A powerful, groundbreaking narrative of the ordinary Russian soldier's experience of the worst war in history, based on newly revealed sources
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.
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About the Author
Catherine Merridale is the author of the critically acclaimed Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia. The professor of contemporary history at the University of London, she also writes for the London Review of Books, New Statesman, and the Independent.
Read an Excerpt
Ivan's WarLife and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945
By Merridale, Catherine
Metropolitan BooksCopyright © 2006 Merridale, Catherine
All right reserved.
It was Kamenshchikov's wife who woke him.
Perhaps it was her inexperience, she said, but she had never heard so many planes flying above the town at night. Her husband assured her that what she was hearing were maneuvers. There had been lots of exercises lately. All the same he threw a coat over his shoulders and stepped outside to take a closer look. He knew at once that this was real war. The very air was different; humming, shattered, thick with sour black smoke. The town's main railway line was picked out by a rope of flame. Even the horizon had begun to redden, but its glow, to the west, was not the approaching dawn. Acting without orders, Kamenshchikov went to the airfield and took a plane up to meet the invaders at once, which is why, exceptionally among the hundreds of machines that were parked in neat formations as usual that night, his was brought down over the Bialystok marshes, and not destroyed on the ground. By mid-day on June 22, the Soviets had lost 1,200 planes. In Kamenshchikov's own western district alone, 528 had been blown up like fairground targets by the German guns.
Excerpted from Ivan'sWar by Merridale, Catherine Copyright © 2006 by Merridale, Catherine. Excerpted by permission.
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