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

By Catherine Merridale

They died in massive numbers, 8 million women and men pushed ahead in suicidal fees, shattered by means of German shells and tanks. They have been the warriors of the purple military, an exhausted mass of recruits who faced Europe's so much deadly combating strength and by means of 1945 had defeated it. For sixty years, their reviews have been suppressed, changed by way of patriotic propaganda. we all know how the warriors died, yet approximately not anything approximately how they lived, how they observed the realm, or why they fought. during this formidable, revelatory background, Catherine Merridale uncovers the harrowing tale of who those squaddies have been, and the way they lived and died in the course of the struggle.

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Additional info for Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945

Sample text

As they are withdrawn from operations, Steinbeck explained, soldiers are physically and emotionally weary and tend to escape into sleep. ‘When you wake up and think back to the things that happened,’ he continued, ‘they are already becoming dreamlike. You try to remember what it was like, and you can’t quite manage it. The outlines in your memory are vague. The next day the memory slips further, until very little is left at all … Men in prolonged battle are not normal men. ’23 Soviet soldiers’ letters and the testimonies of the survivors today tell this same story almost every time.

The enterprise also demanded an effort of imagination. Before I could begin to find the true Ivan I had to make sure that I was not looking for an image of myself. A young recruit to Stalin’s army would have grown up in a world so alien to my own that I would have to start with that, with the landscape, the language, family, education, fear and hope. A state that claimed to be remaking human souls, as Stalin’s did, had to have left its mark on every youth; their mental universe was touched, if not entirely shaped, by it.

Those millions of conscript Soviet troops, for us, the beneficiaries of their victory, seem characterless. We do not know, for instance, where they came from, let alone what they believed in or the reasons why they fought. We do not know, either, how the experience of this war changed them, how its inhuman violence shaped their own sense of life and death. We do not know how soldiers talked together, what lessons, jokes or folk wisdom they shared. And we have no idea what refuges they kept within their minds, what homes they dreamed of, whom and how they loved.

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