Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 Paperback – January 23, 2007
History To Repeat & Some To Not
Check out these featured history titles.Learn more.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
The driving concept between this type of approach to history is to use oral accounts from veterans to add texture to broad themes that the author can then develop. To be honest, Merridale does not seem to have much flair for oral history and too many of her accounts are rather tepid. I get the impression that the Soviet vets either didn't want to talk to her since she was a foreigner - she hints at this - and those men she did interview were not the most desirable subjects. Given the availability of better Soviet accounts that have appeared since the fall of Communism, I find it hard to believe that Merridale could not have gotten some better material. Readers should note that Merridale's examination of "Ivan" is far from comprehensive - not only are there no accounts from the Red Air Force or Navy, but important branches such as artillery and cavalry are all but ignored.Read more ›
However, the reviews have failed to mention what I found to be one of the most important features of the book: The significant lacunae in the historical record of the Red Army. Merridale shows how completely the historical reality of the Red Army experience has been replaced by the state-sanctioned mythology. Merridale describes sorting through the archives, sealed for sixty years, and finding that even the confidential reports by the internal Party spies are filled with bland pious generalities. Even as they were fighting and dying, the Army was selectively editing its official memory, removing any evidence of venality, cowardice, war crimes, insubordination and so on.
More disturbingly, the veterans Merridale interviews have edited their own memories, often describing scenes from propaganda movies as if they actually experienced them first-hand. Merridale's sympathetic treatment of the veterans' accounts makes this crime against memory all the more disturbing. In fact, Merridale's most vivid primary sources are the letters and diaries of front-line soldiers (most of whom were killed in action), preserved by grieving families.
In an odd way, Merridale's book is the perfect complement to a political-theoretical book like Hannah Arendt's "Totalitarianism". Arendt describes how the totalitarian state can control every aspect of human existence. Merridale shows that this control extended even to the chaos and relative freedom of the front line.
First, it is important to point out that this book is not a work of military history, so if that's what you're expecting you'll be pretty disappointed.
Second, I think one of the blurbs on the book states that the author conducted over 200 interviews in writing the book. This may be the case, but the author seems to rely on perhaps a half dozen of these interviews for much of her anecdotal content. Most of the rest of her content seems to come from letters written by soldiers killed during the war, which are quoted extensively. To me, this heavy reliance on such letters is a weakness, because of the unknown effects of anticipated censorship or actual self-censorship. Who knows what Ivan really wanted to say to his family in the rear? Also, it seems possible that even today many of the families which retain such letters would be reluctant to disclose some letters for fear of their Ivan being seen as unpatriotic, etc.
Third, people already familiar with Russian WWII history are unlikely to learn very much from this book.
Fourth, as pointed out by other reviewers, I don't think that the book is particularly well-organized.
Overall this is a worthy book on a topic which has not received the attention that it deserves. Moreover, given the age of most of the veterans, it might be one of the last opportunities for such a work. That said, for an understanding of Russia and its society during the war, I would probably recommend Alexander Werth's excellent RUSSIA AT WAR over this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For some reason I dislike reading history books written by women. There are too many adjectives, too flowery, too wordy, too lady like, for me. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Michael R. Gautz
Fantastic book about the Russian army during the second world war. I heavily suggest reading it, you wouldn't regret it!Published 6 months ago by Emilio Hernandez
Initially, I thought this book was going to be a collection of stories or even follow the life of a few reoccurring characters. Read morePublished 8 months ago by BMK370
Very Informative. A view of the Russian War view rarely found.Published 8 months ago by C. Bruce Dayton
This is an astonishing book. I have read a great deal of military history, but I have never experienced anything as profound as this. Read morePublished 9 months ago by BWL
A realistic rotate of the typical Russian soldier. Well told,mentertaining and eye opening even to history buffs.Published 9 months ago by John H. Adler
The reviews seem to be all over the place. It may not be possible to write a book about the Red Army of World War II and please more than a slim majority of readers. Read morePublished 11 months ago by lyndonbrecht