Friday, February 2, 2007

Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 by Catherine Merridale

I was very excited to see that this book was coming out and pre-ordered it months ago. Upon receiving it and diving into it I was a bit disappointed, it wasn't what I expected yet at the same time it was something that I definitely needed to know about. This book is a social and somewhat of a cultural history of the Red Army. I personally expected accounts of battles and the such, but instead we are presented with the situations Red Army men had to deal with on a daily basis. Party speeches, Political officers and their jobs, what kind of food was served, what kind clothes were scare, and at the same time what frontline soldiers were missing in their lives. When they had to live off the land, when they were starving days on end, when their boots were falling apart and no new ones were forcoming so they had to take off clothing from the dead and dying, etc.

The rapes and 'atrocities' in the latter year of the war are covered but too much so in my opinion, few lines are given to the 'justice' dealt out by the Red Army and numerous orders from the higher ups that said raping, etc, would be punished by executions. The storyline is a journalistic one with frontline accounts mixed in, some are stories told to the author, at other times dead Red Army men come alive through their wartime correspondences with their family members and wives. I would have liked to see more of the former and more interviews and stories in general, but what was presented was definitely interesting and worth reading about.

A good investment for anyone who wants to understand what life on the Eastern Front was like on a day to day basis. There are some detailed mistakes, like saying that the German Tiger tank was based on the Soviet KV tank design, while in fact the German Tiger tank had been on the drawing boards for a while before the Germans even encountered the KV. There are others but this is the only one that stuck in my head, it shouldn't take away from the rest of the narrative which is definitely a great addition to literature on the Eastern Front.

No comments: