I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is not only a thoroughly researched work of scholarship, but a brillantly written and engrossing narrative of how Russia succeded in defeating the Nazi war machine, hitherto the most formidable and effective military force in world history. Since the cessetion of the Cold War, and building on the work of scholars such as John Erickson and David Glantz, there has been a fundamental reassessment of the Russian experience in the Second World War. This book indicates that the Russian victory was underpinned by an ability to mobilise the entire nation and economy, often by brutal means, into a total war. Neither are the Russians presented as a homgeneous horde, as they were in earlier works, but as a complex mosaic of differening ethnicities and political persuasions.
This book challenged my previous belief that the German army came close to total victory within the first year, and that if Moscow had fallen then it would have been virtually sealed. In fact, much of the population and industrial production had already been relocated far beyond Moscow in the Urals, and given the Russian capacity for flexible defensive strategies and a developing capacity to launch counter offensives, the obstacles that stood in the way of a German victory begin to look daunting. Overy makes it clear that Stalin made an fatal miscalcualtion in his belief that Germany would not make war with Russia before the spring of 1942, and the sheer ease of the German victories in the weeks following Barbarossa must be seen as a consequence of a total lack of preparedness of the Red Army. After the initial shock (and enormous losses) brought about by the invasion, the expanding Russian mobilization and increasingly over-stretched German army began to favour a Soviet triumph.
This book analyses the multiple levels of the conflict, from the political intrigue between Stalin and his generals, to the perspectives of the ordinary Russian, who endured unspeakable hardships in the name of defence of the motherland. The Russian-German conflict of 1941-45 was the largest and most costly in history, it also shaped the nature of post-war politics. This excellent book captures the scale and importance of the conflict, and provides scope for reflection in its examination of the divide between patriotism and propaganda and sobering recollections of the terrible acts of brutality that took place.