Military History Russian Military History
by
Reina Pennington
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0052

Introduction

Russian and Soviet military history extends from the time of the Mongol invasions to the present. It presents a rich and varied tapestry of military experience that is well worth studying but is often neglected in most general works of military history. Aside from World War II, which has produced a bounty of military histories in the past few decades, most areas are badly understudied. Some themes include geographic context (immense, diverse, and multiethnic); the challenges of central control; efforts to modernize and Westernize; and conflict with neighbors including Sweden, Poland, the German states, Austria, the Ottomans, and the British. When the Bolsheviks came to power in the early 20th century, they dealt with many of these old issues plus the challenge of creating a new sort of army appropriate to a Communist state. The Bolshevik regime was born in civil war, and the Soviet Union was at least partly destroyed by the burdens of war—from the terrible economic and human costs of the Great Patriotic War to the long-term drain of the arms races of the Cold War. Both Russia and the Soviet Union can claim unique aspects of military experience, including the inclusion of women and large ethnic minorities. This entry focuses on wars, military institutions, and human experience in war and the military.

General Overviews

Stone 2006 is the essential resource for anyone looking for a starting point or a textbook or who has time to read only a single book about Russian and Soviet military history. Other works focus on large spans of time, such as Keep 1985, the best source for understanding the origins and development of military forces and institutions in Russia over a 400-year period. A natural companion to Keep’s work is Reese 2000, also a social history and the single-best source on Soviet military history, although Higham and Kagan 2002 should be used in conjunction with Reese’s book to provide greater depth. Kagan and Higham 2002 is an outstanding survey of key aspects of the pre-Soviet period. Schimmelpenninck van der Oye and Menning 2004 addresses a range of military topics over a two-century span.

  • Higham, Robin D. S., and Frederick W. Kagan, eds. The Military History of the Soviet Union. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    An essential collection of essays by John Erickson, David Stone, Mary Habeck, and others, covering the entire Soviet period. Unfortunately, there are no citations, but chapters include source listings or bibliographic essays.

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  • Kagan, Frederick W., and Robin D. S. Higham, eds. The Military History of Tsarist Russia. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    An essential collection of essays covering the entire tsarist period by Bruce Menning, Fred Kagan, Jacob Kipp, and others. There are no footnotes, but chapters include source information and/or bibliographic essays.

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  • Keep, John. Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 1462–1874. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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    A groundbreaking work that explains the development of a militaristic service state and examines the unique relationship among the military, the state, and society under the tsars. Traces the changes that occurred and provides insight into social aspects of military life in Russia.

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  • Reese, Roger R. The Soviet Military Experience: A History of the Soviet Army, 1917–1991. London: Routledge, 2000.

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    Primarily a social and institutional history of the military during the Soviet period, Reese’s work is the single-best source on the 20th century. Especially useful on the relationship between socialism and the military.

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  • Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, David, and Bruce Menning, eds. Reforming the Tsar’s Army: Military Innovation in Imperial Russia from Peter the Great to the Revolution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Four main topics are addressed: population and resources, intelligence and knowledge, response to war, and personalities. Top-notch contributors write on a variety of sometimes neglected aspects of the military, such as military intelligence.

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  • Stone, David R. A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006.

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    The only narrative history to incorporate both Russian and Soviet military history in a single volume. The lack of citations is disappointing, but a useful Suggested Reading section is included. Essential for everyone: researchers, students, and teachers.

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Reference Works

Only two reference works, both rather sadly out of date, focus on Russian and Soviet military history. Jones 1978–1998 is a start on a project of great potential; one hopes this series will be completed in the future. Wieczynski and Rhyne 1976–2000 and its supplement (Rhyne, et al. 1995–2008) contain many military-related entries that are useful.

Anthologies

Anthologies are an important resource, because these collections of specialized essays allow readers to dip into deeper pools than those provided in narrative overviews. Individual chapters in anthologies often touch on particular topics that are overlooked, yet add greatly to our fuller understanding of war and the military. Erickson and Erickson 2005 is just such a work, with twenty diverse essays focused on the Soviet period. Kagan and Higham 2002 and Higham and Kagan 2002 are excellent examples of anthologies that cover broad eras—the tsarist and Soviet periods, respectively. Schimmelpenninck van der Oye and Menning 2004 addresses a range of issues in the Imperial era. Frank and Gillette 1992 is a useful collection focusing on Soviet military doctrine. Two excellent collections focus on the social history of the Great Patriotic War: Garrard, et al. 1993 and Thurston and Bonwetsch 2000. Webber and Mathers 2006 completes the array with its collection on the post-Soviet era. All are suitable for use by researchers from the undergraduate to postgraduate levels.

  • Erickson, Mark, and Ljubica Erickson, eds. Russia: War, Peace and Diplomacy—Essays in Honour of John Erickson. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005.

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    This eclectic collection includes essays on such topics as “Forgotten Battles of the Soviet–German War” (David Glantz), “Ordinary Collaborators” (Sergei Kudryashov), and “Catastrophes to Come. . .” (Christopher Bellamy) on Russian/Soviet thinking about future war. Hew Strachan, Robert Service, Omer Bartov, and Antony Beevor are also represented.

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  • Frank, Willard C., Jr., and Philip S. Gillette, eds. Soviet Military Doctrine from Lenin to Gorbachev, 1915–1991. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992.

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    Well-known contributors survey various aspects of Soviet military thought and anticipate developments in the post-Soviet period.

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  • Garrard, John, Carol Garrard, and Stephen White, eds. World War 2 and the Soviet People. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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    An insightful, if somewhat uneven, collection of conference papers on social aspects of the Great Patriotic War. Topics include the Katyn Massacre, women in the military, and wartime deportations. Contributors include John Erickson, Martin Gilbert, and Nina Tumarkin.

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  • Higham, Robin D. S., and Frederick W. Kagan, eds. The Military History of the Soviet Union. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Chronologically organized chapters cover the major events of the Soviet era. Studies of the Soviet air force and navy span the entire period; Stephen Blank examines “The Soviet Army in Civil Disturbances, 1988–1991.” and William E. Odom sums up the discussion in “The Military and the State: Contemporary Russia in Historical Perspective.”

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  • Kagan, Frederick W., and Robin D. S. Higham, eds. The Military History of Tsarist Russia. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Chapters are mostly chronologically focused, including the topical studies “Russia’s Small Wars” and “Russia’s Geopolitical Dilemma and the Question of Backwardness,” both by Kagan.

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  • Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, David, and Bruce Menning, eds. Reforming the Tsar’s Army: Military Innovation in Imperial Russia from Peter the Great to the Revolution. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Contributors such as Mark von Hagen, Jacob Kipp, John Steinberg, and Dennis Showalter address how Imperial Russia coped with change, the need for modernization, and the challenge of deciding how much Westernization was right and possible.

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  • Thurston, Robert W., and Bernd Bonwetsch, eds. The People’s War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

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    Based on newly available archival and printed materials, the essays break new ground. The contributors are Russian, German, and American scholars, providing an international range of views.

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  • Webber, Stephen L., and Jennifer G. Mathers, eds. Military and Society in Post-Soviet Russia. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006.

