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Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort, 1941-1945

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A penetrating and compassionate book on the most gigantic military struggle in world history.--The New York Times Book Review An extraordinary tale... Overy's engrossing book provides extensive details of teh slaughter, brutality, bitterness and destruction on the massive front from the White Sea to the flank of Asia.--Chicago Tribune The Russian war effort to defeat invad A penetrating and compassionate book on the most gigantic military struggle in world history.--The New York Times Book Review An extraordinary tale... Overy's engrossing book provides extensive details of teh slaughter, brutality, bitterness and destruction on the massive front from the White Sea to the flank of Asia.--Chicago Tribune The Russian war effort to defeat invading Axis powers, an effort that assembled the largest military force in recorded history and that cost the lives of more than 25 million Soviet soldiers and civilians, was the decisive factor for securing an Allied victory. Now with access to the wealth of film archives and interview material from Russia used to produce the ten-hour television documentary Russia's War, Richard Overy tackles the many persuasive questions surrounding this conflict. Was Stalin a military genius? Was the defense of Mother Russia a product of something greater than numbers of tanks and planes--of something deep within the Russian soul?


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A penetrating and compassionate book on the most gigantic military struggle in world history.--The New York Times Book Review An extraordinary tale... Overy's engrossing book provides extensive details of teh slaughter, brutality, bitterness and destruction on the massive front from the White Sea to the flank of Asia.--Chicago Tribune The Russian war effort to defeat invad A penetrating and compassionate book on the most gigantic military struggle in world history.--The New York Times Book Review An extraordinary tale... Overy's engrossing book provides extensive details of teh slaughter, brutality, bitterness and destruction on the massive front from the White Sea to the flank of Asia.--Chicago Tribune The Russian war effort to defeat invading Axis powers, an effort that assembled the largest military force in recorded history and that cost the lives of more than 25 million Soviet soldiers and civilians, was the decisive factor for securing an Allied victory. Now with access to the wealth of film archives and interview material from Russia used to produce the ten-hour television documentary Russia's War, Richard Overy tackles the many persuasive questions surrounding this conflict. Was Stalin a military genius? Was the defense of Mother Russia a product of something greater than numbers of tanks and planes--of something deep within the Russian soul?

30 review for Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort, 1941-1945

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stian

    A quick little review: It turns out that this book is based on a brilliant World War II documentary that I watched some years ago. Somehow I never made the connection: the documentary is called Russia's War: Blood Upon the Snow, whereas the book is only Russia's War. Now, what I did while reading this book was to read one chapter (they are each around 30-50 pages long), and then to watch the corresponding documentary episode. This made for a fantastic reading and learning experience. How in the A quick little review: It turns out that this book is based on a brilliant World War II documentary that I watched some years ago. Somehow I never made the connection: the documentary is called Russia's War: Blood Upon the Snow, whereas the book is only Russia's War. Now, what I did while reading this book was to read one chapter (they are each around 30-50 pages long), and then to watch the corresponding documentary episode. This made for a fantastic reading and learning experience. How in the world did a despotic, paranoid madman end up ruling the Soviet Union? How did the Soviet Union manage to make such a gigantic war effort with this madman in charge (perhaps the answer lies within the question: because he was a madman)? A man who was dismissed by Trotsky as a political simpleton and condemned in Lenin's testament. With an army that, at the beginning of 1928, only had 92 tanks. An army that suffered the sadistic political intervention of the notorious NKVD; an army that was mostly a disorganised army without particularly modern equipment, where everything had to be controlled and approved by Stalin. Overy examines the Russian war effort, and it makes for illuminating and fascinating reading. I recommend both this book and the documentary on which it is based to anyone interested in WWII or history at all. This is a brilliant and detailed read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    This book is a nice introduction to the war on the Eastern Front. It starts with an explanation of the pre-war years, by dealing with the purges and war doctrine. After that, it tells about the struggle on the eastern front from year to year, roughly divided by 1942, 1943 and 1944 and onwards. It doesn't go into very deep tactical details, which makes it a nice introduction to this theater of war. One remarkable subject is the Polish uprising in Warsaw, with the Red Army waiting and not coming t This book is a nice introduction to the war on the Eastern Front. It starts with an explanation of the pre-war years, by dealing with the purges and war doctrine. After that, it tells about the struggle on the eastern front from year to year, roughly divided by 1942, 1943 and 1944 and onwards. It doesn't go into very deep tactical details, which makes it a nice introduction to this theater of war. One remarkable subject is the Polish uprising in Warsaw, with the Red Army waiting and not coming to help. The author more or less explains (and defends) the Russian point of view, in the case that at that point the Red Army was stressed to the end of its limits after the succesfull Operation Bagration in 1944 and not able to assist the Polish resistance. The book doesn't end at the end of the war, but also tells us about the aftermath, the demoting of the Russian Marshall's like Zjoekov and Vasilevsky until the death of Stalin in 1953.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    Richard Overy's history of the USSR's World War II experience revealed a lot that is lacking in typical American history courses concerning WWII. For one, it shows with a great deal of evidence how the USSR was able to recover from an initial German push that led the Nazis to within 40 miles of Moscow by its own accord. Stalin's reign was terrible, but it also allowed for a highly centralized industry that produced superior tanks at an astonishing rate. By the time the Allies landed at Normandy, Richard Overy's history of the USSR's World War II experience revealed a lot that is lacking in typical American history courses concerning WWII. For one, it shows with a great deal of evidence how the USSR was able to recover from an initial German push that led the Nazis to within 40 miles of Moscow by its own accord. Stalin's reign was terrible, but it also allowed for a highly centralized industry that produced superior tanks at an astonishing rate. By the time the Allies landed at Normandy, the USSR had already reconquered its entire southern territory and was quickly pushing through Ukraine and Poland. The second front alleviated some of the Soviet troop's burdon, but by then it was clear who was dominating the war. Perhaps more importantly, Overy never gets too caught up in the minute details of the economics and strategy of the war. Instead, he gives a well-argued overview with relevant tables that represent a consensus view of production. This allows him to also focus on the social aspects of the war, and how the average Russian was affected by it. In all, over 20 million Russians died, a demographic disaster for the country that makes victory all the more impressive. Overall, the book is a surprisingly enjoyable war history that gives a multifaceted view of a war rarely seen from the other side.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This text was published as a companion book to a 10 episode television series produce by IBP Films London. It covers the rise of Stalin and his endless suspicions and purges from which few were safe, and Stalin's joining alliances with the west who he was highly suspicious of which led to his non-aggression pact with Germany after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. The bulk of the book covers the actual war once Germany turns on Russia and attacks in June 1941 to its defeat when the Russians roll i This text was published as a companion book to a 10 episode television series produce by IBP Films London. It covers the rise of Stalin and his endless suspicions and purges from which few were safe, and Stalin's joining alliances with the west who he was highly suspicious of which led to his non-aggression pact with Germany after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia. The bulk of the book covers the actual war once Germany turns on Russia and attacks in June 1941 to its defeat when the Russians roll into Berlin in 45. The book closes after Stalin's death and the de-Stalinization of the USSR. This book is a grand overview, which shows some sympathy for the Russian ethos while addressing the tremendous cost the ordinary Russian paid in mass arrests, executions and internment due to Stalin's paranoia seeing enemies both within and without...yet it does not cover the fact that Stalin and the NKVD basically ate their own, killing as many civilians and members of their own military and party as fell victim to the Nazis. With each text that covers any aspect of the Second World War each author will mention something another writer will have felt too obscure to cover. For me it was the treatment of the tiny Republic of Chechnya in February of 1944. The Chechens were invited to join the celebrations of Red Army Day and the growing victories over the German occupation. They Chechens showed up in their town squares prepared to celebrate and each town square was surrounded by NKVD and a Russian official stepped forward and announced that they were to be deported as the NKVD moved in to contain them, those who dared to try to escape were shot on the spot and they were rounded up and transported to the camps in the Gulag where they were held until 1956 where those who had managed to survive were allowed to return home. This is a story I was not familiar with and will have to track down as there is sure to be some books which cover the Chechen's plight. Having read several books on certain battles on the Eastern front from both the German and Russian perspective, the very best book I have read was the fiction of Vasily Grossman, whose books were confiscated by the State. Sometimes you can find more truth in fiction about what the Russian commanders and soldiers faced than the mere fact that political commissars were assigned to make sure that no one exhibited the slightest incorrect idea while fighting the Germans. The very fact that all commanders were subject to torture and/or execution for failing to execute an order even if it was impossible to carry out, or for uttering a word that a commissar found inappropriate, and for those who were victorious in battle were at risk of the same treatment if Stalin felt that they were becoming too well regarded by their troops or the civilians and might be thought of as more heroic than he was. A good overview of the utter insanity of Stalin's policies and how in spite of all of the suffering imposed on the military and civilian population that they at great sacrifice managed to push the Germans out of the Motherland and pursue them to Berlin and their defeat. Only to at wars end to have to suffer further as millions were rounded up as being suspect and executed and sent off to slave labor and prison camps where survival was as difficult as their chances were during the desperate battles against their occupying enemy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kumail Akbar

