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Ivan's War: The Red Army at War 1939-45: Inside The Red Army, 1939-45 [Paperback]

Catherine Merridale
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
RRP: £12.99
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Book Description

7 Sep 2006
They died in their millions, shattered by German shells and tanks, freezing behind the wire of prison camps, driven forward in suicidal charges by the secret police. Yet in all the books about the war on the eastern front, there is very little about how the Russian soldier lived, dreamed and died. Catherine Merridale found archives of letters, diaries and police reports that have allowed her to write a major history of a figure too often treated as part of a vast mechanical horde. Here are moving and terrible stories of men and women in appalling conditions, many not far from death. They allow us to understand the strange mixture of courage, patriotism, anger and fear that made it possible for these badly fed, dreadfully-governed soldiers to defeat the Nazi army that would otherwise have enslaved the whole of Europe. The experience of the soldiers is set against a masterly narrative of the war in Russia. Merridale also shows how the veterans were treated with chilling ingratitude and brutality by Stalin, and later exploited as icons of the Great Patriotic War before being sidelined once more in Putin's new capitalist Russia.

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Ivan's War: The Red Army at War 1939-45: Inside The Red Army, 1939-45 + Russia's War + Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin
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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (7 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571218091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571218097
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'Essential reading, not just for those interested in the Eastern Front, but for anyone who wants to understand Russia.' Antony Beevor, Sunday Times 'Outstanding.' Simon Sebag Montefiore 'A harrowing but unforgettable report on the chaos and tragedy that brought this Europe to birth... Magnificent.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent"

Book Description

A powerful, groundbreaking new book on the ordinary Russian soldier's experience of the worst war in history.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to know about Russia 16 Nov 2005
By A Customer
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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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the effort. 28 Feb 2006
By A Customer
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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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gripping stories, lack of analysis 8 Jun 2010
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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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A completely different angle 9 Mar 2007
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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent research. 9 Nov 2006
I have read the book and I found it extremely interesting. Most of the work about the eastern front focuses on strategic and technical issues. Catherine Merridale uses recently declassified documents to provide new insight on the soviet soldier, the Ivan. Aspects such as fear, repression, ideology or sexual issues are covered in great detail.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Damn good read 28 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's difficult to know where to start this review without charging into cliche! The trouble is this IS a vivid account of life at the time, and Merridale DOES paint a picture that is rich in detail.
There is an amazing story here, on a scale that dwarfs anything that happened in the Western chapter of the Second World War. The numbers are, at times, overwhelming to the extent they cease to have meaning. 27 million dead in total, hundreds of thousands captured in a single battle with tens of thousands killed.. What helps to keep the tale focused are the eye witness accounts that have been collected. From letters from the dead and the lips of survivers, this brilliantly constructed book not only explains what happened in terms of the bigger picture of attacks and defence, of frounts and of fallbacks and in doing so it grants you moments of insight that go far beyond lines on a map.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning read that will leave you with a lot to think about...
We usually hear about WWII from the British viewpoint or indeed the American angle. The USSR in fact bore the brunt of the violence and the death and destruction. The US lost c. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr. A. G. Marshall
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of information
Just my kind of read. This book is full of information. It is written in an understandable and interesting way. Read more
Published 17 months ago by scotnat
1.0 out of 5 stars More an insult to the Russian Culture, than an honest attempt to tell...
I can not agree with most reviewers. Rather, I find the book to be extremely annoying. Catherine Merridale writes to more than 400 pages a seemingly overwhelming hatred of all... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Ernst Wiltmann
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that had to be written!
After reading lots of different books on the eastern front this one tells us how ivans life was from 1939 to 1945 and beyond. Read more
Published on 21 Mar 2012 by Y Allen
There has always been limited information from the Soviet side of WW2 which has usually been down to secrecy and I suppose not wanting to document the severity of what the Russian... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by Helpless
5.0 out of 5 stars Long Overdue
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. Read more
Published on 10 Jan 2011 by Kerrieblue123
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
I can't understand the reviewers who are unhappy that this book is not a military history as it doesn't claim to be one. Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2010 by Stephen Levy
2.0 out of 5 stars Ivans War
I am very much interested in the Great Patriotic War and the Eastern Front campaigns. The difficulty I have with this type of book is that when you move away from grand stratagy &... Read more
Published on 4 July 2008 by Hugh McPhilemy
1.0 out of 5 stars Ivan's War: Inside The Red Army, 1939-45
A bourgeois and unconvincing account of the common soviet soldier, a huge and complex subject inadequately covered with little in the way of new insights or information. Read more
Published on 6 Jan 2008 by Ms. Muriel M. Wright
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