- File Size: 3691 KB
- Print Length: 224 pages
- Publisher: Pen and Sword Military; Revised and Revised ed. edition (December 31, 1990)
- Publication Date: May 16, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00KDJM0VA
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
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Red Road From Stalingrad: Recollections of a Soviet Infantryman Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Abdulin reminds us that Ivan, the Red Army soldier, was a living, breathing being, who cherished life as much as his counterparts in the West and who was willing to defend his family and his homeland fanatically and lay down his life dearly for all that he loved. This stands in stark contract to the myth of the Soviet soldier - savage, unfeeling, and following orders unquestioningly - embedded in the military culture of the West by the officers of the defeated Wehrmacht seeking to exploit the growing rift between the West and the Soviet Union after the war.
In the first months of his invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler's Wehrmacht inflicted catastrophic losses on Stalin's Red Army, causing many to wonder how it was Russia managed to survive. By December 1941, or only six months after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army had lost 177 divisions, comprising some five million men, including almost three and a half million, which had been captured by the Germans. Gone too were tens of thousands of combat aircraft, tanks and artillery pieces. Abdulin's book makes it clear that by 1942 Russia's strategic situation was already stabilizing, although much hard fighting and further defeats lay ahead. Still, in 1942 and 1943 Soviet Russia and the Red Army were fighting to survive a Wehrmacht bent on nothing less than the complete annihilation and enslavement of the Jews and Slavs and winning Lebensraum [living space] for Hitler's Third Reich. Liberation of the wide expanses of the Soviet Union captured by the Germans seemed a distant hope in 1942. It was only through the heroic efforts of tens of millions of Red Army soldiers like Mansur Abdulin that Hitler and the Wehrmacht found only defeat in Russia.
Born a Tartar in central Siberia in 1925, at a time when the newborn Soviet state was suffering from prolonged famine and disease, Abdulin experienced a hard childhood. "My mother would sometimes get hysterical from constant starvation and despair, screaming madly," he remembers. Abdulin went to work at a young age as a miner alongside his father. In June 1942 he volunteered to fight for the Red Army. After completing his course at the Tashkent Infantry School, he fought as mortar man on the Stalingrad Front during the Soviet counter-offensive, which crushed Field Marshal Paulus' Sixth German Army in the city between November 1942 and January 1943, killing and capturing hundreds of thousands of German and Romanian soldiers. Later, in July 1943, Abdulin took part in the battle of Kursk, where the Red Army held its ground against an unprecedented German onslaught led by Hitler's most elite divisions and supported by hundreds of new Tiger and Panther tanks. The Wehrmacht and the German panzer force were gutted during the battle and the Red Army followed up with a stinging counteroffensive, which hurled the Germans back across the Steppes all the way to the banks of the Dnieper River. It was there that Abudlin was seriously wounded.
Throughout his book Abdulin describes the small delights as well as the agonies of being a soldier in the Red Army during the war. "It was a great joy for us to receive a letter, a note, or a parcel from home," he writes. "Also, in each box containing shells, bombs or cartridges, we found pleasant surprises: a piece of paper bearing the address of an unknown girl, so that we could write her, or tobacco pouches filled with makhorka [strong Russian tobacco]." These small joys, however, were overshadowed by the death of friends and family, which dogged every Red Army soldier with each step westward. "I cried, like women cry, beside the dead boy of their beloved," admits Abdulin, poetically, as only a Russian can, on the death of a close friend in January 1943. "I howled, like little children howl, when they are greatly and unfairly offended by someone." The author also details the atrocities uncovered by Red Army soldiers as they advanced westward, liberating Russian villages and towns. "We entered a concentration camp for Soviet prisoners. Some of the men were on the verge of death; they were speedily evacuated to hospital," he remembers. "Several thousand corpses were stacked in an open field. One horror followed another. How can I survive this nightmare? If a bullet doesn't find me, surely I'll lose my mind..." Indeed. In all, more than three million of the almost five million Soviet prisoners held by the Wehrmacht died in such camps during the course of the war. Such atrocities fed Ivan's hatred for the Germans, prompting the Soviet solder to attack even more attack fanatically and defend even more tenaciously than before. More ominously, such massacres also fed Ivan's thirst for revenge. The author admits that at one point he ordered the execution of more than two hundred German prisoners held by his unit. "By nature I am a tender and sensitive person," writes the author. "I was never a hooligan or a brawler. But when I went to war I wanted to destroy the Fritzes; `Kill or be killed.' This was my message to the newcomers. I was consumed by the idea that while alive, I would have my revenge on the Germans in advance: for I never expected to survive that slaughter."
In January 1943, Abdulin's 293rd Rifle Division was redesignated the 66th Guards Rifle Division for its role in the battle of Stalingrad. "Fighting for our Soviet Motherland against the German invaders, the 293rd Rifle Division proved to be a model of bravery, courage, discipline and order," noted the order signed by Joseph Stalin, designating the unit an elite formation. "Engaged in continuous combat...the division inflicted heavy casualties on the Fascist forces and with its shattering blows destroyed enemy manpower and equipment, mercilessly crushing the German invaders." Abdulin was one of the fortunate few to have survived the war. Having done his part to defeat Hitler's armies, he returned to his work as a miner. He lives in retirement near Orenburg in the Urals, one of Russia's Greatest Generation.
Some reviews are critical of Mansur's lack of an elegant presentation. One must keep in mind he grew up as a youth in the Urals around a Goldmine during the Soviet era, in which time an elegant education was not readily available. The author does a wonderful job relating his experiences and what was going on in his head and heart as he experienced these things. Those who have been upfront and personal with death in battle will most certainly give special appreciation to what this man presents. His candor and overall honesty are most compelling. This is a highly recommended book for anyone who wishes to understand what battle is really like what it does to a man inside and how, at least, this man found his way to survive through it physically, morally, spiritually and emotionally.
A highly, highly recommended read for anyone that is interested in what an infantryman's life was like on the Russian Eastern front during World War II as well as the total disregard for human life that was part of the Communist era where human beings were regarded as no more than just dust on one's shoe. It stands as a stark warning to any and all who think that totalitarian, atheistic, socialism is a good idea.
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