Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Victory with an asterisk

Both the CS Monitor and the NY Times* have reviews of the popular history Ivan's War. This is the story of World War 2 from the viewpoint of the Soviet soldier, and man did they have it bad. It's good to have an accessible history of the Red Army at war. David Glantz has written or co-written a number of books about the Red Army, but these are really for specialists. How likely are you to pick up Zhukov's Greatest Defeat: The Red Army's Epic Disaster in Operation Mars? Do you even know who Zhukov was? (Here is some info.)

Portraying the heroism and import of the Russian Army is important having a full understanding of the defeat of Nazi Germany. As this book illustrates, that victory was marred by the atrocious behavior of the Red Army outside the Soviet Union. Polish and German women that fell into the hands of the Russians were treated horribly. If you can stand it, read the Fall of Berlin to get an idea. This is not to say other armies did not commit atrocities, see Paul Fussell's bitter Boy's Crusade for the American experience. What sets the Red Army apart is the colossal scale of the rape and murder.

That said, defeat of Nazi Germany would have been difficult at best without the Red Army. After losing millions of men and much industrial capacity, these people held on and pushed the enemy back to its capital. While their victory was besmirched, it is largely their victory.

*I must say the author photo is a bit too cheery for the subject matter.

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