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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shines light on the Russian experience.,
This isn't a cheery book to read. In fact my jaw dropped, on a number of occasions, as I read it.
For me the most important thing to say about it is that it quite radically challenged my understanding of what happened in the Second World War, a view which was formed primarily by reading Churchill.
In his book 'The World at War', which kind of softened me up for reading Overy, Mark Arnold-Forster suggests that if necessary Russia could have defeated Germany unaided, and that the Germans weren't defeated because of their own incompetence or the weather but that they met a militarily superior opponent.
Overy doesn't make the first claim but he backs up the rest. Although Russia had a vast army and considerable weaponry at the outset of the war they were disorganised and in particular Stalin was unwilling to trust his generals. It took about a year and a half for these problems to be overcome and after that Russia hardly put a foot wrong. Having said that he also makes clear the important of the 'lend-lease' supplies the Russians got from the USA.
According to Khruschev in 1956, and these figures are supported by Overy, Russia lost about 25 million people as a direct result of the war. This included over six million soldiers killed in action. 80% of Germany's soldiers killed were on the Eastern Front. The scale of the war is what had not got through to me prior to reading this book.
Other points which Overy makes were that the Germans regarded the Russians as subhuman and committed many atrocities in the huge areas of Russia they occupied.
He also goes into great length about internal repression in Russia before, during and after the war.
Overy makes a sincere effort to understand Stalin and the Russian people, the enormous difficulties they overcame in this war. He doesn't assert definitive answers, and acknowledges uncertainty.
Nevertheless I felt having finished this book as though to some extent I had been given a sense of the Russian point of view. Information about the Germans is here but the book is written to shine a light on the Russians.
93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb account of a remarkable victory,
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monumental book on a monumental struggle,
Richard Overy's book on the war on the Eastern Front is a towering achievement. Using previously unreleased archives and papers Overy challenges many widely held opinions and beliefs and convincingly alters conventional thinking on a number of issues. The book is extremely well written and very hard to put down.
It all starts with the rise of Stalin, the desperate famines of the early 30's and the vicious purges of the military, Jewish communities, intellectuals and others. It details the crushing defeats of the opening German assaults, the 900 day siege of Leningrad and the cauldron of Stalingrad. The book follows the fortunes of the Russian army right to the surrender and fall of Berlin. The book ends with the post-war arguing between the Allies, Stalin's death, and the 'iron curtain' falling across Europe.
Anyone with an interest in this period, or even on modern-day Europe, must read this book, it is excellent.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A damned good book.,
This is one of the books that Mr Beevor should have read before producing his narratives on Stalingrad and Berlin (good though they are).
It dispells so many myths about the USSR's war but also provides the evidence to back it all up. Just read the section on the Warsaw uprising and you'll soon understand more about the unfortunate circumstances there than a whole heap of other 'reliable sources' could tell you.
The horror of the NKVD terror, Stalin's paranoia, the titanic efforts of the average Red Army soldier, it's all there.
Well worth buying and keeping. I think it's fantastic.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thorough examination of a fascinating subject,
In an era when re-appraisal and revisionism are rife, particularly with reference to particular areas of WW2 (Goldhagen et al spring most readily to mind), Overy's book on Russia's War is a welcome addition to the phalanx of intelligent and balanced views. Rather than dismiss the Russian efforts as being largely a matter of horrifying statistics, this book helps to give a sharp perspective to the initial tactical blunders, and subsequent wiles of Stalin and his generals in the defeat of the Germans. The almost bestial pugnacity which characterized the Russian resistance, particularly at Stalingrad and Kursk, is well documented elsewhere, particularly by Beevor in his magisterial study. But this book is superb in the way that it uses previously unseen source material (reminiscent of Laurence Rees with his equally impressive 'War of the Century') to bring a quite awesome humanity to a bewilderingly brutal and epic passage of history. Highly recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look at the Soviet effort during WW2,
By A Customer
This book looks at "Russia's" War using previously unavailable material from the Soviet archives. It shows how close the Soviets came to defeat and how they achieved victory and reveals the horrors its' population suffered (from both sides). It is an important counterbalance to the German view that they were simply beaten by material & overwhelming odds. It shows how the Soviets outmatched the powerful German economy, how its army & generals matched then surpassed the Germans in ability.
It highlights the tragic irony that the Soviets lost 40 million lives for a peace that only the West fully benefitted from. It also shows why the Soviets moved their front line to Germany with a massive army after WW2. In short, an important book about a subject you thought you knew about but didn't really. PS Read the book on Stalingrad by Beevor or the Osprey book about Kursk for individual battles.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, objective,
This full of facts book tells the story of Soviet Russia as never told before. With an objective view the writer tries to understand the Soviet leaders' motives for acting the way they did i.e.Winter War against Finland.Also the writer destroys the myth that the Nazis were beaten by irresponsible commanding of Hitler, or by late summer campaigns or hard winter conditions. The Soviet people's selfless sacrifice,developed year by year and eventually destroyed the mighty Nazi war machine.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Consise and well researced.,
A very interesting and easy to read one volume account of the Soviet Union's fightback against the Nazi invasion of '41. This is the first book by historian Richard Overy I've read and I will be on the lookout for more as his style is clear, consise, well researched and he does not take sides or give too many personal opinions as good historians should not - but far too many do!
Mr Overy gives some good insights into Stalin and along the way punctures many myths that have grown up around Stalin and his attitude to, and leadership of the Red Army forces. His relationship with his top Generals is examined, Stalin unlike Hitler did let his Generals get on with it for most of the war which is probably what saved us all from having to speak German today. The author also gives the best explanation I've read yet of why Russian Soldiers and Civilians suffered the 26 million plus casaulties but in a matter of fact way without taking sides or preaching. Yes, Stalin's terror did exist, it is examined in a rational rather than emotional manner. Was the average Russian fighting for Uncle Joe and the CPSU, no probably not, although a good few were. Was he fighting for the motherland and revenge for what the Nazi's had done to it - yes, many were
A first class account of a terrible, terrible conflict. Five star reading.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blunting Hitler,
The titanic struggle of the Soviet Union against Hitler's invasion is a tale written in pain. Over 20 million were to die, a figure which surpasses comprehension. Overy provides a masterly account of the invasion, the struggle for survival, and the eventual victory. War on such a vast scale would require many tomes to describe it, but Overy's work is a superb overview for anyone wishing to learn about the war or begin its study.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book which is very nearly a classic.,
Russia's War by R.J. Overy is a very good and detailed account of how the Soviet Union managed against the odds at times to not only stop the Germans but eventually repulse them. It also offers analysis, arguments and conclusions that are different. It is fast-paced and very interesting and until I read the description I would never have guessed it was that long because it is such an interesting read. All in all it is a very good book.
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Russia's War by Richard Overy (Paperback - 2 Sep 2010)