achieved final victory over the Nazis, using nicer means & more humane methods than Stalin did ????

Given that any war leader in Stalins position would have to be a successful politician as well, in order to achieve the top rank of "commander in chief". (Which would rule out Zhukov, because he was a military minded person, not a politician)

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19 minutes ago, John said:

Yes, I knew about the Siberian army.

70s Russia must have been a dangerous place for a westerner to visit.

Hopefully things have improved nowadays under Putin ???

Theres no country on earth that could have more reason to be prouder of their military history, than Russia.

I have another question to ask .....

Could Russia have won the war against Hitler, without Stalin at the helm ?????(Given his ruthless preparations for war, despite his  purges & bunglings for the first 6 months of it)

I suppose another way to put the question, is to ask "Could any other war leader, in Stalins position, achieved final victory over the Nazis, using nicer means & more humane methods than Stalin did ????

Given that any war leader in Stalins position would have to be a successful politician as well, in order to achieve the top rank of "commander in chief". (Which would rule out Zhukov, because he was a military minded person, not a politician)

In Russia, the traditional question has always been "Who was the more ruthless: Lenin or Stalin?" And it's only an interesting question because there was hardly a cigarette paper's worth of difference between them. To get to the top of the pile in Russia - or even NEAR the top of the pile, required you to be as hard as nails. It's possible that Stalin survived throughout Lenin's rule by being almost invisible, biding his time. He ordered the assassination of Leon Trotsky (who might have made a decent leader) but more probably, had Stalin been assassinated himself (and for some reason, he particularly feared being assassinated by the British, maybe he remembered Heydrich?) the man who'd have taken over was probably equally invisible. Or maybe Lavrenti Beria, the NKVD chief? The Chap who DID replace him (Nikita Kruschev) had been the Party Chief at Stalingrad, and assuming that the things he later said were TRUE,  it was his intent to switch  from a concentration on heavy industry (Which had barely existed in Lenin's time, then was largely destroyed by Hitler's invasion, rebuilt... You only need a limited number of Steel works; when you've built that number, you can afford to indulge in frivolities. Problem being, while a planned economy and five year plans work quite well with "the basics" - stuff like Steel mills and T34 factories - it tends to be pretty much rubbish when it comes to producing consumer goods that people actually WANT.  In theory, His threat to the west that "We will BURY you!" referred not to warfare, but to the USSR's theoretical capacity to out produce the West in consumer goods. Huge, highly educated, workforce, massive domestic market, plentiful state-owned raw materials.What more does one need? Well, an economy that was demand-led, rather than (badly) "planned" would have been a good start. As the Russian proverb goes "They pretend to pay us, so we pretend to work." Power in the USSR depended upon the at least nominal support of the all pervading Communist Party.That's kind of a meaningless statement until the leader decides to do something that the ordinary party membership disapproves of. Because whatever it is that he planned to do is going to be done BY those party members.Gorbachev ran into that same brick wall when he tried to make changes. Unlike his predecessors, he came clean with the people and admitted that the country was effectively broke; the bank account cleared out. Modern Russians (at least the few dozen I've spoken to) remember Gorbachev not as merely "the bearer of bad news", but - inexplicably - as the man responsible for the problem. It was the party members who - individually - put on the brakes, and prevented Gorbachev's "Perestroika" ("Restructuring") from taking place. Maybe because the party - and the country - had changed. It was my belief that Yuri Andropov was the last leader of whom the party was sufficiently terrified to have strong-armed serious change through the system. (He'd been the KGB rezident (station chief) in Budapest in 1956.)

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Gents. Why are you talking only about Germany? What about Italy, Romania, Finland, Slovakia, Hungarian, Croatia. in addition what about industries worked for Germany... like Czech Republic, France, Norway, Sweden, etc.

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I think the nazis worst mistake was their stupid belief that russians were inferior subhumans, led by incompetent leaders, that would not be able to stand up against the Wehrmacht and SS. To some extent the winter war in Finland seemed to substantiate this view, but later events would prove them horribly wrong....  Besides this, the sheer size of the Soviet Union must have been underestimated, leading to supply-lines being stretched beyond the limit everywhere. Obviously, the problems caused by extreme weather conditions were not understood either.

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What everyone seems to assume is that the Germans had to conquer all of Russia or defeat 170 million people to win when what they set out to do was deliver a crushing blow to the Russian Miltary and people who'd then force Stalin out and plead for a peace treaty.

I personally believe the aim was the annexation of European Russia with the rest, beyond the Ural Mountains, remaining under the control of whoever was left in charge whether it be communists or not... European Russia was where the oil fields where located and the majority of the fertile land for growing wheat and other crops and the prize worth winning...

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