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The Greatest Battle: The Battle for Moscow, 1941-2 Paperback – 1 Sep 2008

2.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (1 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845133595
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845133597
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,119,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

'A new and beautifully researched account of what had been a poorly understood part of the war' New York Review of Books

About the Author

Andrew Nagorski is a senor editor at Newsweek International. He served two tours as Moscow bureau chief, and won awards for his foreign reporting. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What a dissappointment this book turned out to be!. Described as a political & military assesment of the greatest "unknown" battle of the Second World War, it concentrates almost exclusively on the political with absolutely no reference the the Armies/divisions etc involved. The author makes no attempt to get to grips with the actual battle and peppers the text with individual stories (many second hand from The World at War) which, in many cases, have no relevance to the events he is describing.This battle could have been fought on the moon, based on what you read in this book. Whats left is a complete mish mash, Definately not recommended. If you can find it,get a copy of Geoffrey Jukes' Defence of Moscow, although written in 1970 it is, in my opinion,still the definative guide to this particular conflict.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a great read and I recommend it as a read (and so give it 4 stars), BUT I felt that the book lost its way very badly about a third of the way in. The book eventually almost forgets about the Battle for Moscow (late 1941) and goes off on other, very interesting and informmative but fairly, sometimes very irrelevant tangents.

The author notices something which occurred to me on my first visit to Moscow in 1993: there is a monument shaped a bit like a multiple St. Andrew's Cross, which marks the furthest point of advance of the German forces, though in fact I believe an advance scout unit actually got withing sighht of the golden cupolas of the Kremlin churches. Even so, that monument was only a 15 minute ride to Red Square (Nagorski says 30 minutes, but he had not the (?) advantage of being driven by my reckless young driver, Pasha...). That is how near it was and yet how far, as the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS were driven back with huge suffering and lloss of life. The author gives the figures as far as they are known: about 7 million troops etc altogether; German losses (killed, captured --most of whom lasted not very long-- and badly wounded) of 615,000; Soviet losses of perhaps 2 millions.

I liked the way in which the author brought to life the panic in Moscow itself as the Wehrmacht advanced towards the capital: swastikas painted by anti-Soviet Russians on fences and buildings; some tables and samovars brought outside dachas and apartment buildings with the idea of welcoming the conquerors/liberators from sovietism. Also, looting and NKVD activity on a large scale.

I also saw a few facts, like the later career of Khokhlov, which I found interesting. The author is wrong when he says that Soviet soldiers were often unnamed when killed due to lack of dog tags.
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Format: Paperback
Andrew Nagorski, a journalist for Newsweek, knows how to tell a story, and in this book he tells a lot of good stories. Alas, that does not add up to a history of the Battle of Moscow. In fact, I finished the book feeling I still did not grasp the rise and fall of that battle.

Publicity for this book makes much of the previously-closed sources Nagorski has used. In fact, when it comes to the great events of the battle, he is drawing almost entirely on published sources. The Russians he intwerviewed were young at the time, even children, and even the NKVD documents he accessed give a very down-in-the-weeds view of the battle.

Nagorski does not seem to have much idea of what belongs in a history of a battle and what does not. Eden's viwsit to Moscow at the height of the battle had no impact on the fighting, and British-Russian discussions on Poland are not relevant to the battle (nor to much else, for that matter, since what decided Poland's fate was that it always was going to be 'liberated' by the Soviets).

Nagorski obviously has a lot of empathy fot the Russians and is at his best telling stories of how they survived, and even won the war -- stories like the evacuation of Lenin's body from Moscow, andhow it was preserved in exile. This does not add up to a history of 'the greatest battle in history', but perhaps Nagorski has a better book in him, 'A people's history of Russia at war'.
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Format: Paperback
This book is clearly written by an author with a profound understanding and knowledge of the political history of the Soviet Union and the main protagonists of the conflict up to early 1942. If you wish to have a deep and well illustrated political history of the events then this is the book for you. In terms of the military events either strategic or indeed tactical, however, this book offers only the most superficial, cursory references with no attempts to structure the progress of the battle in any way. Maps are rarely used and not so effectively or in any detail. Some effort is put into the sorts of personal stories which are so often used in better books to embellish the military 'facts' of otherwise rather dry key events but they are not well set and seem to be rather dropped in with little context. Perhaps it assumes prior understanding of the military events, formations and units involved, but for those of us who like the political, strategic, tactical and personal elements of a conflict to be woven together to produce a whole then the book is woeful lacking if not bereft.
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