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Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War Hardcover – October 30, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0375410864 ISBN-10: 0375410864 Edition: First Edition

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Hardcover, October 30, 2007
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375410864
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375410864
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Sobering. . . . A global view presented with remarkable clarity.”
The Boston Globe

“Probably the best account of the Eastern Front we shall see until President Putin relaxes his newly imposed restrictions on foreign access to the files. . . . Bellamy has made a tremendous contribution to the record of Russia's struggle, for which future historians will owe a debt.”
The Sunday Times (London)

“Bellamy's treatment is authoritative, his judgments thorough and exacting, and his prose robust.”
—The Daily Telegraph (London)

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Chris Bellamy is Professor of Military Science and Doctrine and Director of the Security Studies Institute at Cranfield University. Born in 1955, he was educated at the Universities of Oxford, London, Westminster, and Edinburgh. In 1990 he was appointed Defence Correspondent of The Independent, and served in that capacity for more than seven years, reporting from Saudi Arabia and Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, from Bosnia between 1992 and 1997, and from Chechnya in 1995. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Germany's first great defeat on land was the Battle of Moscow, September 1941-April 1942.
William Podmore
A great piece of Wissenschaft (scholarship) that is accessible to informed lay people interested in history.
Ars gratia artis
In such books maps, diagrams, figures and pictures are a vital part of the value of a book.
Stephen Moss

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Charles Mccain on January 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read at least 50 books on the German Russian War---the major component of World War Two in Europe. My first novel, An Honorable German, a World War Two saga told from the point of view of a German UBoat commander, will be published in May. In order to write a novel told in a convincing way from the German POV, I spent 25 years reading German history. I say this to demonstrate my competence to write this review.

First and foremost: if you are looking for a superb general history of the Ost Krieg as seen by the Russians, then buy and read this book. There was a brief window in the the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union when scholars such as the author( whom I do not know) had access to previously top secret information about Russia in World War Two. Putin shut this window and much of this information was reclassified. Professor Bellamy scrambled through this window of opportunity and did an amazing amount of original research from the original battle reports, NKVD reports sent to Stalin, records of discussions of the Stavka, etc. Because he was able to examine unredacted material, indeed the actual reports which Stalin had held in his own hands, Dr. Bellamy was able to shatter certain myths of this period---the most hallowed being the tale of Stalin panicking and retreating to his dacha and staying incummnicado for a week till the Politburo begged him to come back and lead the nation. Piece by piece Professor Bellamy takes apart this myth based on the actual communications in their original between Stalin and the key members of the Politburo. I use this as an example to show how carefully he did his homework and in doing so swept away a number of myths people have accepted for decades.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By O. Burnette on December 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, even at almost 700 pages of text, is a page turner. It is a superb, balanced history using recently opened sources from the former Soviet Union. Having read the memoirs of many of the German generals who fought during World War II, this book greatly helped to round out my understanding of the fighting on the Eastern Front. Not only is this book an outstanding military history, but it also deftly addresses key social, economic, and diplomatic issues. It is superb at explaining why the Soviets defeated the Nazis -- as opposed to books that focus on Hitler's mistakes. Having served as both an armor (tanks) officer and history professor while in the U.S. Army, I found this book to be invaluable.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on April 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book on the Second World War covering, and focusing, on the Eastern Front, largely from the Soviet perspective. The author, apparently a protege of the late John Ericson, is a university professor in England. Bellamy states, in the introduction to the book, that he's not going to try to cover the tactical aspects of the War in the East, largely because he thinks others have covered this ground pretty well. Instead, the author decides to concentrate on other aspects of the conflict, discussing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the state of the Army on the brink of the war, the various plans the Soviets had in 1941 and whether any of them involved attacking Germany, and other aspects he feels haven't been covered enough, or correctly.

The book does spend a lot of time discussing the operational, and especially strategic aspects of the war, but the author avoids discussing tactics pretty much at all. He also spends a lot of time discussing the first year and a half of the war, up until Stalingrad. He takes the position that the Soviets were more precarious politically, and economically, in 1942 than is generally realized, and that they were very close to collapse when the Axis armies outside Stalingrad crumbled and left the Sixth Army encircled. It's an interesting point of view, anyway.

The book is written in a breezy, conversational style that seems to be stylish now with books that are supposed to be scholarly. I don't know how well this will work in a book half a century from now. Right now, it's kind of jarring but I will say the book reads relatively fast.
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53 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Titura on November 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book aims to present the Second World War from the Soviet perspective by using documents from formerly closed Soviet archives and memoirs only recently published in their full length (ie those written by Zhukov and Rokossovsky, respectively).

While the non-Russian reader can only welcome such an attempt, Prof. Bellamy's book suffers from some major shortcomings, one of which is the apparent inability of its author to read German language sources. Some errors (German ambassador von der Schulenburg is misspelled as "Schulenberg" throughout the book) could have been avoided.

But the major shortcomings are in the material presented for the Soviet side. Bellamy avoids discussing the Soviet pre-war military strategy and doctrine in a separate chapter, even though he rightly writes about the entirely offensive deployment and strategy vis-à-vis Germany. When military strategy is discussed, however, he erroneously attributes the Soviet's doctrine on the eve of the war to Svechin ("Strategy") instead of to Vladimir Triandafillov ("The nature of operations of modern armies") and Isserson.

Another major topic that is missing in this book is the Soviet Order of battle on June 22, 1941. Strangely enough, the well known German Order of Battle is given in the book, but no details about the Soviet deployment along the German, Hungarian and Romanian border. This is a very disappointing fact, especially because one would have wanted to compare the striking similarities in the deployment of the opposing forces. For very detailed information about the Soviet Order of Battle I can only refer the reader to the detailed works of Charles Sharp and Craig Crofoot for the ground forces and to Christer Bergström's about the Soviet Air Forces.

Overall, this book is not bad, but full of missed opportunities.
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