    When you think of World War II, especially the end of the war, you are likely to think of the allied war efforts from El Alamein to Normandy, and all the way to the toppling of the Third Reich. What is missed out, primarily thanks to quality western film making and history writing, is the critical role that the USSR played in bringing down the Nazis, at a massive cost to itself and its citizens. The USSR’s role in facilitating the rise of the Nazis initially, and their enablement of the blitzkri When you think of World War II, especially the end of the war, you are likely to think of the allied war efforts from El Alamein to Normandy, and all the way to the toppling of the Third Reich. What is missed out, primarily thanks to quality western film making and history writing, is the critical role that the USSR played in bringing down the Nazis, at a massive cost to itself and its citizens. The USSR’s role in facilitating the rise of the Nazis initially, and their enablement of the blitzkrieg through the Molotov Ribbentrop pact is also partly responsible for the framing of WW2 as primarily between the western liberal democracies and Nazi Germany. Yet Russia paid back ‘the iron price’ through blood and tears, and without red army hacking away the Germans in Stalingrad, Kursk, etc. the western powers might not have stood a chance against Hitler’s armies. This is the story Richard Overy seeks to tell in Russia’s war – how the USSR went from the pact to fighting Hitler’s armies, from there on until peace treaties which marked the end of the war, all the way up until the death of Stalin. I found only two weaknesses in the narrative – one Overy is not an economic historian, so the economic history side of the story, the turning around of an entire economy into a war economy, is best found in other works (such as those by Adam Tooze). Second, this also was not a military history per se – there was no discussion of tactics, of strategies, of weapons and so on. It was a history of the eastern front of World War II, from the perspective of the Russians. Those limitations aside, the narrative is thoroughly engaging, and there is a lot of information even those who have read a bit about World War II might discover. One important thing that comes out is the role of Stalin, and how he was henceforth forever seen by Russians as the father figure who saved Russia from the Nazis. Another is Overy’s questioning and hypothesizing regarding the figures of Russian dead, and what that said about the military’s professionalism. Overy argues that Russia lost as many men as it did because it got caught in the war when it was not prepared, just after when a purge had taken place, and the fresh of the boat soldiers and field leaders suffered high casualties initially – and these numbers only piled up because to replace every soldier or general, even younger, fresher and more inexperienced troops were sent in. this tide was only reversed post Stalingrad, when the survivors of different fronts became battle hardened, and were better able to execute both tactical and strategic maneuvers whilst facing heavy fire. Overy argues this is where the high casualty rates start to drop. The argument seems believable, however Overy does not present much data to back the claims – likely because data from Soviet archives is hard to come by to begin with. The end of the narrative though, like any history of Russia, is bound to leave you a little sad, the way the heroic generals of USSR were treated by Stalin and his paranoid regime. That unfortunately, has been the story of Russia for a long time. Excellent read, 5 of 5 stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jur

