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Sir Rodric Braithwaite was British Ambassador in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet Union. He has also been Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. He lives in London. Click here to visit the author's website.
In 1941, Moscow was ruled by Stalin and besieged by Hitler's armies, so it teemed with disagreeable characters, tragic events and a great deal of unrewarded heroism. Although the siege was a miserable experience for Muscovites, readers will enjoy reading about it. Braithwaite (Russia in Europe) was British ambassador from 1988 to 1992, so he clearly knows Russia. Early 1941 was a modestly hopeful time: a short-llived decrease in arrests after the massive purges of the '30s coincided with an increase in food in the stores. The official press had lavished praise on the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Friendship Pact, but by spring 1941 many Soviet leaders had seen enough evidence to convince them of an imminent German invasion. But the paranoid Stalin suspected an Allied plot to take the pressure off Britain, so Hitler's June 22 attack devastated Russia's unprepared troops. By autumn, Wermacht armies were threatening the capital, leading to the greatest battle in history, with more than 900,000 Russian deaths more than all WWII British and American casualties combined. Most accounts emphasize the fighting, but Braithwaite mixes interviews, diaries, memoirs and letters to portray the reactions of dozens of individuals to that catastrophic year. This is an absorbing contribution to what he considers WWII's turning point. (Sept. 30) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
'Extraordinary story' - Simon Mayo, Radio 5