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Ivan's War


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About the Author

Catherine Merridale is the author of the critically acclaimed Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia. The professor of contemporary history at the University of London, she also writes for the London Review of Books, New Statesman, and the Independent.


Thirty million men and women served in the Red Army during WWII. Over eight million of them died. Living or dead, they have remained anonymous. This is partly due to the Soviet Union's policy of stressing the collective nature of its sacrifice and victory. It also reflects the continuing reluctance of most Soviet veterans to discuss their experiences-in sharp contrast to German survivors of the Eastern Front. Merridale, professor of history at the University of London, combines interviews, letters and diaries with research in previously closed official archives to present the first comprehensive portrait of the Red Army's fighters. She carefully details the soldiers' age and ethnic diversity, and she puts a human face on a fact demonstrated repeatedly by retired U.S. officer and Soviet military expert David Glantz: the Red Army learned from the experience of its near-collapse in 1941, and by 1945 its soldiers were more than a match for their Wehrmacht opponents. Most poignantly, Merridale reveals that frontline soldiers increasingly hoped their sacrifices would bring about postwar reform-"Communism with a human face." What they got instead was a Stalinist crackdown-and a long silence, broken now by this outstanding book. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

The Soviet Union lost far more men in World War II than any other power, Allied or Axis. Yet for all the ink spilled over the Red Army's role in defeating the Nazis, very little has dribbled onto the Soviet soldiers themselves-onto the everyman combatant dubbed "Ivan"-owing in no small part to the secrecy and myth in which the Soviet system enshrouded them. Merridale (history, Univ. of London; Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia) seeks here to unravel the riddle of how they lived and why they fought, especially for a regime that notoriously devoured its children. The reasons that emerge are legion: Ivan fought out of fear and necessity, pride and patriotism, because he believed his cause was just, because he knew nothing else. Ultimately, while no one picture emerges, Merridale has effectively captured the lives of these ordinary, and extraordinary, soldiers as they face bitter defeat in Hitler's surprise Operation Barbarossa attack and victory at Stalingrad, reap vengeance in Berlin and return home, forever altered. What this engaged study sometimes lacks in narrative thrust it makes up for in spades with its harrowing and deeply compassionate portrait of the individual Ivans. Recommended for public and academic libraries; essential for all Soviet and World War II collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/15.]-Tania Barnes, Library Journal Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Catherine Merridale has picked the locks that kept this history hidden. . . . Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of the time." --The Economist"[A] breathtaking, sweeping, yet well-balanced and finely tuned study." --The Times Literary Supplement (London)"With extraordinary patience and a wonderful ear for nuance . . . [Merridale] produces what may be the best historical portrait of life in the Red Army yet published." --The New York Review of Books"Combines, quite effectively, painstaking historical reconstruction and sympathetic projection." --The New York Times"[A] profoundly empathic work of history." --Newsday"An impressive work of history, managing to give a sense of the amazing hardships of the frontoviki's experience." --The New York Sun"Succeeds admirably in fashioning a compelling portrait, helped immensely by her talent as a writer." --Foreign Affairs"[Merridale] does a marvelous job. Ivan's War is full of the type of information that will make you find someone to tell." --Richmond Times Dispatch"This book is the raw and bleeding version . . . a tightly edited, well-paced and very readable account." --The Seattle Times""Unprecedented in its approach, Catherine Merridale's research into the lives of Red Army soldiers combined with her perception makes this a most fascinating and important work." --Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad"Catherine Merridale has done something very unusual. The Soviet war effort has been described many times but her new book tells the searing story from the bottom up. Her account of the sufferings of the Red Army soldiers and their families is unlikely to be bettered." --Robert Service, author of Stalin: A Biography"Merridale's new book is excellent. This unique, strikingly original account of the Red Army in World War II is a first-rate social history as well as an important military study, and a stellar example of the combination of oral history with standard archival research. It makes the soldiers of the Red Army come alive." --Stanley Payne, Hilldale-Jaume Vicens Vives Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison"Ivan's War is a marvelous book. All of Catherine Merridale's virtues are on display: remarkable research (based in this case on literally hundreds of interviews with survivors and witnesses); a clear, unpretentious style that belies the complexity of her material; comfortable historical command of a dauntingly large theme; and a rare compassion and empathy for her subjects. Ivan's War confirms what anyone who read Night of Stone already knew: that Catherine Merridale is a superb historian, among the very best of her generation." --Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945"This is an inventively researched and evocatively written study of the Soviet soldier on the blood-ridden Eastern Front. Using freshly available archival materials, as well as sparkling interviews with a vanishing generation of veterans, Merridale has provided an empathetic and realistic portrait of the men and women who, more than any other combat soldiers, brought down the Third Reich." --Norman M. Naimark, author of The Russians in Germany and Fires of Hatred

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