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    Analyzes the key military issues during the first few years in post-Soviet Russia. Mathers’s excellent conclusion argues that practically every aspect of the relationship between society and the military in Russia is contested or under pressure.

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Bibliographies

Many excellent bibliographies were produced at the height of the Cold War era. Unfortunately, most are dated, and some have become hard to find. Jones 2003 is an excellent bibliographic essay on Russia in World War I, whereas Smele 2003 guides the reader through the Civil War. Erickson and Erickson 1996 is the sine qua non on the Soviet era. Parrish 1970 directs readers to Cold War English-language sources; Scott, et al. 1985 supplements Parrish 1970 through 1990. Parrish 1981 and Parrish 1984–1985 focus on Soviet publications about the Great Patriotic War. Smith 1980 offers guides to the air force and navy.

  • Erickson, John, and Ljubica Erickson, eds. The Soviet Armed Forces, 1918–1992: A Research Guide to Soviet Sources. Research Guides in Military Studies 8. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996.

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    Indispensable. From the historiographical essay to the discussion of formerly classified Soviet materials, from the guide to “breakthrough books” to a discussion of the Soviet military archival system, this is the bible.

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  • Jones, David R. “Russia.” In Researching World War I: A Handbook. Edited by Robin D. S. Higham and Dennis E. Showalter, 149–184. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2003.

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    Bibliographic essay evaluating the most-useful sources on Russia in World War I, including a list of more than four hundred sources. Researchers should also search for works published after this was compiled; several essential items appeared in the past decade.

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  • Parrish, Michael. The Soviet Armed Forces: Books in English, 1950–1967. Hoover Institution Bibliographical Series 48. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1970.

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    Guide to English-language materials written during the height of the Cold War.

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  • Parrish, Michael. The USSR in World War II: An Annotated Bibliography of Books Published in the Soviet Union, 1945–1975: With an Addenda for the Years 1975–1980. Garland Reference Library of Social Science 75. New York: Garland, 1981.

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    Crucial resource for identifying Soviet-era publications on the Great Patriotic War.

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  • Parrish, Michael. “Soviet Historiography of the Great Patriotic War 1970–1985: A Review.” Soviet Studies in History 23.3 (1984–1985): iii–x.

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    Updates Parrish 1981 with sources extending through 1985.

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  • Scott, Harriet Fast, William Fontaine Scott, and US Defense Nuclear Agency. Bibliographic Index of Soviet Military Books, 1960–1969. McLean, VA: H. Scott, 1985.

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    This hard-to-find publication was the first in a series of indices (covering the years 1960 to 1969, 1970 to 1974, 1975 to 1979, 1980 to 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, and 1990) produced by the Scotts. The series lists Russian-language books indexed by author, subject, and keyword and is still quite useful to researchers.

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  • Smele, Jon. The Russian Revolution and Civil War, 1917–1921: An Annotated Bibliography. London: Continuum, 2003.

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    This highly praised work contains a chapter on the Russian armed forces in war and revolution.

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  • Smith, Myron J. The Soviet Navy, 1941–1978: A Guide to Sources in English. War/Peace Bibliography Series 9. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1980.

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    Continued in The Soviet Army, 1939–1980: A Guide to Sources in English (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1982). As the titles indicate, these are brief but straightforward bibliographies.

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Journals

Only one English-language journal, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, is devoted to the study of Russian and Soviet military history. Its consistently excellent articles and book reviews are written by a truly international collection of Russian and Western contributors. Voenno-Istoricheskii Zhurnal is the journal of choice for those who read Russian, and Voenno-Istoricheskii Arkhiv is an excellent source for published archival materials. Voennaia Mysl’ and Voennyi Diplomat should also be reviewed regularly for historical articles.

Soviet Military Thought

The unique course of Soviet military thought and theory should be studied by all students of military history. Scott and Scott 1982 is an excellent survey and introduction, whereas Frank and Gillette 1992 surveys the entire Soviet period. Earle 1944 is still a useful analysis of how the top Communist Party leadership influenced military concepts prior to World War II. Habeck 2003 provides an excellent case study of the development of military doctrine in the context of mechanized warfare during the interwar period, whereas Harrison 2001 provides the broad framework for that era and is an essential work for all researchers. Trotsky 1979–1981 is essential to understanding the ways in which the Red Army was conceived and formed, and Svechin 2004 is an English translation of the work of one of the most important Soviet military thinkers.

  • Earle, Edward Mead. “Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin: Soviet Concepts of War.” In Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler. Edited by Edward Mead Earle with collaboration of Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert, 322–364. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1944.

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    Oldie but goodie, and well worth reading.

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  • Frank, Willard C., Jr., and Philip S. Gillette, eds. Soviet Military Doctrine from Lenin to Gorbachev, 1915–1991. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1992.

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    An excellent collection of essays, including Jacob W. Kipp’s “Lenin and Clausewitz: The Militarization of Marxism, 1915–1921.” Other essays examine military doctrine and military science.

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  • Habeck, Mary R. Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919–1939. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.

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    Based on solid archival work, this groundbreaking comparative study puts Soviet armor doctrine in proper perspective.

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  • Harrison, Richard W. The Russian Way of War: Operational Art, 1904–1940. Modern War Studies Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

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    A seminal work based on extensive and praiseworthy research in primary sources. Harrison offers an intellectual history of how military thought developed during the first four decades of the 20th century. The concept of operational art—that which links strategy and tactics—is arguably one of the most important Soviet contributions to military thought in general.

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  • Scott, Harriet Fast, and William Fontaine Scott, eds. Doctrine, Strategy, and Tactics. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1982.

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    This classic work consists of a collection of carefully chosen Soviet documents, supported with astute commentary. Includes excerpts from Frunze, Tukhachevskii, Shaposhnikov, Voroshilov, and others; discusses the increasing influence of Western thought during the Cold War.

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  • Svechin, Aleksandr A. Strategy. 4th ed. Edited by Kent D. Lee. Minneapolis: East View, 2004.

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    Originally published in Russian in 1927. A classic of military thought. Svechin advocated a strategy of attrition that stressed military preparedness and locked horns with Tukhachevskii. Jacob Kipp provides an excellent introduction. Readers will find Svechin’s work to be practical, elegant, and relevant. Svechin, who was executed during the purges of 1937 to 1938, is the object of revived interest among military thinkers in post-Soviet Russia.

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  • Trotsky, Leon. The Military Writings and Speeches of Leon Trotsky: How the Revolution Armed. Translated and annotated by Brian Pearce. 5 vols. London: New Park, 1979–1981.

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    Fascinating and absorbing account of Trotsky’s views on the role of the military in a Communist state. Trotsky’s pragmatism outweighed his idealism. Much of this work is available on websites.

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John Erickson

John Erickson almost singlehandedly revolutionized the study of Soviet military history by demonstrating how Russian-language materials could be mined in ways that greatly broadened Western perspectives, which had previously rejected all Soviet publication as propaganda. From the early 1960s until his death in 2002, Erickson proved that judicious use of Soviet sources could provide a foundation for writing balanced, objective, and accurate histories. He set the standard for all other military historians in this field. Erickson’s work stands the test of time; although he worked before most archives were open, he had wide access to Soviet veterans, scholars, and documents. Although not as prolific as some, Erickson’s brilliant analysis and often-gripping prose earned him his status. Erickson’s first work, The Soviet High Command, 1918–1941 (Erickson 2001), is still regarded as magisterial. His two-volume study of war on the Eastern Front, The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany and The Road to Berlin (Erickson 1983a and Erickson 1983b, originally published in 1975 and often reprinted), is truly monumental and a must-read for all researchers, especially graduate students and scholars. Erickson 1997 addresses one of the most controversial aspects of Soviet military history: the combat effectiveness of Soviet soldiers. The Eastern Front in Photographs (Erickson and Erickson 2001) is interesting for the choices that Erickson made to best depict the experience of war on the Eastern Front. “Soviet Women at War” (Erickson 1993) offers Erickson’s summary of women’s military roles during the Great Patriotic War. Barbarossa: the Axis and the Allies (Erickson and Dilks 1994) demonstrates Erickson’s abilities both as editor and contributor to this collection of essays.

  • Erickson, John. The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1983a.

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    Erickson’s keen insight and analysis are the foundation to understanding Soviet military institutions. The focus is on the events of the war, but prewar preparation and high-level decision making are given appropriate emphasis. All researchers must read this set before turning to works that incorporate most recently available sources. The lack of standard footnotes is mostly alleviated by the outstanding ninety-seven-page “Sources and References” section.

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  • Erickson, John. The Road to Berlin: Continuing the History of Stalin’s War with Germany. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1983b.

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    The second volume of Erickson 1983a, completing The Road to Stalingrad. Supplemented by an outstanding bibliography and essay on sources, in themselves worth buying the book.

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  • Erickson, John. “Soviet Women at War.” In World War 2 and the Soviet People. Edited by John Garrard, Carol Garrard, and Stephen White, 50–76. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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    One of the first studies to address women’s roles in the Soviet military.

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  • Erickson, John. “Red Army Battlefield Performance, 1941–45: The System and the Soldier.” In Time to Kill: The Soldier’s Experience of War in the West, 1939–1945. Edited by Paul Addison and Angus Calder, 233–248. London: Pimlico, 1997.

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    Excellent summary and very useful in teaching; can be assigned to undergraduate students.

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  • Erickson, John. The Soviet High Command: A Military-Political History, 1918–1941. 3d ed. London: Cass, 2001.

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    A masterpiece of balance and objectivity, Erickson’s first work, originally published in 1962, is a groundbreaking study that is as much political science as history. Examines civil-military relationships and the influence of foreign policy, focusing on key events (civil war, military cooperation with Germany during the interwar period, and the purges) and key personalities (Trotsky, Frunze, and Tukhachevskii).

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  • Erickson, John, and David Dilks, eds. Barbarossa: The Axis and the Allies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

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    Largely focused on foreign policy. Includes excellent essays, especially Erickson’s own extremely important “Soviet War Losses—Calculation and Controversies.”

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  • Erickson, John, and Ljubica Erickson. The Eastern Front in Photographs. London: Carlton, 2001.

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    Useful collection of photographs, accompanied by commentary.

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David Glantz

Retired army colonel and Vietnam veteran David Glantz served as director of Soviet Army Operations at the Center for Land Warfare, US Army War College (1983–1986), and founder and director of the Soviet Military Studies Office (now Foreign Military Studies Office) at Fort Leavenworth (1986–1993). Glantz gives new meaning to the term “prolific.” He has written dozens of books and more than one hundred articles focused primarily on Soviet tactics and operations in World War II. He founded and is chief editor of The Journal of Slavic Military Studies. Glantz’s work should be read for its focus on operational and institutional history; he rarely delves into social aspects of war, the experience of soldiers, or political-military relationships. His prose is often described as workmanlike, but he does what he does superbly. When Titans Clashed (Glantz and House 1995) is the single-best volume by Glantz (co-authored with Jonathan House) and where all researchers should begin; it sums up many important arguments that are expanded in Glantz’s other works. Soviet Military Operational Art (Glantz 1991) examines a key aspect of Soviet military thought: deep battle. Stumbling Colossus (Glantz 1998) is an important work that decisively refutes the idea that Stalin would have attacked Germany in 1941 if Hitler had not attacked first. Colossus Reborn (Glantz 2005) shows how the Red Army was able to rebound from the early disasters of the war. Soviet Military Deception (Glantz 1989) shows the sophisticated use of maskirovka by the Red Army. Zhukov’s Greatest Defeat (Glantz 1999) challenges the received view that the Stalingrad offensive was the main Soviet effort in 1942 and 1943. To the Gates of Stalingrad (Glantz and House 2009) and the authors’Armageddon in Stalingrad (also published in 2009) provide the most thorough and authoritative existing examination of tactical and operational battle history of this event and challenge many myths. The Battle of Kursk (Glantz and House 1999) is another example of how scholars can change our understanding of the most well-known battles.

  • Glantz, David M. Soviet Military Deception in the Second World War. London: Cass, 1989.

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    Groundbreaking study of a much-neglected aspect of Soviet military operations: deception (maskirovka). Argues that the Soviets were increasingly able to deceive their enemies about the size, scale, timing, and direction of their war efforts, causing the Germans and Japanese to consistently underestimate them and often allowing the Red Army to achieve surprise. By the end of the war, the Soviets were able to conceal preparations in more than half of their offensives. Numerous maps and illustrations.

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  • Glantz, David M. Soviet Military Operational Art: In Pursuit of Deep Battle. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1991.

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    One of Glantz’s contributions to the study of Soviet military thought—in this case, the development in concepts of operational art and its connection with deep battle through the end of the Great Patriotic War.

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  • Glantz, David M. Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Modern War Studies Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

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    A seminal work that destroys the thesis made popular in Victor Suvorov’s Icebreaker (London: H. Hamilton, 1990) that Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union was a preemptive, self-defense strike. Suvorov posits that Stalin was planning to attack Germany, but Glantz demolishes that idea. Using extensive archival materials and publishing complete orders of battle, Glantz shows that the Red Army was incapable of conducting effective military operations in 1941.

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  • Glantz, David M. Zhukov’s Greatest Defeat: The Red Army’s Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

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    Countering standard interpretations by Soviet and Western authors alike, Glantz argues that the Rzhev offensive (Operations Mars)—not the Stalingrad offensive (Operation Uranus)—was meant to be the primary thrust of Red Army offensives in the winter of 1942–1943. This interpretation has not been generally accepted, but the book is an interesting example of revisionist history based on new archival materials.

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  • Glantz, David M. Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War, 1941–1943. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

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    Exemplifies Glantz’s strengths in presenting exhaustively detailed operational-level and institutional history. More than eight hundred pages, not including a companion volume of documents.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995.