    Reads very smoothly. Excellent general account of the war from the Russian perspective that tries to cover all aspects off the war. For more purely military accounts, you will need to find another book. Overy had earned his spurs in Russian sources before he wrote this account, so his grasp of the subject is very good. It starts out with establishing the revolutionary roots of the army and its attempts to both modernise and find a balance between ideological purity and military professionalism. I Reads very smoothly. Excellent general account of the war from the Russian perspective that tries to cover all aspects off the war. For more purely military accounts, you will need to find another book. Overy had earned his spurs in Russian sources before he wrote this account, so his grasp of the subject is very good. It starts out with establishing the revolutionary roots of the army and its attempts to both modernise and find a balance between ideological purity and military professionalism. It then moves to the countdown to war, where it records frantic Russian attempts to keep out of the conflict and grave insecurity of the Soviet state from within and without. This leads to sudden shifts in power between ideology and professionalism in the years before Barbarossa. This is what leads to Russia still being halfway preopared for the conflict but with its deployment based on outdated concept of war, which leads to the destruction of the Red Army on the borders. There's continuous attention for Stalin's difficult relationship with the military and the top generals. He wasn't a very good soldier and made many stupid mistakes. On the other hand he steadied quite a few crises with determination and ruthlessness. He played a central role in the handling of the war. That would also affect his postwar stature. Within the largely chronological account, a whole chapter is devoted to the holocaust, German treatment of occupied terrotories, the moral mobilisation of Russian resistance, the partisans and the relocation of Russian population and industry to the east. A good way to focus on this important part of the war (it was an ideological as much as a military contest) instead of diluting it over the course of the book. Although published 15 years ago it is still quite in tow with current scholarship on the subject, using the flood of new material coming out of Russian archives and memoirs in the early 1990s. Large parts of this book deal with old myths (e.g. run up to Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Stalin's supposed inactivity in June 1941, the effect of the 1930s purges).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Imi

    This was exactly what I was after. An excellent and clear account of the Second World War from the Soviet perspective. It doesn't go into deep military or tactical details, which I was relieved about personally and made it easier to follow. Other than that it covers all major aspects of the war on the Eastern Front, from the build up, the war itself, to the aftermath. Published in 1999, it makes use of documents and evidence that was only finally made available after the fall of Communism. There This was exactly what I was after. An excellent and clear account of the Second World War from the Soviet perspective. It doesn't go into deep military or tactical details, which I was relieved about personally and made it easier to follow. Other than that it covers all major aspects of the war on the Eastern Front, from the build up, the war itself, to the aftermath. Published in 1999, it makes use of documents and evidence that was only finally made available after the fall of Communism. There may be more up-to-date sources now, but as far as I can tell this is still in line with the current academic view on the subject and a fantastic overview. There was a lot of focus on the motivations and decisions made by Stalin and Zhukov in particular. Stalin is shown to be a product of history and his Russian Imperialist predecessors; just as the Soviet Union relied on the gulags for war time production, the tsars had also exploited forced labour; the myths, legends and heroes of Russian history, as well as the Orthodox Church, were brought back into the public eye during to the war to galvanise the population, despite all these ideas being oppressed in the early years after the Revolution; finally, there has always been the idea of collectivism vs individualism in Russian history and this was used to encourage the gigantic sacrifice made by the Soviet people ("for the greater good"). The later chapters were also fascinating to me, detailing anti-Semitic politics of the regime, the beginnings of the Cold War, de-Stalinization and the myths surrounding WWII that would later be exploited by the state. Russia's War was an illuminating read, and surprisingly readable considering the difficult subject matter. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in WWII history, especially if you never really considered it from a Russian/Soviet perspective.

  8. 4 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    This book offers the reader a decent and non-bias account of Russia's wartime effort during the Second World War. Although not as detailed as John Erickson's two volume account of the Soviet military effort its a lot more easier to understand and follow. Also you aren't left with the impression that the book was full of Russian propaganda. It tells the story as it really was, showing both the good and the bad side of the Russian leadership and its role in trying to stem the German onslaught into This book offers the reader a decent and non-bias account of Russia's wartime effort during the Second World War. Although not as detailed as John Erickson's two volume account of the Soviet military effort its a lot more easier to understand and follow. Also you aren't left with the impression that the book was full of Russian propaganda. It tells the story as it really was, showing both the good and the bad side of the Russian leadership and its role in trying to stem the German onslaught into Mother Russia. I think that we tend to forget the effort and loss of life that Russia bore during WW2 although the author does not dismiss the West's aid to Russia during the War. The book offers a nice balance between two the camps (East & West).It was a nice compliment to the TV series which is currently showing in Australia. Well worth the time to sit down and read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I read a chapter of the book and then watched the corresponding documentary, ‘Russia’s War: Blood upon the Snow’ that it was based on. It’s an event by event account of the war on the eastern front covering the military battles and the war as experienced by those unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. It was both revealing and devastating! It was less satisfying, however, on the reasons underpinning decisions made or not made. It is a military history, to some extent including a social histor I read a chapter of the book and then watched the corresponding documentary, ‘Russia’s War: Blood upon the Snow’ that it was based on. It’s an event by event account of the war on the eastern front covering the military battles and the war as experienced by those unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. It was both revealing and devastating! It was less satisfying, however, on the reasons underpinning decisions made or not made. It is a military history, to some extent including a social history, that stops short of any deeper understanding of events or the people involved. A strong recommendation, especially for watching the documentary.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aditya Kulkarni

    Excellent book that covers the most important but often forgotten aspect of the Second World War, the Russian participation in WWII. Esteemed historian Richard Overy has done a fantastic job in portraying the Eastern Front with as much neutrality as possible. The German invasion, the Soviet fightback, Stalin's role in the conflict, and the ultimate result of the war are covered in great detail. The famous battles of Stalingrad, Leningrad, Moscow, and Berlin are also described very well. Highly r Excellent book that covers the most important but often forgotten aspect of the Second World War, the Russian participation in WWII. Esteemed historian Richard Overy has done a fantastic job in portraying the Eastern Front with as much neutrality as possible. The German invasion, the Soviet fightback, Stalin's role in the conflict, and the ultimate result of the war are covered in great detail. The famous battles of Stalingrad, Leningrad, Moscow, and Berlin are also described very well. Highly recommended if you are fascinated by military history in general and by WWII history in particular.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Gunn

