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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 September 2010
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.
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on 25 February 2010
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.
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on 20 June 2016
Not read the book yet as it has only just arrived. I expect it to be of the standard that Richard Overy usually produces. My reason for an early review is to do with the actual book itself. It is a very poor production with a different front cover than the one shown on the left. The quality of print is poor as are the photographs. The whole book is of a very flimsy nature and has a front cover that does not cover the pages when closed, its the same with the back. Already there is evidence of the cover starting to fail. It appears to be a U.S.A. and Canada pressing.
This book was purchased via Booksplease by Aphrohead. It is a cheap copy and one should avoid it. It I had known this at the time of purchase I would have spent the extra couple of pounds on products available by other sellers. I shall do so in future.
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on 7 January 2000
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.
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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.
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on 18 June 2011
This is hugely ambitious book, perhaps overly so, in that it attempts to explain all aspect of the Great Patriotic War - military, political, social, industrial, economic etc., in just few hundred pages of text. This inevitably requires major omissions, sweeping generalisations or both. Yet the author is reasonably successful in conveying the scale and impact of the war on a society already traumatised by by decades of conflict, repression and social upheaval. The reader is left with little doubt about the suffering and sacrifice of the Soviet people, and the author successfully portrays the wretched nature of the existence of vast swathes of the Soviet population caught between the ambitions of two ruthless dictators.

Perhaps inevitably in a book trying to cover so much ground, the accounts of the course of the military conflict are fragmented and often somewhat superficial. For example, the complex sequence of battlefield events west of the Stalingrad encirclement from the last week of November 1942 to the end of Manstein's Donets Campaign in March 1943 are covered in two paragraphs; and the intense fighting that took place on the southern axis from 20 August 1944 to mid-February 1945, fighting that took Soviet forces from the Soviet-Romanian border to the capture of Budapest, is covered in six sentences. Yet the 16-day battle for Berlin is described over ten pages, and Overy gives a graphic account of the tank battle at Prokhorovka on 12 July 1943. Unfortunately Overy's account of the military conflict also contains numerous errors. And the errors are not confined to military events, suggesting that the book may have been produced in something of a hurry. (For example, the indexing is faulty in places, and under the photograph of Molotov on his visit to Berlin in November 1940, the caption states that the visit was November 1941. The same caption goes on to state that Molotov was there to seek a further pact with Hitler on territories to the south. In fact it was the Germans who tried to direct Molotov's attention to the south; Molotov was in Berlin to try to find out why German troops had been deployed to Finland, and to ascertain German intentions in the wider Baltic region).

These criticisms are not to begrudge Overy's achievement in this book. For readers new to the subject, Overy's account of Russia's war against Hitler's Germany may prove to a be disconcerting, perhaps even a shocking experience. More than any other nation, the Soviet Union was committed to `total war', and the price it paid for that war may have exceeded that of all the other nations put together. Overy's book is a tribute to the stoicism of a people able to endure so much, and yet still emerge victorious.
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on 18 January 2000
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.
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on 13 May 1999
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.
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on 1 March 2005
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.
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on 7 March 2005
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.
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