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    Required reading for all students of the Eastern Front. In one accessible volume, Glantz and House decisively prove that increasing Red Army proficiency, more than weather or Hitler’s interference, was the main factor in the defeat of the Wehrmacht. A corrective to popular histories, and even much scholarly history, that was based almost entirely on German sources for half a century. The appendix on archival sources is excellent, and the notes are worth reading in themselves.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. The Battle of Kursk. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

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    This reinterpretation examines Soviet intelligence and preparation before the battle and the events of the battle itself. Argues that given Red Army resources and determination, it was not possible for the Germans to win, rebutting the popular idea that Operation Citadel was Hitler’s last chance to turn around the situation on the Eastern Front. Although Kursk was not in itself a decisive victory for the Soviets, it was indicative of their strength at the strategic level.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. The Stalingrad Trilogy. Vol. 1, To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April–August 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009.

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    See also Vol. 2, Armageddon in Stalingrad: September-November 1942 (The Stalingrad Trilogy [Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009]). Glantz and House take battle history to a new level of exhaustive study with their trilogy on Stalingrad, the first two volumes of which appeared in 2009. Argues that the Soviets did not simply retreat during the summer of 1942, but that they also fought hard to stall the German army, which drained German resources to the point that it would be nearly impossible for them to prevail at Stalingrad. Layers upon layers of information are presented: maps, orders of battle, and biographies.

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Pre-19th Century

The works available for this time frame are few, but excellent; together, they reveal the ways in which Russia was formed by war, from the development of the state to the architecture of its cities. A central question is how Russia emerges as a great power in the 18th century; several important works have appeared recently that find the explanation goes deeper than just the reforms of Peter the Great. The key issue is how “backward” Russia was able to expand into Siberia, the Black Sea region and the Caucasus, Ukraine, and the Baltic region from the mid-17th to the late 18th century. Keep 1985 stands out as an important work with a broad sweep from the mid-15th to mid-19th centuries, and Fuller 1992 covers almost as much territory; both could be used in teaching, with Keep emphasizing social history and Fuller stressing strategy. LeDonne 2004 should be used by scholars in conjunction with Fuller 1992 as examples of differences of interpretation by major scholars regarding Russian strategy. Stevens 2007 examines the uniqueness of Russian strategy in an age of expansion. Lohr and Poe 2002 is a collection of more-specialized essays covering the mid-15th to the early 20th century, useful for graduate students and scholars.

  • Fuller, William C., Jr., Strategy and Power in Russia, 1600–1914. New York: Free Press, 1992.

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    Argues that backwardness and the attempts to deal with it explain a continuity in military policies in Imperial Russia, but also stresses the role of opportunity in defining strategy. A model of archival research and clarity of writing, this book examines the impact of strategists such as Sukhomlinov and Miliutin, the debates between those in the West and those in the East, and the resulting lack of a unified military doctrine. Emphasizes Russia’s policy of “aggressive defense.”

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  • Keep, John. Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 1462–1874. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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    Essential work covering a broad span of time, when the role of the army became established in Russia. Important coverage of civil-military relations and the social history of the army.

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  • LeDonne, John P. The Grand Strategy of the Russian Empire, 1650–1831. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Argues that Russia developed an ambitious offensive strategy to gain hegemony from the Alps to the Pacific. Although this strategy was never formally defined, LeDonne argues that it can be inferred from the actions of key rulers. His work has been criticized as too deterministic, but it provides an interesting counterpoint to more-nuanced interpretations, such as Fuller 1992.

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  • Lohr, Eric, and Marshall Poe, eds. The Military and Society in Russia: 1450–1917. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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    The three parts of this excellent collection are “The Military and Society in Muscovy,” “Military and Society in Imperial Russia,” and “Patriotism, Nationality, Religion and the Military.” Topics include military mobilization and organization, strategy, the Seven Years’ War, and relationships of the social classes to the military. Contributors are a who’s who for this period, including Brian Davies, John P. LeDonne, Carol Stevens, and John Keep.

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  • Stevens, Carol Belkin. Russia’s Wars of Emergence: 1460–1730. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

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    Stevens argues that Russia developed a unique strategy of steppe defense and social-military structures to cope with expanding frontiers, relatively poor resources, and increasing conflict with European powers such as Sweden and Turkey. The role of cavalry, the “little war,” and social engineering are discussed.

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Specialized Works

Ostrowski 1998 examines the influence of the Mongols. Filjushkin 2008 provides a detailed and highly readable account of military aspects of the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Paul 2004 examines the key concept of a military revolution in 16th- to 17th-century Russia. Dunning 2001 is an outstanding account of the role played by various social groups in the revolts of the early 17th century. Stevens 1995 provides insight into 17th-century regional variations, when military structures were generally being centralized; Stevens 1995 and Davies 2007 put particular emphasis on southward expansion in the early modern period. Duffy 1981 is the best source on the 18th century, whereas Hartley 2008 focuses on the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

  • Davies, Brian L. Warfare, State and Society on the Black Sea Steppe: 1500–1700. London: Routledge, 2007.

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    Study of the geopolitics of the Black Sea basin and the military response. Argues that the Crimean Tatar threat to Muscovy was the central military problem of the 16th century, resulting in the creation of frontier fortifications. Increasing conflict with the Ottomans defines the 17th century. Best for graduate students and above.

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  • Duffy, Christopher. Russia’s Military Way to the West: Origins and Nature of Russian Military Power, 1700–1800. London and Boston: Routledge, 1981.

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    The single most important work on the 18th century from Peter the Great to Paul I. Excellent illustrations and maps. Argues that Russian soldiers were capable and the army was instrumental in the expansion of the Russian Empire. Very well written.

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  • Dunning, Chester S. L. Russia’s First Civil War: The Time of Troubles and the Founding of the Romanov Dynasty. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.

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    Praised as the best account of the Time of Troubles, when Boris Godunov became the tsar and the 17th century was ushered in with invasion, famine, and civil war. Argues that instead of a popular revolt by serfs seeking freedom, this first civil war was based in the middle ranks of society fighting over the legitimacy of the tsar. Strong on both social and military history. Excellent historiographical essay.

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  • Filjushkin, Alexander. Ivan the Terrible: A Military History. London: Frontline, 2008.

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    Extensive research in multinational sources informs this excellent study of the dominance of war under Ivan IV. Establishes the broader context by contrasting developments in Russia with those in Europe.

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  • Hartley, Janet M. Russia, 1762–1825: Military Power, the State, and the People. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.

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    Studies the relationship between state building and the military from the time of Catherine II to Alexander I. Argues that Russia was not as militarized in this period as it is sometimes portrayed to be. Hartley provides an excellent examination of Alexander I’s military colonies. Best for graduate students and scholars.

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  • Ostrowski, Donald G. Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross-Cultural Influences on the Steppe Frontier, 1304–1589. New York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    An accessible work of synthesis, useful for its examination of how the Mongols influenced state and military institutions.

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  • Paul, Michael C. “The Military Revolution in Russia, 1550–1682.” Journal of Military History 68.1 (2004): 9–45.

    DOI: 10.1353/jmh.2003.0401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The concept of 16th-century “military revolutions” is central in European military history; Paul argues that Russia underwent similar fundamental changes in tactics and organization that enabled Peter the Great to implement modernization and Westernization. Available online by subscription.

