Tango of Death

During the Battle of Stalingrad, the soviet army deployed a new kind of guerrilla warfare towards their German enemies: sonic terror.

Propaganda, mass manipulation and psychological warfare via radio stations became quite popular during the two world wars but the Russians took it to a entire new level during the siege of Stalingrad.

Loudspeakers were set up throughout the ruined city and a music piece called “The Tango of Death” could be heard playing continuously while the fighting for each house continued. The soviets believed it will induce a sinister mood to their enemies.

Mixed in with the “program” were sounds of ticking clocks and messages in German about how hopeless their position in the city really was or that a fascist soldier died every seven seconds.

These audio messages were also driven around on vans with speakers throughout the city streets. They began with quotes like “Stalingrad, mass grave of Hitler’s army!” then go into the music, clock, and demoralizing quotes. Sometimes they would be sustained by the firing of Katyusha rockets at Nazi positions, a terrifying melodic weapon, often called “Stalin’s organ”.

The propaganda effect may not have worked all the time but the constant loop of audio sure did. Hitler’s army suffered from extreme exhaustion waiting for the Soviet broadcasts to end: if a song is roughly four minutes, it will play 15 times in an hour, 360 times in a day, 2,520 times in a week – or 58,680 times during the 163-day battle.

Another Russian favorite played for the “visiting” Germans was “Zemlyanka” by Aleksey Surkov.

A turning point in WWII, the confrontation in Stalingrad is widely considered one of the bloodiest battle in human history with a total of over 2 million casualties in 6 months. The Soviet Army eventually encircled the starving Germans within the city and defeated them.

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