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Ivan's War: The Red Army at War 1939-45: The Red Army, 1941-45 Hardcover – 20 Oct 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (20 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571218083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571218080
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.3 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 575,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A marvellous book. ... Catherine Merridale is a superb historian, among the very best of her generation. -- Tony Judt

Her account of the sufferings of the Red Army soldiers and their families is unlikely to be bettered. -- Robert Service, author of Stalin: A Biography

Ivan's War throws an illuminating light on the experience of war. It is an important and revealing book. -- Publishing News

Book Description

Ivan's War: The Red Army at War 1939-45 by Catherine Merridale is a powerful and groundbreaking examination of the ordinary Russian soldier's experience of the worst war in history, on the eastern front of World War II.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Nov. 2005
Format: Hardcover
then look no further than this book. So many books about the second world war focus on the technical capabilities of the hardware and the movements of divisions. This book concentrates on the people who fought the battles and suffered the anguish of loss. I found it extremely moving and wonderfully written. I read a lot of this kind of book and this is certainly a cut above. Absolutely as good if not better than Beevor, Keegan, Hastings et al. Highly recommended.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By commentator on 8 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a gripping, yet fascinating and necessary book. Based on an enormous wealth of sources - interviews with veterans and survivors, memoirs, letters, diaries, scientific monographs -, the author traces the living and dying of millions of ordinary Soviet soldiers in the Second World War. The book follows a strictly chronological order: starting out with the pre-war world of the Stalinist Soviet Union and its imagination of how heroically correct and antiseptically clean future war would unfold, it touches upon the strange experience of the short Polish campaign of September 1939, the first traumatic encounter with near-defeat during the winter war with Finland, the disasters and tragedies of 1941 and 1942, the victorious defence of Stalingrad that turned the war (not only for the Soviets, but for all allies!), the painstaking, bloody roll-back of the German invaders, eventually the storm on Berlin and the triumph of the red banner fluttering over the Brandenburger Tor. Then there are the unspeakable horrors Soviet prisoners of war suffered at the hand of their German captors, the survival of soldiers left behind in the forests and swamps, the panic and hopelessness that pervaded the Red Army in 1941 and 1942 while on permanent retreat. Finally, the daily lives of the frontovik, the soldier at the front, with the cold nights and freezing winters in an earthen dugout, the dirt, the lice, the rheumatism, the poor food, the cursing, the swearing, the drinking, the camaraderie, the sorrow over lost friends, the disdain for and yet occasional collusion with officers, the constant worry about wives and sweethearts back home and what they might do in the absence of husbands and financés.Read more ›
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Feb. 2006
Format: Hardcover
My background has always been one of the military side of the Eastern Conflict and this book made a refreshing change.
I can inderstand some of the critical reviews comments as this is definately not an indepth analysis of the Russian Front Campaign rather one that attempts to look beyond the fighting and see into the hearts and minds of the people who had to live through,and in so many cases,die,in this terrible chapter in our history,and I believe that in this the author is pretty successfull.
I for one found it hard to put down at times,just one more paragraph mentality!!!
So to sum up a very readable account with a different perspective on events.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By U. Hartmann on 9 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
This book represents a long-awaited and very important shift in the historiography of World War II and the Red Army. Instead of focussing on front campains, strategy, military planning and military history in general, Catherine Merridale offers the first "cultural history" of the Red Army and its soldiers in this impressive book. She aims to represent the men (and women!) fighting for the Soviet Union, their demographic and cultural background, ideology and suffering. Incorporating new archival material and a vast amount of "oral history" (one cannot stress the importance of this enough. If Merridale had not interviewed these "ordinary" people, their memories would be lost forever, considering their age.), she creates an imagine more shocking and touching than the sheer numbers of losses/deaths/casualties presented in other volumes.

Merridale's book is illuminating and I can recommend it not only to anybody interested in the history of World War II, but also to anybody interested in modern Russian history in general.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a superb book. Very easy to read, not repetitive, not a standard war story book. It describes in a clear, yet moving way, the true reasons behind Russian stoicism during and indeed before and since, World War 2. The conditions which prevailed upon Soviet citizens in Stalins (and post revolutionary) Russia, are graphically described. The reader is taken through the war as it affected Russia and follows the Red Army from Moscow to Berlin, with each step of the journey affecting the ordinary soldier in an increasingly traumatic way. The hardships of life at home pale into insignificance compared to life at the front. The hunger, shortages, thefts, violence, risks, demands and abuse faced by front line troops is appalling. The author brings to life soldiers and civilian accounts of life for them throughout the war. This is a book which is hard to put down. It is pacey, detailed and at the same time, quite moving. A very good book indeed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kerrieblue123 on 10 Jan. 2011
Format: Hardcover
There are many books on aspects of the war on the Eastern Front in WW2, with no shortage of senior officer's memoirs among them. Yet most of the common soldier's memoirs, at least those published in English, tend to be from Germans and convey a picture of what life was like in the Ostheer. In this book the author has attempted to convey a picture of what the war was like for Soviet soldiers on the frontline, and, to a lesser extent, for the families left behind. She has done this primarily through a series of interviews with Soviet veterans, drawing conclusions from their accounts and from other personal sources such as letters and diaries.
What emerges, not surprisingly perhaps, is a more human picture than the universally handsome, steadfast and heroic `homo-Sovieticus' that the Bolshevik propaganda posters always depicted. There is nothing startlingly new in this book, but it does provide a detailed and fairly comprehensive picture of the soldier's daily life; the training, the military routine, the food, the clothing and equipment, the entertainment, the propagandising, the work in the fields at harvest time, the battlefield superstitions, the crude humour, and the harsh discipline. Some of what the author describes is common to any army, but much of it was specific to the Red Army of the 1930's and 1940's; and what comes across repeatedly is the comradeship, endurance, and deep patriotism of what was, even in the early 1940's, a largely peasant army.
A book of this sort has been long overdue (Vasilii Grossman's - A Writer at War, though at times covering similar ground, was much more fragmentary), and with a declining number of veterans left alive to interview, it is a book that could not have been put off for too much longer.
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