    Just watch the documentary

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gram

    A short yet very comprehensive account of the Soviet Union's bloody struggle to defeat Nazi Germany after the initial rout which followed Operation Barbarossa. The Nazis' initial success wasn't as clear cut as many believe. From the beginning and throughout the war, the bravery and resilience of the Red Army surprised the German generals who had been taught to regard the peoples of Eastern Europe as "Untermenschen" (i.e. subhuman). According to Heinrich Himmler, the war in the East was to be one A short yet very comprehensive account of the Soviet Union's bloody struggle to defeat Nazi Germany after the initial rout which followed Operation Barbarossa. The Nazis' initial success wasn't as clear cut as many believe. From the beginning and throughout the war, the bravery and resilience of the Red Army surprised the German generals who had been taught to regard the peoples of Eastern Europe as "Untermenschen" (i.e. subhuman). According to Heinrich Himmler, the war in the East was to be one of "decimation" of the Slavic people. It was the battle skills of the entire Red Army, from generals down to the ordinary soldier and the incredible economic revival of the Soviet Union's military-industrial complex (aided by the USA's Lend-Lease policy - the latter grudgingly admitted by Stalin) which were the main reasons for the Allied victory against Hitler - but at a monumental cost in human lives and suffering. Overy does not shirk from detailing the atrocities perpetrated by the Soviet authorities against satellite states such as the Ukraine, due to deliberate starvation, resettlement and official incompetence. He includes a history of Stalin's rise to power and his many vindictive campaigns of persecution - scores of purges and pogroms - against his own people, which saw millions starved to death, murdered, imprisoned or sent to the gulags and work camps, where they died in their hundreds of thousands over 3 decades. Nor does he ignore the rapes and needless killings of tens of thousands of German civilians during the Red Army's march through Germany during and immediately after the final battles. Overall though, this is the history of the massive suffering endured by the Russian people and the other peoples of Eastern Europe from 1941 to 1945 and how an almost miraculous turn around in Soviet industrial output and military planning finally turned the tide against the (until then) all conquering German military and eventually destroyed the might of Nazi Germany.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    The book followed a miniseries, which might explain its strengths and weaknesses. The good: the Oxford don who wrote this history proved his erudition by sharing relatively fine details of the Soviet war effort, and by offering occasional rebuttal of what he perceived as commonly-held-but-erroneous-beliefs about Stalin or the larger history. The bad: having said that, I estimate that he wrote 80% in the passive voice. Further, paragraphs are frequently too long and often lack topic sentences. I s The book followed a miniseries, which might explain its strengths and weaknesses. The good: the Oxford don who wrote this history proved his erudition by sharing relatively fine details of the Soviet war effort, and by offering occasional rebuttal of what he perceived as commonly-held-but-erroneous-beliefs about Stalin or the larger history. The bad: having said that, I estimate that he wrote 80% in the passive voice. Further, paragraphs are frequently too long and often lack topic sentences. I skipped chapters seven and eight out of sheer misery. Either he never learned to write well, or, because this history accompanied a documentary miniseries, he hastily assembled it. I do take interest in the argument that Allied success - according to Mr. Overy - depended significantly upon Stalin's brutal modernization campaign of the 1930s, without which the Soviets and entire Alliance would likely have perished. History is rather messy and morally ambivalent sometimes. Machiavelli anyone?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Hard to put down, this book is so engrossing and well-written. Richard Overy has a gift for letting facts speak for themselves by an effective use of data, e.g. his two simple tables of military and overall production figures of Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in each year of the conflict. Nor does him shy away from putting his foot down stating what he thinks, e.g. the apportioning of guilt to Nazis versus to the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Baltic anti-semites who were more than eager to denounce t Hard to put down, this book is so engrossing and well-written. Richard Overy has a gift for letting facts speak for themselves by an effective use of data, e.g. his two simple tables of military and overall production figures of Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in each year of the conflict. Nor does him shy away from putting his foot down stating what he thinks, e.g. the apportioning of guilt to Nazis versus to the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Baltic anti-semites who were more than eager to denounce their Jewish neighbours (page 142). If you've ever been captivated by the largest warfare in the history of this planet, or enjoyed Dan Carlin's telling (considered the 5th best Podcast in the first 10 years of podcasting by Slate), this book is a must-read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sumit

    An interesting account of Russian side of the eastern front war and some intriguing claims about Russia's foreign policy leading to and during early war years. The authors benefits from new documents recently declassified from the Russian archives, and sheds light on previously unknown and heavily speculated aspects of Russian policy. Book is relatively small and doesnt go in too much of details about fine aspects of battalion movement. What it does is provide a good mix of strategic and tactica An interesting account of Russian side of the eastern front war and some intriguing claims about Russia's foreign policy leading to and during early war years. The authors benefits from new documents recently declassified from the Russian archives, and sheds light on previously unknown and heavily speculated aspects of Russian policy. Book is relatively small and doesnt go in too much of details about fine aspects of battalion movement. What it does is provide a good mix of strategic and tactical aspect. The book also provides a small view into some of the biggest names on Russian sides such as Stalin, Zhukov, Beria, Molotov and many others. Interesting read for someone looking for a nice read on eastern front. Rating:- ****