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  • Stevens, Carol Belkin. Soldiers on the Steppe: Army Reform and Social Change in Early Modern Russia. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1995.

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    Argues that regional differences in 17th-century practices of military service were important, questioning the usual view that centralization and standardization became the norm. Archivally based examinations of changes in percentages of garrison and campaign troops and of problems of supply and logistics, focused on the critical southern region of the expanding Muscovite state.

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19th Century

Despite the importance of this period, there is no overall summary of the 19th century, which is usually separated into periods in Russian history with a break at 1861 (emancipation of the serfs) and the next from 1914 to 1917 (World War I and/or Russian revolution). The Crimean War has not begun to receive the attention it deserves in monographs, but it is a central focus in many of the broader works on this period. For an overview of the military history of the century, readers should start with Kagan 1999 and end with Menning 1992. Reese 2006 provides an outstanding collection of classic journal articles, best suited for graduate-level reading. Several excellent monographs spotlight specific issues in more depth. Marshall 2006 details the inner workings of the Russian General Staff in the 19th century, in regard to one strategically important region. McNeal 1987 provides a different kind of case study on the role of Cossacks in an era of change. Petrovsky-Shtern 2009 highlights the role of Jews in the army.

  • Kagan, Frederick W. The Military Reforms of Nicholas I: The Origins of the Modern Russian Army. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999.

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    The best work on the early-19th-century Russian army, based on archival research. Argues that Nicholas I implemented numerous reforms in the 1830s (contradicting the general view that this was a period of stagnation). However, he was unable to solve the need for efficient mass mobilization (which would require the abolition of serfdom) or finance modernization and expansion without increasing Russia’s debt.

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  • Marshall, Alex. The Russian General Staff and Asia, 1800–1917. Routledge Studies in the History of Russia and Eastern Europe 4. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

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    Valuable monograph on the role of the General Staff in intelligence, military planning, and development of strategy in a key borderland. Members of the General Staff traveled from Turkey to the Far East, assessing the military situation and offering suggestions for future operations.

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  • McNeal, Robert H. Tsar and Cossack, 1855–1914. New York: St. Martin’s, 1987.

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    Studies the roles of the Cossacks in the Imperial Army, emphasizing the diversity of Cossack groups. Examines the changing role of Cossacks, as a key component of cavalry, in an era of modernization and increasing reliance on infantry and artillery.

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  • Menning, Bruce W. Bayonets Before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861–1914. Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

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    Widely regarded as a masterpiece and the best study of the Imperial Army. Cogent analysis of army performance in the Russo-Turkish (1877–1878) and Russo-Japanese (1904–1905) wars, as well as the evolution of military doctrine. Argues that the main weakness was inadequate linkages among strategy, doctrine, logistics, and implementation; the “cult of the bayonet” and its effect on strategy and tactics outweighed the often good combat performance of the Russian soldier. Accessible to all levels.

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  • Petrovsky-Shtern, Yohanan. Jews in the Russian Army, 1827–1917: Drafted into Modernity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Fascinating study, translated from the Russian, of the benefits and disadvantages of military service in an often anti-Semitic context. Jews could benefit from service, earning rights to live outside the shtetl, but many emigrated to avoid the military, especially kosher Jews who rarely received accommodation. However, the performance of Jewish soldiers was often praised in wartime. Based on sources from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, and Israel.

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  • Reese, Roger R., ed. The Russian Imperial Army, 1796–1917. International Library of Essays on Military History. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    As with other volumes in the Ashgate series, this is a collection of previously published articles, selected by an authoritative editor with an eye to gathering the best and often classic pieces, ranging from Richard Pipes’s “The Russian Military Colonies 1810–1831” (1950) to Marc Ferro’s “The Russian Soldier in 1917: Undisciplined, Patriotic, and Revolutionary” (1971) to Alexander Bitis’s “The Russian Army’s Use of Balkan Irregulars during the 1828–1829 Russo-Turkish War” (2002).

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War Studies

Russia’s role in specific 19th-century wars has not yet attracted sufficient monographical work. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky 2006 brings much-needed attention in English to the Russo-Swedish War, whereas Takala and Solomesch 2009 is a historiographical survey of Russian-language coverage. Curtiss 1979 examines the Crimean War; Skvortsov 2004 is an example of the wave of archival materials being published in post–Soviet Russia, in this case, documents on the Crimean War. Eskridge-Kosmach 2008 is an excellent article on another neglected topic, Russia’s role in the Boxer Rebellion. Baumann 1993 is notable for its survey of Russia’s experience in what today would be called “small wars” and counterinsurgency operations.

  • Baumann, Robert F. Russian-Soviet Unconventional Wars in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Afghanistan. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, 1993.

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    From the Caucasus to Central Asia, the Russian Empire and Soviet Union were often involved in unconventional warfare; this useful study focuses on this one aspect of Russian warfare across several centuries. Excellent research in Russian sources.

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  • Curtiss, John Shelton. Russia’s Crimean War. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1979.

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    The only English-language work devoted to Russia’s role in the Crimean War. Focuses primarily on Russian diplomatic efforts leading up to the war, followed by a concise review of the main events of the war, including far-flung operations in the Pacific, Baltic, and Caucasus. Offers the traditional interpretation that Nicholas I was primarily responsible for the war and that poor logistics and technological backwardness were the main factors in Russia’s defeat.

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  • Eskridge-Kosmach, Alena. “Russia in the Boxer Rebellion.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 21.1 (2008): 38–52.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518040801894142Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Important article on a little-known event in Russian history. Good coverage of the fighting at Tientsin, but primary focus is on diplomatic history.

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  • Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky, Lieutenant-General Alexander. Russo-Swedish War of 1808–1809. Vol. 1. Translated and edited by Alexander Mikaberidze. West Chester, OH: Nafziger, 2006.

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    New study written by a Russian historian and translated into English; useful overview of a neglected war.

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  • Skvortsov, V. N., ed. Krymskaia (vostochnaia) voina, 1853–1856: Iz fondov Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi voenno-istoricheskii arkhiv. Saint Petersburg, Russia: Leningrad University, 2004.

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    Valuable collection of archival materials.

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  • Takala, I. R., and I. M. Solomesch. “‘The Unknown War?’ Two Centuries of Historiography of the Russo-Swedish War (1808–1809).” Rossiiskaia Istoria 3 (2009): 66–72.

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    Calls attention to the wealth of materials available in Russian on this war.

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Napoleonic Wars

As the 200th anniversary of the Napoleonic Wars approached, a number of excellent works appeared. Many of these challenged the long-held Russian myth that the war against Napoleon, the first “patriotic war,” was also a kind of people’s war. The latest works add greatly to our knowledge of the Russian experience of this war, in all its confusion and complexity. Zamoyski 2004 is the single best source—readable, balanced, and supported with excellent maps and illustrations. Adams 2006 also offers an excellent overview and a comparative study of both Russia and France during the Napoleonic Wars. Lieven 2010 offers the provocative thesis that Russian strength was more important than French weakness in explaining Napoleon’s defeat in the 1812–1813 campaign. Mikaberidze 2005 provides a close study of the Russian officer corps; Mikaberidze 2007 and Mikaberidze 2010 examine the battles of Borodina and Berezina. Durova 1988 is the fascinating memoir of a woman who fought in disguise during this period, and Ermolov 2005 offers the perspective of a senior officer.

