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The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II Paperback – November 4, 2008


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The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow That Changed the Course of World War II + Russia's War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074328111X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743281119
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist and foreign correspondent Nagorski combines published sources and interviews in this history of what he calls the largest, deadliest and most decisive battle of WWII. The often cited Russian winter did not account for the battle's outcome, he asserts, nor did German military overstretch. The tide wasn't turned by Hitler's increasingly erratic command decisions either. Moscow, Nagorski argues, was won by the Soviet government, the Red Army and the Russian people. Stalin's decision to stay in the city provided a rallying point—otherwise his mistakes as a commander and his brutality as head of state might have handed the Germans a victory they couldn't win in combat. A Red Army still learning its craft lost more than two million soldiers before Moscow, many of whom were victims of teenaged officers and obsolete weapons, failed tactical doctrines and logistical systems. Even the vaunted Siberian divisions were short of everything, including winter clothes, as they fought in sub-zero temperatures. Nor were Moscow's residents the united folk of Communist myth. Nagorski's sources luridly describe panic, looting and wildcat strikes as the Germans approached. Still, he concludes that whatever the shortcomings of Moscow's defenders, their deeds don't require heroic myth: the truth is honorable enough. (Sept.)
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 Booklist

The war on the eastern front during World War II was the greatest land war in history, and it was unprecedented in its savagery and slaughter. Westerners usually think of the battle for Stalingrad as the obvious representation of that savagery. However, Nagorski, a senior editor at Newsweek, makes a convincing assertion that the battle for Moscow, which raged from September 1941 to April 1942, was the most destructive and most important battle of the war. The broad outlines of Nagorski's chronicle are familiar, including the rapid initial advance of the Germans after the invasion of June 1941, the early snows that bogged down the advance, and the brilliant counterattack of the Siberian reserves that drove the Germans back from the gates of Moscow. What makes Nagorski's account special are his skill at conveying the devastating human costs of the conflict and his integration of individual experiences with the broader strategic goals of each side. Freeman, Jay --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Award-winning journalist Andrew Nagorski is now Vice President and Director of Public Policy at the EastWest Institute, a New York-based international affairs think tank. During a long career at Newsweek, he served as the magazine's bureau chief in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw and Berlin. He is the author of several books and has written for countless publications. Visit his website: www.andrewnagorski.com

Customer Reviews

I suspect that the title of the book was not his choice, but his publisher's.
Amazon Customer
One of the great strengths of the book is Nagorski's wide-ranging approach to the battle.
Leonard Fleisig
His book is very well documented;once one starts reading it is hard to put it down.
Paul Bard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

83 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on September 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Anton Chekhov was certainly prophetic when he wrote that line, perhaps no more so than in connection with the titanic clash between the USSR's Red Army and Germany's Wehrmacht in the opening months of the war on the east front in 1941/1942. Andrew Nagorski's "The Greatest Battle: Stalin, Hitler, and the Desperate Struggle for Moscow that Changed the Course of World War II" is a compelling, well-written examination of an epic and bloody battle for survival.

Winston Churchill once wrote that "history is written by the victors". Nagorski takes the view here that sometimes history also is not written by the victors when that history doesn't serve the victor's purposes. At the outset of the "Greatest Battle" Nagorski points out that while much has been written of the battles of Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Kursk for example the battle that ended on the outskirts of Moscow has been subjected to far less scrutiny by historians. Nagorski suggests that a primary reason why Moscow has received less historical scrutiny is the fact that the victor, in this case Stalin's USSR, had little to gain by promoting a battle that would cast Stalin in a less favorable light than Stalingrad or Kursk. Documents locked in NKVD/KGB archives stayed locked well past Stalin's regime. However, since the fall of the USSR a great amount of previously uncovered records has led both Russian and western historians to take a new look at the battle for Moscow.

Nagorski has done an excellent job here in amassing a tremendous amount of research material and presenting it in a way that can be appreciated by readers with either a general or specific interest in the subject matter. One of the great strengths of the book is Nagorski's wide-ranging approach to the battle.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Mark Greenbaum on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For some time, the Battle of Moscow has been forgotten and at times disregarded by scholars and others who have argued that the Battle of Stalingrad was the key battle and turning point in the war against Nazi Germany. Andrew Nagorski has written a very interesting and highly accessible book on the months leading up to the near-takeover of Moscow by the Germans, the battle itself, and its aftermath and consequences, demonstrating that the Battle of Moscow was larger in scale than any other battle during the war and may have played an even greater role in the survival of the Soviet Union and the ultimate defeat of Hitler. "The Greatest Battle" is highly enjoyable because it focuses not just on military minutiae, but because it also draws a fabulously rich and detailed picture of the horrors of the Nazi invasion of Russia, the battles leading up to Moscow, and the senseless death and destruction wrought not just by Hitler but also by Josef Stalin, who, as Nagorski takes pains to show, played a key role in the deaths of millions of Russians because of his cruelty and military/strategic negligence.

Nagorski does a great job by weaving in personal stories from various Russian soldiers, workers, doctors, would-by-spies, and others who are still alive and took part in the Battle of Moscow and other events surrounding the June 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. These vivid accounts that Nagorski unearthed for the first time add rich detail and help establish the incredible magnitude of destruction of the Battle of Moscow. I for one, had no idea that there were millions of casualties in the Battle of Moscow, far surpassing Kurst, Stalingrad, and Leningrad, for example.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Alan Weiss on February 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book would be better titled, "The political background to the greatest battle." With its actual title, you expect to learn of the movement of divisions and street-to-street fighting, but the author spends more time on Stalin's dacha's water pipe leaks, secret police machinations, and the preservation of Lenin's body. He's good at describing the mindless terror that Stalin perpetuated on his own people, but the book is terribly mis-titled and misleading in its promotion. There are interesting details about the desperate provisions of the Russian strategy to save the city, and of Stalin's foolish refusals to believe that Hitler would attack him in the first place. But, as a saga of battles for great cities, the book can't begin to compare with the likes of "The 900 Days" about the siege of Leningrad, just as one example. It's an average read, not outstanding, and not what you'd think you'd be reading about.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Zbigniew L. Stanczyk on September 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
One of the most astonishing books I have ever read in my life.
Nobody has ever done anything like it! It reads like Tolstoy's "War and Peace". Once you start it you won't be able put it away. It's amazing that nobody until now had enough courage to put it all on paper.
Very few had access to the sources used by author. It's a gigantic undertaking and it shows on every page.
The book has changed my understanding of what went on in the East in 1941. Nagorski also explains Stalin's war techniques which allowed him later to gain control of half of the European continent. I hope the book gets translated first of all into Russian and also into other European languages. They need to have a better understanding of the unknown episodes of WW II.
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