  16. 5 out of 5

    Işıl

    The narrative is very captivating and lively as the testimonies claim. I didn't watch the 10-hour documentary to which the book's supposed to be a thorough companion but the book itself made me want to watch it. Overall, it's a nice general and OBJECTIVE look at the history of the Soviet WW2 effort, taking it all the way back from Stalin's rise to power up to his death. It's fairly short and makes a good intro for anyone who wants to dive into the Operation Barbarossa. My reason in picking it up The narrative is very captivating and lively as the testimonies claim. I didn't watch the 10-hour documentary to which the book's supposed to be a thorough companion but the book itself made me want to watch it. Overall, it's a nice general and OBJECTIVE look at the history of the Soviet WW2 effort, taking it all the way back from Stalin's rise to power up to his death. It's fairly short and makes a good intro for anyone who wants to dive into the Operation Barbarossa. My reason in picking it up was I felt I knew very little about the Soviet view of the war, and even less about the Soviet generals. It was a crash course on them for me. So I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone who already has a good grasp of WW2 in general.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Venky

    Professor Richard Overy in this eye opener, details the gargantuan Soviet effort in amassing men and material, which on hindsight turned out to be the most colossal feat of World War II. From the very brink of humiliating defeat after being taken unawares of the German Blitzkrieg - courtesy Operation Barbarossa - to hoisting the Communist Flag at the Reich stag in Berlin, Russia overcame obstacles of every sort, both natural and man made; posed by friend and foe alike to emerge triumphant in som Professor Richard Overy in this eye opener, details the gargantuan Soviet effort in amassing men and material, which on hindsight turned out to be the most colossal feat of World War II. From the very brink of humiliating defeat after being taken unawares of the German Blitzkrieg - courtesy Operation Barbarossa - to hoisting the Communist Flag at the Reich stag in Berlin, Russia overcame obstacles of every sort, both natural and man made; posed by friend and foe alike to emerge triumphant in some of the bloodiest battles of attrition. When the fighters and bombers finally stopped their savage sorties and the lumbering monstrous tanks ground to a halt, signaling the end of the greatest incursion of mankind into the depths of folly, the casualties suffered by Stalin's countrymen were mind numbing. Out of a total mobilized manpower of 34,476,700, 11,444,100 were either dead or were captured as Prisoners Of War or were missing in action. The total number killed in action, or who perished on account of their injuries was 6,885,100. The death toll from 1941-1945 amounted to 8,668,400. An unspeakable price to pay for securing freedom. Overy by concentrating on the physical as well as the psychological factors motivating the Russian War efforts provides various astounding insights which when read together, brings the reader to the startling and sickening realization that the Russian victory could have been achieved at a much lower loss of life, limb and livelihood. For example the atrocious 'purges' following the internal civil war in 1919, where a paranoid administration went about culling 'suspected' traitors from the officer corps - not before subjecting them to unspeakable bouts of torture with a view to forcing out 'confessions' - ensured that by the time Hitler mounted his rampaging attack on June 22, 1941, the Soviet army was in virtual disarray with a grievous lack of leadership capabilities. These abominable purges continued well into the war and even after the World War itself came to an excruciating end. Having a morbid fear of dying, the despotic Stalin not only had himself surrounded by the dreaded NKVD Security guards, but also had a phalanx of cronies and lackeys, who with an objective of scaling great heights of power, committed treachery and treason against their own brethren. Professor Overy also highlights the alarming situation of the Soviet ground and air troops itself at the height of the German invasion. Forced to fight behind feeble emplacements and substandard fortifications, the Russian soldier - or 'Ivan' as the Germans were wont to term him - was equipped with outdated rifles and inferior weaponry. Against the clockwork precision of the German army equipped with the dreaded Panzer tanks, these pitiful soldiers had only prayers as their best chance of survival. The Russian Air Force was in an even greater mess. Lacking radio communications and trained/experienced pilots, the Soviet air attacks were literally suicidal missions with their planes seeking to ram into the dreaded Luftwaffe when the former ran out of fuel! From a position of dire disadvantage, the Soviet Union through a process of remarkable political, economic and military transformation, worked a veritable miracle by bringing forth a level of discipline and sophistication hitherto seen in any Armed forces. Even as Germany was bombing the living daylights out of Russian villages and cities, workers transported entire factories over railroads (or what remained of them) to isolated places in Kazakhstan and Siberia and embarked on a mass production initiative of military stockpile. However the most back breaking labour was extracted at an unfair cost. Most of the toil formed the exclusive preserve of the unfortunate prisoners sentenced to a long tenures at the 'gulags' or the despicable labour camps. Sleeping on straw beds or even at times, in holes carved out from earth, these prisoners were driven to work in appalling conditions. Braving temperatures of minus thirty degrees and minuscule food rations, hundreds of thousands of brave men and women literally worked themselves to death. By 1945 the Soviet Armed and Air forces boasted technological prowess that was equal to or in some cases even superior to those possessed by their enemy. The top political echelons also underwent a positive paradigm shift in mindset. Stalin left the dynamics of strategy in the hands of extraordinarily brave and capable generals such as Zhukov (the hero of both Stalingrad and Leningrad); Chuikov, the indomitable general who was wounded four times (each time on the 20th of a month) and yet refused to back down an inch, and Rossokovsky. Even though Stalin insisted on being the ultimate Generalissimo, he rarely interfered in the carefully chalked out battle strategies formulated by his generals. This was in direct contrast to the workings of the sociopath Hitler, who insisted on micro managing every front, a disastrous decision which as psychotic as the man's ambitions, and which ultimately led to the decimation of the Third Reich. "Russia's War" is an essential accompaniment for understanding not only the noble sacrifices made by millions of patriotic men and women who uncomplainingly charged the enemy and laid down their lives for their Motherland, but also to fathom the very depths of human blunders which have the capability of triggering a damning catastrophe! Russia's War was indeed a consequence of a monumental catastrophe!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Callum Hyslop

    Amazing book! The author included lots of interesting facts and statistics, would recommend this book if your interested in russian history and the Second World War.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Emmanuel Gustin

