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800 Days on the Eastern Front: A Russian Soldier Remembers World War II (Modern War Studies) Hardcover – 30 Jun 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; annotated edition edition (30 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700615172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700615179
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 1.7 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 711,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

The best memoir to date of a Red Army soldier in World War II. It's also rare in terms of the amount of detail it contains, the accuracy of that detail, and its unabashed candor. Britton skillfully complements Litvin's account by providing essential context and additional valuable information. David M. Glantz, author of Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War, 1941-1943 ""Absorbing and thought-provoking, Litvin's story reveals the perseverance, resourcefulness, and astonishing toughness of the typical Red Army soldier, and is a must-read for anyone interested in the Eastern Front or soldiers' experiences in World War II."" Reina Pennington, author of Wings, Women, and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War II Combat

About the Author

Nikolai Litvin is retired and lives in Krasnodar, Russia. Stuart Britton is a freelance writer and translator based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Considering the amount of memoirs available form WW2 it is amazing how few are from a Soviet perspective, at least in English. So in this context the book is a gem and in content it shines.

Nikolai Litvin's memoir is very low key and honest. For the most part he is a driver, either as a commanders chauffeur or with a transport battalion and you get interesting small details as how dirty his one uniform becomes when he served as a mechanic. Don't worry there are hair raising parts as well and sad stories. Litvin comes across as a man doing his duty for his country and never tries to claim credit for extraordinary deeds even if he did a few.

Starting out as an anti tank gunner in a Airborne Division he is wounded early during the battle of Kursk, from there he is transfered to a transportation battalion and is bombed by artillery and planes, he lives when others, even his friends die. At one point he has difficulties in disposing of a friends body. Then he is sentanced to a penal company for desertion when all he does is following a command that turns out to be a suggestion and not a proper command. His time with the penal company is very interesting. Then he gets reassigned to his transport unit and gets drafted from the rear units to the front replace combat losses. All through the story there are accounts of Litvin's personal experience and some very horrible incidents.

Many readers will also find interesting how Litvin is fighting the infantry mans war, very few tanks are metioned at all. In fact with 2/3 of all Germans fighting on the Eastern Front and the majority of both Germans and Russians fighting as infantry this tells how the war was for most, even if it isn't the most glamorous part.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first wartime biography from the soviot perspective that I have read. It is a little dis-jointed in places but it was a big war. The book tries to set out the grander scale of the war in relation to the soldier and it does manage this quite well. I recall one point in which the dneiper river (sic) is being crossed. The same river was being defended by a german in the book 'sniper on the eastern front.' Bit of an interesting cross over. A recommended read for the wartime biography buff. Dont expect huge revelations, he was one man in an army of millions which to me gives it a more personal touch.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this as a gift but it was very well received and praised. Good Buy
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Succinct and to the point. Doesn't bore.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9602996c) out of 5 stars 17 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x960213a8) out of 5 stars It is What it is 9 July 2007
By Mark StJohn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Although the negative reviewers might of had valid points, I am not sure the critism is really relevant. I knew two WWII veterans very well, one of whom wrote a brief memoir. Using them as a reference, I do not believe the author was trying to create an exciting, flowing, historically, geographically precise docudrama (if it was I would be very suspect of the motivations and validity of the document and would not have found it near as valuable). I am not sure the author was even trying to educate us although I certainly was. I believe the author was trying to set down in print a brief personal history of WWII obviously, largely from his point of view. What was added by the tranlator was an aid which allowed us to go back in time and perspective without disturbing the author's account. What the author (and the other veterans I know) think is important based on his experiences obviously doesn't always match readers expectations. With this in mind and in response to specific criticism, I found the author's references to various vehicles he encountered interesting and important. Maybe not exciting but, again, that wasn't the point. I thought the historical and geographical descriptions to be adequate in and of themselves. The author's accounts and stories flowed well enough with help from the translator's added descriptions and foot notes.

I bought the book based on a recent description in the WSJ. I had read a book some time ago called "The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier." I thought it would be interesting to compare what sounded like a similar story told by two men of similar rank who fought wars in the same basic geographic area a century apart. The similarities were remarkable and reading both books contributed much to my persective of war and this region. Beyond the obvious basics of survival, what was important to these two men is very much the same. And I think what was important to these two men from their personal perspective in these two "histories" is what the authors and their "helpers" were trying to convey. Both documents succeeded in this respect and did so well enough to, dare I say it, be entertaining. I would give "The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier" 5 stars however. I thought it was a better read. If you must be constantly thrilled and excited by a book to enjoy or be informed by it, subtract one star from each rating. And if you are looking for graphic descriptions of blood, sex and gore, don't bother with either of these reads. A rating of two stars however misses both the point and the mark in my opinion. And thus ends my critique of the critics.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9601c30c) out of 5 stars A Russian Soldiers Tale 13 May 2008
By Gisli Jokull Gislason - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Considering the amount of memoirs available form WW2 it is amazing how few are from a Soviet perspective, at least in English. So in this context the book is a gem and in content it shines.

Nikolai Litvin's memoir is very low key and honest. For the most part he is a driver, either as a commanders chauffeur or with a transport battalion and you get interesting small details as how dirty his one uniform becomes when he served as a mechanic. Don't worry there are hair raising parts as well and sad stories. Litvin comes across as a man doing his duty for his country and never tries to claim credit for extraordinary deeds even if he did a few.

Starting out as an anti tank gunner in a Airborne Division he is wounded early during the battle of Kursk, from there he is transfered to a transportation battalion and is bombed by artillery and planes, he lives when others, even his friends die. At one point he has difficulties in disposing of a friends body. Then he is sentanced to a penal company for desertion when all he does is following a command that turns out to be a suggestion and not a proper command. His time with the penal company is very interesting. Then he gets reassigned to his transport unit and gets drafted from the rear units to the front replace combat losses. All through the story there are accounts of Litvin's personal experience and some very horrible incidents.