  • Adams, Michael. Napoleon and Russia. London: Hambledon Continuum, 2006.

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    This accessible and solidly researched book examines the political and military relationship between Napoleon and Russia from the 1790s to 1815, including the battles of Austerlitz, Eylau, Friedland, Borodino, Lützen, Bautzen, Dresden, and Leipzig.

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  • Durova, Nadezhda. The Cavalry Maiden: Journal of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars. Translated and edited by Mary Fleming Zirin. Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

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    Excellent translation of Durova’s 1839 memoir, Zapiski Aleksandrova (Durovoi): Dobavlenie k devitse-kavalerist. Zirin greatly adds to the value of the book, with her introductory essay, notes, bibliography, and index. A model for all edited translations.

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  • Ermolov, Aleksej P. The Czar’s General: The Memoirs of a Russian General in the Napoleonic Wars. Translated and edited by Alexander Mikaberidze. Welwyn Garden City, UK: Ravenhall, 2005.

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    Ermolov fought at Austerlitz in 1805 and against Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, then in the campaigns of 1813, eventually marching into Paris with the Russian army in 1814. Afterward, he fought in the Caucasus in early campaigns against Chechnya. His often entertaining and insightful memoir is nicely translated here.

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  • Lieven, Dominic. Russia against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace. 1st American ed. New York: Viking, 2010.

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    Argues that Russian logistics, generalship, and military intelligence networks were instrumental in the defeat of Napoleon. Stresses the importance of the 1813 campaign over the earlier events of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

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  • Mikaberidze, Alexander. The Russian Officer Corps in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792–1815. New York: Savas Beatie, 2005.

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    A biographical dictionary of senior Russian officers, plus sections on training and organization. Statistical analysis of the demographics of the officer corps is quite useful; for example, argues that although the social origins of officers were technically from the nobility, three-quarters did not own property or serfs.

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  • Mikaberidze, Alexander. The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon against Kutuzov. Campaign Chronicles Series. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2007.

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    A new study of the 1812 campaign, with a focus on the leadership and interaction of Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, Peter Bagration, and Barclay de Tolly. Nicely illustrated and supported with maps and orders of battle.

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  • Mikaberidze, Alexander. The Battle of the Berezina: Napoleon’s Great Escape. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2010.

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    With extensive use of primary sources, Mikaberidze examines how and why Napoleon’s army was able to escape disaster during its retreat from Russia in the winter of 1812.

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  • Zamoyski, Adam. Moscow 1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

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    Probably the best single account of the conflict. Although not an academic, the author’s multilingual research into a wide array of primary accounts, and his skill as a writer, make this the place to start. The most accessible work for students and a good starting point for more advanced researchers as well.

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20th Century

Few works summarize the 20th century as a whole, but the ones in this section cover large enough periods to warrant a separate category. The essays in Higham and Kagan 2002 give excellent coverage of a range of general military topics. Higham, et al. 1998 is a collection devoted to the development of military aviation. Krivosheev 1997 is an indispensable work on the highly controversial topic of military casualties in this period. Steinberg 2010 studies the highest circles of the military establishment in the early part of the century. Reese 2005 delves into the question of the professionalism of the Soviet officer corps and its politicization, whereas Sanborn 2003 examines the ways in which the enlisted troops were mobilized, with an emphasis on the party-military relationship.

  • Higham, Robin D. S., John T. Greenwood, and Von Hardesty, eds. Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century: Cass Series—Studies in Air Power 7. London: Cass, 1998.

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    Useful collection of essays on the development of military aviation.

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  • Higham, Robin D. S., and Frederick W. Kagan, eds. The Military History of the Soviet Union. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    An essential collection of essays by John Erickson, David Stone, Mary Habeck, and others, covering the entire Soviet period. Unfortunately, there are no citations, but chapters include source listings or bibliographic essays.

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  • Krivosheev, G. F., ed. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. Translated by Christine Barnard. London: Greenhill, 1997.

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    Groundbreaking and controversial book on military casualties throughout the Soviet period. Translation of Grif sekretnosti sniat: Poteri Vooruzhennykh Sil SSSR v voinakh, boevykh deistviiakh a kh i voennykh konfliktakh (Moscow, Russia: Voennoe izd-vo, 1993).

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  • Reese, Roger R. Red Commanders: A Social History of the Soviet Army Officer Corps, 1918–1991. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

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    Valuable social history of the demographics, education, and training of the Soviet officer corps. Argues that Soviet officers cannot be considered “professional” by a set of criteria that some might debate, such as political-military relationships. A groundbreaking study.

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  • Sanborn, Joshua A. Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War, and Mass Politics, 1905–1925. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003.

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    Studies the shift from the tsarist methods of recruitment to the Soviet methods, which sought to standardize an egalitarian system of conscription, and how both contributed to a national identity. Argues that both systems, but especially the Soviet’s, tried to use universal conscription to create loyal citizens and that the cohesion created in the army was a key element of the party-state-military relationship.

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  • Steinberg, John W. All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898–1914. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

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    Important study of military intellectual life and how social class affected the army. Examines the role of the Imperial Nicholas Military Academy and the Russian General Staff. Argues that key military leaders (Kuropatkin) urged reform, but Nicholas II and his conservative supporters (Dragomirov) resisted change. Comprehensive use of primary sources, including archival materials.

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Russo-Japanese Wars

Russia and Japan clashed for decades over key areas of the Far East, Manchuria, and Korea, and control of warm water ports. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 has received increasing attention as a precursor to the trench war and mass casualties of World War I. Readers should start with the sources listed in General Overviews and Anthologies, many of which have excellent sections on this topic, then continue with the more specialized works listed in this section.

Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905

Westwood 1986 is the best narrative history to date. Kowner 2009 is an essential single-volume reference. Kowner, et al. 2006–2007 provides two volumes of essays on various aspects of the war. Schimmelpenninck van der Oye 2008 and Steinberg 2008 are good short pieces that offer a starting point for all levels of research. Schimmelpenninck van der Oye 2001 explores the origins and intellectual influences on the failed strategy of the conflict. Steinberg, et al. 2005–2007 explores a wide variety of aspects of the war in exhaustive detail.

Russo-Japanese Conflicts of the 1930s

The four-month-long conflict at Khalkhin-Gol (called Nomonhan by the Japanese) was an important victory for the Soviets. Drea 1981 is the best, and almost the only, overview in English. Bushueva and Seregin 2009 is typical of the recent wave of works appearing in Russian and includes published documents. Glantz 1993 is a translation of one important Soviet document. Kondratyev 2008 details the air engagements. Koshelev 2005 provides firsthand accounts by Soviet participants.