    At less than 400 pages, this is a short history of Russia's (more accurately, the Soviet Union's) participation in the Second World War. Overy had to make choices in his coverage of the conflict: His account describes the major battles in broad strokes, with enough detail to make the reader understand the strategic choices that the Soviet leadership made, but also gives due emphasis to the experience of the population, the shifts of power in the leadership, and the war production effort that mad At less than 400 pages, this is a short history of Russia's (more accurately, the Soviet Union's) participation in the Second World War. Overy had to make choices in his coverage of the conflict: His account describes the major battles in broad strokes, with enough detail to make the reader understand the strategic choices that the Soviet leadership made, but also gives due emphasis to the experience of the population, the shifts of power in the leadership, and the war production effort that made victory possible. The result is an excellent high-level overview of the conflict, though perhaps it does not do full justice to the human story of the people who experienced the conflict on the ground. Access to Soviet wartime archives, after the end of the Cold War, allowed the Soviet side of the conflict to be much better understood than before. The book not contain many big surprises, but it does have a few; and it certainly provides a better insight on what happened on the Eastern front than works written before 1991. And perhaps against expectations, what happened then remains very relevant today: While hearing about the conflict in the Ukraine and Crimea today (March 2014) it is fascinating to read about the role played during WWII by the Ukrainian nationalists, caught between hammer and anvil in the world war that rolled over their country; and to read that armed conflict continued in this country for several years after WWII ended. With a fluent, very readable writing style, a handful of well-chosen maps, and limited technical detail, this is a pleasantly readable account of a bloody conflict.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Smoothly-written and fascinating, "Russia's War" shows a vitally important side of World War II usually ignored by Western accounts. The book goes far toward demonstrating that, while the American operations in Europe commencing with D-Day were important to the defeat of Nazi Germany, they were not truly the vital factor in the outcome of the European war; those honors properly belong to Soviet Russia, with all its faults and foibles, as well as its heroes and incredible stamina under pressure. R Smoothly-written and fascinating, "Russia's War" shows a vitally important side of World War II usually ignored by Western accounts. The book goes far toward demonstrating that, while the American operations in Europe commencing with D-Day were important to the defeat of Nazi Germany, they were not truly the vital factor in the outcome of the European war; those honors properly belong to Soviet Russia, with all its faults and foibles, as well as its heroes and incredible stamina under pressure. Richard Overy's account helped me finally understand the incredibly unlikely Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact of 1939; the part that always bothered me was the question, "how could Hitler and Stalin ever have trusted each other?" The answer is, they didn't; they each thought they had outmaneuvered the other and never intended anything but a double-cross to come out of it. They both got something out of it; and while Hitler probably got the better of the deal initially, in the end the Soviets won all-- though not easily. The book suffers mainly from its relationship to a British television series, and goes for summary rather than detail, so it's not a truly deep look at the war. However, for someone unfamiliar with the vital Eastern Front, it's the best introduction to it I've ever encountered.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Judith Spapens

    Stunning work of history. Fluently written, incredibly detailed and full of very important truths about WWII mostly obscured in ordinary historic writing on the second world war such as: - The discipline of order 227 meant for officers and others not regular soldiers - The necessity of the gulag for war time production (quota required more people) - Russian history shows that extreme force is part of the Russian heritage of ruling, meaning: Stalin is a product of his predecessors who were ruled br Stunning work of history. Fluently written, incredibly detailed and full of very important truths about WWII mostly obscured in ordinary historic writing on the second world war such as: - The discipline of order 227 meant for officers and others not regular soldiers - The necessity of the gulag for war time production (quota required more people) - Russian history shows that extreme force is part of the Russian heritage of ruling, meaning: Stalin is a product of his predecessors who were ruled brutally as well (not as brutal, granted) - Usage of penal colonies for production is nothing unique to Stalinism/Soviet Union in wartime: the tsars used forced labor, Putin utilizes prisoners for work - The fatalism in Russian culture and the feeling of an existing "We" instead of "Me" (collectivism vs individualism) caused the Soviet state to sacrifice to an extreme extent (nearly 30 million lost their lives) - The antisemitic policies of Stalin after the war resulting in executions, loss of university students and repression of zionist opinion making A must read for anyone interested in WWII and the history of the Soviet Union/Russia.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Overy does a great job shedding some light on the Cold War era thinking towards the Soviet Union's role in WWII. Unfortunately, many historians portray the Soviet effort as a bumbling moat of humanity being thrown against a far superior enemy. Overy, on the other hand, explores the evolution of Soviet tactics and strategies to show the reader that milestones such as Stalingrad, Kursk, and Bagration were well thought-out victories and not simply Red Army generals throwing wave upon wave of under- Overy does a great job shedding some light on the Cold War era thinking towards the Soviet Union's role in WWII. Unfortunately, many historians portray the Soviet effort as a bumbling moat of humanity being thrown against a far superior enemy. Overy, on the other hand, explores the evolution of Soviet tactics and strategies to show the reader that milestones such as Stalingrad, Kursk, and Bagration were well thought-out victories and not simply Red Army generals throwing wave upon wave of under-armed peasant soldiers at the Wehrmacht, as is often portrayed elsewhere. He also does an excellent job putting the political processes of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s into context, concluding that a decisive factor in the Red Army's eventual victory was the decision to repeal various pre-war decrees later in the war that had hindered the military's ability to operate effectively against an enemy as skilled as the Wehrmacht. Well-written, informative, and analytical, this book is one of the best surveys I have come across about the Eastern Front. Despite several points that I disagree with, I highly recommend this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    An excellent book about the Soviet Union during WWII. A lot of it I knew but there was so much that I didn't. Every time I read a history of the Soviet Union I always want to make it required reading for those who think that communism is some great form of government. What Lenin and then Stalin did to the poor people in their own country as well as the countries they took over is horrific! They punished their own citizens who had been POWs in the war for allowing themselves to be captured rather An excellent book about the Soviet Union during WWII. A lot of it I knew but there was so much that I didn't. Every time I read a history of the Soviet Union I always want to make it required reading for those who think that communism is some great form of government. What Lenin and then Stalin did to the poor people in their own country as well as the countries they took over is horrific! They punished their own citizens who had been POWs in the war for allowing themselves to be captured rather than killing themselves. I would highly recommend this one; a very readable history book (after the first two chapters).

