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.
The girls came from every corner of the U.S.S.R. They were factory workers, domestic servants, teachers and clerks, and few were older than twenty. Though many had led hard lives before the war, nothing could have prepared them for the brutal facts of their new existence: with their country on its knees, and millions of its men already dead, grievously wounded or in captivity, from 1942 onwards thousands of Soviet women were trained as snipers.
Thrown into the midst of some of the fiercest fighting of the Second World War they would soon learn what it was like to spend hour upon hour hunting German soldiers in the bleak expanses of no-man's-land; they would become familiar with the awful power that comes with taking another person's life; and in turn they would discover how it feels to see your closest friends torn away from you by an enemy shell or bullet.
In a narrative that travels from the sinister catacombs beneath the Kerch Peninsula to Byelorussia's primeval forests and, finally, to the smoking ruins of the Third Reich, Lyuba Vinogradova recounts the untold stories of these brave young women. Drawing on diaries, letters and interviews with survivors, as well as previously unpublished material from the military archives, she offers a moving and unforgettable record of their experiences: the rigorous training, the squalid living quarters, the blood and chaos of the Eastern Front, and those moments of laughter and happiness that occasionally allowed the girls to forget, for a second or two, their horrifying circumstances.
Avenging Angels is a masterful account of an all-too-often overlooked chapter of history, and an unparalleled account of these women's lives.
Translated from the Russian by Arch Tait
Composed of convicts--soldiers who conducted "unauthorized retreats," former Soviet POWs deemed untrustworthy, and Gulag prisoners--the Red Army's penal units received the most difficult, dangerous assignments, such as breaking through the enemy's defenses. So punishing was life in these units that officers in regular formations threatened to send recalcitrant troops to penal battalions. Alexander Pyl'cyn led his penal unit through the Soviets' massive offensive in the summer of 1944, the Vistula-Oder operation into eastern Germany, and the bitter assault on Berlin in 1945. He survived the war, but 80 percent of his men did not.
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.