First World War

Russia’s experience in World War I has not begun to receive the attention it merits. The best single work is still Stone 1975, which is useful for both teaching and research. Gatrell 2005 supplements Stone with an in-depth and up-to-date examination of social and economic factors. Jones 2010 and Fuller 2000 could be assigned to undergraduates for a quick overview, but they also offer much to more advanced researchers. Cockfield 1998 is an interesting study of Russian troops in France, and Dowling 2008 examines the greatly overlooked Brusilov offensive of 1916. Rachamimov 2002 addresses another neglected topic: the treatment of prisoners by the major powers on the Eastern Front. Stoff 2006 fills in another gap with its excellent study of Russian women’s roles in this war.

  • Cockfield, Jamie H. With Snow on Their Boots: The Tragic Odyssey of the Russian Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. New York: St. Martin’s, 1998.

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    Fascinating story, based on archival sources, of two Imperial Army brigades sent to France, then embroiled in mutiny and revolution.

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  • Dowling, Timothy C. The Brusilov Offensive. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Argues that the Russian army was, overall, on a par with its enemies in World War I in terms of the quality and quantity of enlisted troops. However, talented officers such as General Aleksei Brusilov were the exception. Brusilov’s innovative tactics led to a highly successful offensive in 1916; two-thirds of the Austrian army was captured, killed, or wounded in a few weeks.

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  • Fuller, William C., Jr., “The Eastern Front.” In The Great War and the Twentieth Century. Edited by J. M. Winter, Geoffrey Parker, and Mary R. Habeck, 30–68. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

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    Cogent summary of the Eastern Front as a whole, written by a specialist in Russian history.

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  • Gatrell, Peter. Russia’s First World War: A Social and Economic History. Harlow, UK: Pearson/Longman, 2005.

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    A much-needed study of social and economic aspects of the Russian experience, including economic mobilization, war finance, and food supplies, that emphasizes the many complexities and contradictions of the war effort in the bureaucracy and on the home front.

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  • Jones, David R. “Imperial Russia’s Forces at War.” In Military Effectiveness. Vol. 1, The First World War. 2d ed. Edited by Allan Reed Millett and Williamson Murray. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    An excellent starting point for research and for use in teaching. Originally published in 1988.

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  • Rachamimov, Alon. POWs and the Great War: Captivity on the Eastern Front. Legacy of the Great War Series. Oxford and New York: Berg, 2002.

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    Argues that the Russian government tried to abide by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. However, it was unprepared to handle nearly three million Austro-Hungarian prisoners. Enlisted prisoners often suffered from lack of food and adequate facilities, although many enlisted soldiers benefited from improvements and employment in Russian agriculture and industry. Officer prisoners fared better until later in the war.

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  • Stoff, Laurie S. They Fought for the Motherland: Russia’s Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution. Modern War Studies Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006.

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    Pioneering study of the roles of Russia women in World War I, serving in a variety of military and support roles. Based on careful archival research, Stoff provides the best analysis to date of the women’s battalions of death and other women’s military groups.

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  • Stone, Norman. The Eastern Front, 1914–1917. New York: Scribner, 1975.

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    A classic, groundbreaking work of military history, and still the best single work on Russia’s military participation in World War I.

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Russian Civil War / Soviet-Polish War

Mawdsley 2000 is the best narrative history of the Russian Civil War that focuses on military events, whereas Davies 1972 is the best and only overview of the Soviet-Polish War. Wildman 1980 traces the complexities of the final months of the Russian army at the beginning of the revolution. Figes 1990 attributes the success of the Red Army against the Whites to its ability to create a mass army conscripted primarily from peasants. Chirkov 1975 details women’s involvement in the Civil War. Brown 1996 analyzes the reasons for Soviet failure in its early attempt to spread Communism to neighboring Poland. Von Hagen 1990 examines how the crucible of war formed the relationship between the Soviet state and society.

  • Brown, Stephen. “Lenin, Stalin and the Failure of the Red Army in the Soviet Polish War of 1920.” War and Society 14.2 (1996): 35–47.

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    Argues that the Soviets lost this war because of poor leadership, underestimation of the enemy, and failed strategies (trying to fight on two fronts, against the Poles and Wrangel’s forces).

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  • Chirkov, P. M. “Zhenshchiny v Krasnoi Armii v gody Grazhdanskoi Voiny i Imperialisticheskoi Interventsii (1918–1920).” Istoriia SSSR 6 (1975): 103–114.

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    Brief summary of women’s activities in the Russian Civil War.

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  • Davies, Norman. White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War, 1919–20. New York: St. Martin’s, 1972.

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    A classic and definitive work. Davies argues that this was an opportunistic and poorly planned war on the part of the Soviets. Excellent examination of the military events of the conflict. Compellingly written, this would be a good work to assign to undergraduates.

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  • Figes, Orlando. “The Red Army and Mass Mobilization during the Russian Civil War, 1918–1920.” Past and Present 129 (1990): 168–211.

    DOI: 10.1093/past/129.1.168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces how a small volunteer force grew to five million soldiers in just three years. Figes examines how three-quarters of these soldiers were recruited from among the peasants and argues that Bolshevik success depended on its ability to mobilize these troops.

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  • Mawdsley, Evan. The Russian Civil War. Edinburgh and London: Allen and Unwin, 2000.

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    The best starting point and overview. Argues that the Bolsheviks won because of better mobilization and better political work than their opponents and also because they managed to maintain control of the heartland.

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  • von Hagen, Mark. Soldiers in the Proletarian Dictatorship: The Red Army and the Soviet Socialist State, 1917–1930. Studies of the Harriman Institute; Studies in Soviet History and Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

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    Regarded as a landmark social history. Emphasizes the transforming effect of the experience of war, especially the Civil War, on the citizens of the new Soviet state, which used a “military model” in the construction of a new socialist state.

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  • Wildman, Allan K. The End of the Russian Imperial Army. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

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    Classic study of the effects of political change on the army during a time of revolution. Argues that simple explanations are insufficient; there was evidence of collapse and fatigue, but also combat capability that lasted longer is generally thought. The soviets (councils) were sometimes effective, and desertion became a serious issue only after the second Bolshevik Revolution.

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Interwar Period

Erickson 2001 provides a good overview of the ways in which the military role evolved during a time of upheaval. Dyakov and Bushuyeva 1995 highlights the sources of the Soviet-German military agreements of the 1920s. Stone 2000 argues that the military came to dominate economic planning during this time, in ways that were actually detrimental to the next war. Stoecker 1998 examines the development of “deep battle” and armor/combined arms theory, the Soviet counterpart to blitzkrieg. Dunn 1995 is critical to understanding the economic underpinnings for the military, which did much to account for its eventual victory in the Great Patriotic War. Glantz 1998 establishes the reasons for the weakness of the rapidly expanding Red Army on the eve of war, whereas Reese 1996 focuses on the soldiers who composed that army.

  • Dunn, Walter S., Jr., The Soviet Economy and the Red Army, 1930–1945. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

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    Useful study of the institutional relationships between the military and various sectors of the Soviet economy. Focus on military technology, transport, and logistics. Argues that the system developed to provide efficient organization and supply was instrumental in Soviet victory in World War II.

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  • Dyakov, Yuri, and Tatyana Bushuyeva. The Red Army and the Wehrmacht: How the Soviets Militarized Germany, 1922–33, and Paved the Way for Fascism. Russian Studies Series. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1995.