  24. 4 out of 5

    Schopfi

    Russia's War seems at first a little populist and simplifying - it's not called The War of the Sowjet Union for instance - but if you look past the occasional simplifications, especially concerning single historical figures, you will find a well written, relatively unbiased book on the Sowjet war effort. The last part of the book points out the shroud of myths that has distorted the Russian view on the past. If you want to understand the specific relationship Russia has with its own history star Russia's War seems at first a little populist and simplifying - it's not called The War of the Sowjet Union for instance - but if you look past the occasional simplifications, especially concerning single historical figures, you will find a well written, relatively unbiased book on the Sowjet war effort. The last part of the book points out the shroud of myths that has distorted the Russian view on the past. If you want to understand the specific relationship Russia has with its own history starts b looking precisely into this topic.

  25. 5 out of 5

    M. A.

    "The sacrifices of a tormented people brought victory but not emancipation, a moment of bitter-sweet victory in a long history of loss." As the words of various poets and writers of prose have been imprinted on my memory, so too has this passage from Richard Overy's Russia's War--a historical account that, far from being dry, moves on from strength to strength, capturing the spirit of the Russian people through an almost literally apocalyptic period of their history. In this passage, the Russian "The sacrifices of a tormented people brought victory but not emancipation, a moment of bitter-sweet victory in a long history of loss." As the words of various poets and writers of prose have been imprinted on my memory, so too has this passage from Richard Overy's Russia's War--a historical account that, far from being dry, moves on from strength to strength, capturing the spirit of the Russian people through an almost literally apocalyptic period of their history. In this passage, the Russian experience is embodied; in this work, it is examined, and a few conclusions are carefully guessed at by a writer who is sensitive to all considerations that must be given to the politics, military situation, and human experience of the 1941-45 Eastern Front, from the mundane to the near mystical. For those looking for the ingredients, here is a (non-exhaustive) list: Raw statistics, gripping narratives, poetry, tragedies, triumphs, crimes, quotations, analysis, and conclusions; officers, meddling party officials, survivors, spies, scientists, and writers; the vengeful Cossacks, the doomed Polish nationalists, the doomed Volga Germans, and the ill-fated Jewish Soviets; Leningrad, Stalingrad, Minsk, Kiev; Lefortovo, Lubtanka, Babi Yar, Katyn; Tukhachevsky, Shostakovich, Konev, Kurchatov, Yevgenia Lifshits-- Richard Overy knows that he cannot possibly cover the entirety of his subject, but does not pretend to, and does a great deal of justice to it in my opinion. Russia's War has a tidily factual but literary character: there is a prologue; there is a story; there is an epilogue. There are characters, there is dialogue. But there are no heroes; even the Soviet people, rightly extolled at length, have a spotlight shown on their blemishes at times. What was done in the dark and the light, by Soviet organizations and citizens, is detailed without flinching. And when Overy interjects an appraisal or offers a conclusion, one never feels the oppressive weight of the "factual opinion" that one might find in other historical accounts--lopsided affairs that seem more like fiction than merely vivid accounts like Overy's. His writing has emotional depth and empathy, but never feels fictitious or fantastical. In fact, from the myth of Polish weakness spung from accounts of apparent backwardness (most famously, perhaps, is the anecdote of Polish cavalry unit futily charging German tanks), to the incredibly prevalent opinion that Russia won merely by throwing bodies at Germany (when there were so many factors weighing for and against a Soviet victory, from the beginning to the very end!), Overy analyzes and dispells commonly held but inaccurate beliefs of the West about many aspects of the Eastern Front. Russia's War is too short and light to approach being a definitive academic work, but too long and dense to be popular reading. But Overy's is a spectacular work in my opinion, a worthy edition to the library of anyone interested in the subject matter.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cary