Many readers will also find interesting how Litvin is fighting the infantry mans war, very few tanks are metioned at all. In fact with 2/3 of all Germans fighting on the Eastern Front and the majority of both Germans and Russians fighting as infantry this tells how the war was for most, even if it isn't the most glamorous part.

Special mention should also go to Stuart Britton who completes the memoir by adding introductions or adds explanations to fit Litvin's experience into contex and big picture. They summarise the unfolding events and explain strategic and tactical events and I found these parts very useful and informative without casting a shade on Litvin's story. In many occasions Litvin would have been blissfully ignorant of what was really going on but as a reader it is good to be helped along by Britton.

Through Litvin one gets a very diverse view of the Soviet Army and not always its most glamorous side but the toil of the every day soldier. I heartly recommend it for anyone interested in WW2 memoirs and would like read about the experience from the Russian side.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x962091a8) out of 5 stars A Testament to the Greatness of the Red Army Soldier! 19 Dec. 2007
By Gilberto Villahermosa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recent years we have witnessed the publication of a multitude of military memoirs by Red Army soldiers. These memoirs are important in that they provide new insights into World War II on the Eastern Front.

Nikolai Litvin's remembrances are witness to the versatility, endurance, and patience of the Red Army soldier. A Siberian by birth, Litvin served in artillery, anti-tank, and penal formations and also as a driver to various Soviet commanders. This alone makes his experiences during the war exceptional. Litvin fought at the epic battle of Kursk in July 1943 and remained with the Red Army as it attacked relentlessly westward from the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany.

But Litvin was also unique in that he was officially trained and qualified to drive U.S. Army lend lease vehicles. Hundreds of thousands of these were provided to the Red Army during the war. It is clear that he had a love affair with the various "Willy" jeeps he drove throughout the conflict and his memoirs highlight the mobility American jeeps and trucks provided to the Soviet military. Those vehicles were much appreciated by Red Army soldiers like Litvin. Without them Stalin's legions would have been unable to advance to Berlin as quickly as they did.

Having served his country faithfully through almost three years of brutal combat, Litvin was arrested at the end of the war for possessing a German pistol and sentenced to four years imprisonment in the Soviet Far East.

His memoirs are a testament to the greatness of the Red Army soldier and the brutality of the Soviet system they served.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9601e570) out of 5 stars Not exactly what I expected. 19 Jan. 2012
By Ben - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Here's the story behind "800 Days on the Eastern Front": Nikolai Litvin, Red Army veteran and author of the memoir, penned it in 1962 but never had it published due to tight media restrictions in the U.S.S.R. during the time period. Stuart Britton, editor and translator of the memoir, randomly discovered it in 2004 through a series of odd relationships and contacts with Russian acquaintances, spent a decent amount of time interviewing Litvin both through his contacts and electronically, and wrote a number of broader paragraphs outlining the overall situation on the Eastern Front (and which are dispersed throughout the memoir in the appropriate places) before having it published in 2007. The finished product, which is a mere 143 pages long (plus footnotes), ends up serving only as an overview of Litvin's experiences in the war, not as a detailed recollection of his entire service.

From start to finish, Litvin really keeps things rolling- but that's not really a good thing. Though the memoir reads smoothly enough, Litvin rarely stops to focus on idividual events and instead opts to cover the basics of everything. Just when something starts to get exciting he'll move right on to the next event, sometimes skipping weeks at a time. He sprinkles in enough specifics to keep it entertaining, including a number of entertaining stories from the time he spent as Colonel (and later General) Dzhandzhgava's chauffeur, but tells so little about other events, such as his wounding, that I was left not only wanting (a lot) more but also confused at times as to which of his experiences he considers to be significant and which were run-of-the-mill events.

Also slightly aggravating to the reader is Litvin's lack of focus on the actual battles he fought in. While he spent much of the war as a chauffeur, he was often forced into a combat role and even served a sentence in a penal battalion; unfortunately, as is the case with the rest of the text, he only includes a few specific stories about his time spent in combat. Other things Litvin touches on but are mostly left out include his relationships with other soldiers, details about Dzhandzhgava as a commanding officer and person, many smaller details such as what weapons he carried on a day to day basis, and he claims to have never witnessed any major atrocities or war crimes personally, which I find difficult to believe of anyone, even a chauffeur, who served on the Eastern Front for over two years. While Litvin recounts an instance of rape and even personally executed a handful of unarmed German prisoners, he largely portrays both the Russians and the Germans as well disciplined soldiers who only rarely committed such acts, and it is both Britton and the reader who are left to speculate on why Litvin does not elaborate on the frequency of such activities.

Ultimately, while the book is interesting, it suffers most from Britton never having personally met Litvin. I believe had he been able to do so he could have helped Litvin create a memoir twice as long and full of details. Because this never happened, however, Britton felt that it was not his place to modify anything Litvin had written and had it published as is. If only Litvin had access to an author willing to help him in 1962! Instead, we're left with this moderately interesting, albeit frustrating, memoir that fails to delve deeply into much of anything. I hesitantly recommend Litvin's memoir to fans of the war memoir genre or students of World War II; despite its lack of detail it is still worth reading.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95eec2a0) out of 5 stars well written 12 Dec. 2011
By onemanwreckingcrew - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book and I feel it was well written. I was a bit angry to read at the end that he was sentenced to 4 years working in a mine just for a gun possession charge ... AFTER the war. Ridiculous. A perfect court case for jury nullification !
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