Of the thirty million who fought in the eastern front of World War II, eight million died, driven forward in suicidal charges, shattered by German shells and tanks. They were the men and women of the Red Army, a ragtag mass of soldiers who confronted Europe's most lethal fighting force and by 1945 had defeated it. Sixty years have passed since their epic triumph, but the heart and mind of Ivan -- as the ordinary Russian soldier was called -- remain a mystery. We know something about hoe the soldiers died, but nearly nothing about how they lived, how they saw the world, or why they fought.
Drawing on previously closed military and secret police archives, interviews with veterans, and private letters and diaries, Catherine Merridale presents the first comprehensive history of the Soviet Union Army rank and file. She follows the soldiers from the shock of the German invasion to their costly triumph in Stalingrad, where life expectancy was often a mere twenty-four hours. Through the soldiers' eyes, we witness their victorious arrival in Berlin, where their rage and suffering exact an awful toll, and accompany them as they return home full of hope, only to be denied the new life they had been fighting to secure.
A tour de force of original research and a gripping history, Ivan's War reveals the singular mixture of courage, patriotism, anger, and fear that made it possible for these underfed, badly led troops to defeat the Nazi army. In the process Merridale restores to history the invisible millions who sacrificed the most to win the war.
Catherine Merridale is the author of the critically acclaimed Night of Stone, winner of Britain's Heinemann Award for Literature. A professor of contemporary history at the University of London, she also writes for the London Review of Books, the New Statesman, and The Independent and regularly presents history features for the BBC.
Drawing on original interviews with surviving airwomen, Lyuba Vinogradova weaves together the untold stories of the female Soviet fighter pilots of the Second World War. From that first train journey to the last tragic disappearance, Vinogradova's panoramic account of these women's lives follows them from society balls to unmarked graves, from landmark victories to the horrors of Stalingrad. Battling not just fearsome Aces of the Luftwaffe but also patronising prejudice from their own leaders, women such as Lilya Litvyak and Ekaterina Budanova are brought to life by the diaries and recollections of those who knew them, and who watched them live, love, fight and die.
In September, the Germans surrounded and captured a huge bag of divisions east of Kiev, only to encounter a flood of new Red Army divisions when they redirected their intentions on Moscow. In short order the Wehrmacht broke through this line, and approached within sight of the outskirts of the capital. There, they were surprised by a massive offensive mounted by even more new divisions. Other countries had surrendered after losing one army, let alone two. The Soviets came back with a third--which sent the Germans reeling to the rear. How was this possible?
Dunn's detailed examination shows that, far from carelessly throwing thousands of disorganized, untrained men into battle, the Soviets wisely used the resources at hand to resist and drive back the invaders once the initial shock had been absorbed. He reveals how the Soviets systematically trained men as replacements for casualties in existing units, often renaming the unit (a move that confused German intelligence then and continues to confound historians today). Unit integrity was as significant in the Red Army as in other armies. Men were not robotic clones, and each had strengths and weaknesses. Knowing this led to unit integrity and success on the battlefield. Tracing the formation and commitment to battle of Soviet units, regardless of the changes of designation, is crucial to understanding the success and failure of Soviet operations--and Stalin's keys to victory.
A gripping, meticulously researched account of Lenin’s fateful 1917 rail journey from Zurich to Petrograd, where he ignited the Russian Revolution and forever changed the world
In April 1917, as the Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication sent shockwaves across war-torn Europe, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution Vladimir Lenin was far away, exiled in Zurich. When the news reached him, Lenin immediately resolved to return to Petrograd and lead the revolt. But to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which meant accepting help from the deadliest of Russia’s adversaries. Millions of Russians at home were suffering as a result of German aggression, and to accept German aid—or even safe passage—would be to betray his homeland. Germany, for its part, saw an opportunity to further destabilize Russia by allowing Lenin and his small group of revolutionaries to return.
Now, in Lenin on the Train, drawing on a dazzling array of sources and never-before-seen archival material, renowned historian Catherine Merridale provides a riveting, nuanced account of this enormously consequential journey—the train ride that changed the world—as well as the underground conspiracy and subterfuge that went into making it happen. Writing with the same insight and formidable intelligence that distinguished her earlier works, she brings to life a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit finance, and misguided utopianism.
When Lenin arrived in Petrograd’s now-famous Finland Station, he delivered an explosive address to the impassioned crowds. Simple and extreme, the text of this speech has been compared to such momentous documents as Constantine’s edict of Milan and Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses. It was the moment when the Russian revolution became Soviet, the genesis of a system of tyranny and faith that changed the course of Russia’s history forever and transformed the international political climate.
Using an enormous range of primary sources - Soviet, German and Eastern European - John Erickson describes fighting and hardship on a scale almost unimaginable in the West. He provides a detailed narrative of all the battles on all the fronts, and also of the Soviet system of war which achieved, under maximum stress, near-impossible feats in the field and in the factories. The book also tells of the diplomatic moves and counter-moves, including the all-important conferences at Tehran and Yalta.
Comprehensive, compelling and immensely readable, it is an indispensable book for any student of the Second World War.