    Published in 1997, this is, more or less, the book version of a BBC documentary series about the Eastern Front in World War II. It was one of the, if not the, first to make use of the information that had become available after the end of communist rule in Russia. As such it dispels a lot of myths about the war as well as clarifies many things. The Eastern Front was brutal, and the fighting was on a scale that dwarfed the Western Front. Germany deployed four to five times as many divisions in the Published in 1997, this is, more or less, the book version of a BBC documentary series about the Eastern Front in World War II. It was one of the, if not the, first to make use of the information that had become available after the end of communist rule in Russia. As such it dispels a lot of myths about the war as well as clarifies many things. The Eastern Front was brutal, and the fighting was on a scale that dwarfed the Western Front. Germany deployed four to five times as many divisions in the east. We talk about WWII being total war, and no where was that more true in the east, particularly of Russia, for two reasons. First, the ideological stance of the Nazis toward communism, Judaism (there were millions of Jews living in this region), and Slavs in general, meant terrible treatment of captured combatants and occupied civilian populations. And this was reciprocated by the Soviets once they had turned the tide. Second, Stalin was in a position to retool his economy and basically enslave his population in the service of that. The Second World War in Europe was definitely, Russia's. Which is not to say they could have won it without the help of their allies. Without a doubt, the Soviet Union teetered on the brink in '42 and '43. Germany came within mere miles of taking Moscow. The US in particular supplied the Soviet Union with tens of thousands of vehicles of all types. Without these, the mobility of the Red Army, crucial to their defense of Moscow and later and more so, Stalingrad, would have been all but absent. However, there can be little doubt that the Soviet Union and the Russian people bore the brunt of the war. And, brutal though it was, the transformation of the lackluster pre-war Soviet economy and mediocre armed forces to the total war economy and a fighting force to rival Germany's by mid-war were astounding feats. The fact that, after devastating and humiliating defeats and the loss of a third, the richest, most populated third, of the country, anyone had any willpower to continue fighting is a testament to Russia's people and leaders. About the Audiobook I listened to this, and the audio is pretty disappointing. The quality is not good. The volume is uneven and there is frequently background hiss. David Case's narration is nothing to write home about, but is passable most of the time, though, I can imagine his rather nasal voice grates on some. Where it dips below passable is with the voices used for quotations from various leaders, generals, and soldiers are borderline caricatures -- overdone German and Russian accents.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Often, lovers of fiction describe books of over five-hundred pages in length as a 'chunkster'. A lengthy book. Somehow, a book whose length requires special mention, special categorisation, almost as a marker of how much of a challenge they found in it's completion. This has always struck me as slightly paradoxical; that someone who professes a love of reading actually shies away, or feels intimidated by...reading. And yet, when it comes to works of non-fiction, five-hundred pages lies firmly wi Often, lovers of fiction describe books of over five-hundred pages in length as a 'chunkster'. A lengthy book. Somehow, a book whose length requires special mention, special categorisation, almost as a marker of how much of a challenge they found in it's completion. This has always struck me as slightly paradoxical; that someone who professes a love of reading actually shies away, or feels intimidated by...reading. And yet, when it comes to works of non-fiction, five-hundred pages lies firmly within the realm of the 'normal'. This is even more often the case with specific sub-genres of non-fiction, such as military history, or biography. In Russia's War by Richard Overy, the length therefore seems to pay almost a disservice to the subject matter at hand. At four-hundred and sixteen pages in length, the edition I read feels like an abridged edition of what could be a truly engrossing work of non-fiction. Russia is a hugely complex country, with a complicated political history and a national psyche which can most politely be described as 'intriguing' to Westerners. Therefore, upon seeing a book that covers this nations place in the greatest conflict the world has ever seen, with the resultant extra dollops of intrigue which attend such a conflict, it's not difficult to imagine how the prospective reader may expect a lot. An awful lot. It's not an easy expectation for any author to meet. Overy does a workman-like job of approaching this subject matter, ticking all the historical boxes along the way. Sure, there are aspects of the book that highlight new information (to me anyway), but once that box is ticked, it's time to move on. I don't want to say Overy glosses over aspects of Russia's experience of WW2 but neither does he dwell on them. With Russia's War, Overy always seems as though he is trying to cram everything in, without any real sense of exploring a topic, or a train of thought, to it's final conclusion. I never really felt like I knew Stalin, or any of the leaders with whom he worked, to any extent that left me feeling satisfied. I'm probably coming across as slightly harsh here and it's not intentional. Russia's War is a solid book. But it's an introduction to the topic, with few 'wow' moments, that traditionally accompany either beautiful writing, or the elucidation of some new and fascinating gem of information. In order for the book to meet my expectations, I now realise that it would need to be around twice it's actual length. And maybe Overy was aiming for exactly what I'm describing; a fairly compact overview of Russia's role in WW2, aimed at those to whom the topic is new. If that's the case, then it works well for it's intended audience. But having read a rather long list of WW2 non-fiction works, there wasn't an awful lot of new information here. Certainly there was nothing revelatory. It was in short, a 'ho-hum' kind of book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ginger Miller

    A brilliant account of Russia behind the war. This book pulls no punches in its profile of Stalin at war. The author doesn't fall into the habit of ignoring the overwhelming evidence that Stalin was every inch the monster that Hitler was, sometimes more so. His complete suppression of the Russian people and military led to the loss of life on a staggering scale. However, unlike Hitler he finally realized that control had to be handed to his generals if Russia was going to succeed. He was also qui A brilliant account of Russia behind the war. This book pulls no punches in its profile of Stalin at war. The author doesn't fall into the habit of ignoring the overwhelming evidence that Stalin was every inch the monster that Hitler was, sometimes more so. His complete suppression of the Russian people and military led to the loss of life on a staggering scale. However, unlike Hitler he finally realized that control had to be handed to his generals if Russia was going to succeed. He was also quick to regain control once the tide turned and the outcome assured. An excellent account. The research is excellent and in depth. In highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of the war but also of Russian history. I completely disagree with the author excusing Stalin and the Russian military for ignoring Poland during the Warsaw uprising. While his argument is somewhat convincing he fails to address Stalin's refusal to allow allied planes to use Soviet airfields to help the Home Army in their doomed but very brave and courageous uprising against the Germans . Unfortunately Poland is still being ignored after all these years. Even the magnitude of Polish deaths is often ignored in favor of Russian casualties.

  29. 5 out of 5

    A Scholastic Reader

    There's a reason why Richard Overy is often to be found in documentaries of this period: he is a very able and knowledgeable writer about this period. He explores, in both depth but with a refreshing brevity, the Soviet Union and how it responded and acted in the Second World War. He also draws a very good contextual picture from the Revolution (and the Civil War mentality is well-developed, especially the way he begins the book). You get the sense that you are reading something almost monograph There's a reason why Richard Overy is often to be found in documentaries of this period: he is a very able and knowledgeable writer about this period. He explores, in both depth but with a refreshing brevity, the Soviet Union and how it responded and acted in the Second World War. He also draws a very good contextual picture from the Revolution (and the Civil War mentality is well-developed, especially the way he begins the book). You get the sense that you are reading something almost monographic in detail but at the same time broad and compelling throughout. If I recall correctly, he provides a good picture of the Terror under Stalin and the command economy in general, as well as his own views on Russia's readiness for war (and other things besides). As with any historical period this should be read alongside other books of the period, will doubtless provide different perspectives, but for those just looking for a good narrative (with lots of worthwhile analysis thrown in too) then this should definitely suffice.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Naing Lin

    I found the book from TIK (youtube) which recommend to people who are curious about world war two, (particularly eastern front for this book). The good things about the book is very easy to read for amateurs and at the same time it doesn't try to hide the atrocities of both sides in unapologetically whether of nazi germany or Soviet or even British in later part. The whole book is pack with the cruelty of various sides hence if you don't to be read the exposed facts, it's not the right book for I found the book from TIK (youtube) which recommend to people who are curious about world war two, (particularly eastern front for this book). The good things about the book is very easy to read for amateurs and at the same time it doesn't try to hide the atrocities of both sides in unapologetically whether of nazi germany or Soviet or even British in later part. The whole book is pack with the cruelty of various sides hence if you don't to be read the exposed facts, it's not the right book for you. If you want to watch about the video which I got recommended I attach the link. https://youtu.be/KQWyAez9mCA

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