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    This bad translation of the 1992 Russian book omits many documents included in the original but still provides English speakers with many important documents on German-Soviet military cooperation.

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  • Erickson, John. The Soviet High Command: A Military-Political History, 1918–1941. 3d ed. Cass Series on Soviet (Russian) Military Institutions. London: Cass, 2001.

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    This essential work, despite its age (originally published in 1962) is key to understanding civil-military relationships between the wars. The influence of the Russian Civil War is detailed, as is the effect of the purges and the paradoxical military relationship with Germany.

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  • Glantz, David M. Stumbling Colossus: The Red Army on the Eve of World War. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

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    Groundbreaking study of the prewar condition of the Red Army. Provides extensive evidence of the poor operational condition of the military. Explicitly sets out to refute the idea that the Red Army was capable of offensive actions against Germany; its profound weaknesses also explained its catastrophic failures on the defense in the first part of the war.

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  • Reese, Roger R. Stalin’s Reluctant Soldiers: A Social History of the Red Army, 1925–1941. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

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    This important work fills the gap left by many military historians such as David Glantz and John Erickson, who rarely delve into the motivations and experiences of the soldier.

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  • Stoecker, Sally W. Forging Stalin’s Army: Marshal Tukhachevsky and the Politics of Military Innovation. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1998.

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    Argues that the Red Army produced independent thinkers such as Tukhachevsky who developed innovative theories. Even when the authors of theories became victims of the purge, the theories survived and were successfully adapted during the Great Patriotic War. A nuanced reinterpretation of the evolution of doctrine in a supposedly totalitarian state. Useful for undergraduates and higher.

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  • Stone, David R. Hammer and Rifle: The Militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926–1933. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

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    A provocative economic and institutional history; Stone argues that by 1933 the military had succeeded in dominating Soviet industry and the economy. Stresses the militarization of society.

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Soviet-Finnish War

Van Dyke 1997 is the only scholarly English-language overview of the war; readable and balanced, it is the best starting point for all researchers. Baryshnikov 1990–1991 offers a brief overview that could be used as an introduction to this topic. Reese 2008 examines little-studied strengths of the Red Army in this war. Kul’kov and Rzheshevskii 2002 is a primary source revealing “lessons learned” by the Soviet leadership at the conclusion of the war, and Dvoinykh and Eliseeva 1992 is a more extensive collection of documents. Glantz1993 is a translation of one important Soviet document.

  • Baryshnikov, N. I. “The Soviet-Finnish War of 1939–1940.” Soviet Studies in History 29.3 (1990–1991): 43–60.

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    A brief summary of the war that could be assigned to undergraduates or graduate students. Using Soviet and Finnish archival and published materials, Baryshnikov provides useful information on Soviet forces and operations. Argues for the traditional Soviet point of view that Finland was as much to blame for the war as the Soviet Union; most historians today reject this interpretation.

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  • Dvoinykh, L. V., and N. E. Eliseeva, eds. Konflikt: Komplekt dokumentov o Sovetsko-finliandskoi voine (1939–1940 gg). Minneapolis: East View, 1992.

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    Collection of documents on the war.

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  • David M. Glantz. “Excerpts on Soviet 1938–40 Operations from The History of Warfare, Military Art, and Military Science, a 1977 Textbook of the Military Academy of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 6.1 (1993): 85–141.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518049308430091Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An interesting summary of the Soviet point of view several decades after the war; compare with Kul’kov and Rzheshevskii 2002.

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  • Kul’kov, E. N., and Oleg Aleksandrovich Rzheshevskii. Stalin and the Soviet-Finnish War, 1939–1940. Edited by Harold Shukman and translated by Tatyana Sokokina. London: Cass, 2002.

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    Translation of Central Committee meetings in April 1940, evaluating the problems of the Red Army, including training, logistics, and interservice coordination. Remarkable for its thoroughness and frankness.

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  • Reese, Roger R. “Lessons of the Winter War: A Study in the Military Effectiveness of the Red Army, 1939–1940.” Journal of Military History 72.3 (2008): 825–852.

    DOI: 10.1353/jmh.0.0004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that despite its losses and poor combat performance, the Red Army was militarily effective in many ways. Although motivation, cohesion, morale, and discipline were often strained, they did not break. Reese notes that this was an indicator of Soviet resilience to come in World War II. Based on archival and other extensive research.

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  • Van Dyke, Carl. The Soviet Invasion of Finland, 1939–40. Cass Series on Soviet Military Experience 3. London: Cass, 1997.

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    The best overview of the war, based on archival research. Good information on Soviet problems such as partial mobilization. Stronger on the tactical and operational levels than on the strategic.

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Second World War

Several excellent books provide overviews of the main military events of the Great Patriotic War. Erickson 1984 is the foundation on which all other works in English are built, and a must-read for anyone researching this topic in depth. Bellamy 2007 is the best overall history of the war and an excellent introduction to the war on the Eastern Front in a broad context. Overy 1997 should be read for its analysis. Mawdsley 2005 is the best source with a stronger military focus, especially at the strategic level. Glantz and House 1995 is best for a single volume emphasizing details of military operations at the operational level. Dunn 1994 is the best source for understanding the wartime transformation of the Red Army in economic and institutional context. Thurston and Bonwetsch 2000 and Stone 2010 bring fresh perspectives based on recent research to a variety of war-related topics.

  • Bellamy, Christopher D. Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War. New York: Knopf, 2007.

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    Excellent survey of the war as a whole, with an emphasis on military aspects and a more extensive discussion of the first two years than of the latter half of the war. Incorporates recently available Russian sources and fresh interpretations; useful for researchers at all levels.

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  • Dunn, Walter S. Hitler’s Nemesis: The Red Army, 1930–1945. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994.

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    Essential economic and institutional history. Excellent coverage of the immediate prewar reforms; details on Red Army rifle divisions, tank and artillery forces, and their increasing emphasis at the expense of infantry; and the Red Army’s replacement system. Argues, controversially, that after 1943 Stalin no longer needed a second front to defeat Germany.

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  • Erickson, John. The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1984.

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    The Road to Berlin: Continuing the History of Stalin’s War with Germany (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1983) completes this classic set that continues to offer much to readers willing to delve deeply into Soviet military operations. Erickson set the standard for astute analysis of Soviet sources and accurate and balanced description of Soviet military activities. The preface is a guide to using sources that every researcher should read. Best for graduate students and above.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995.

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    The best overview of military operations. A single, accessible book, focusing on the transformation of the Red Army from a “stumbling colossus” to a strategically savvy, well-organized, and combat-capable force. Excellent appendix on archival sources is included, and no serious researcher should fail to at least skim the extensive substantive notes.

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  • Mawdsley, Evan. Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War, 1941–1945. London: Hodder Arnold, 2005.

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    A broader overview than Glantz and House 1995, incorporating diplomatic and economic aspects of the war, and adding material from another decade’s worth of Soviet archival materials. Accessible and nicely structured to keep readers on track. A glossary, chronology, and other supporting appendices are useful. More appreciative of Zhukov’s abilities than was Glantz.

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  • Overy, Richard. Russia’s War. New York: Penguin, 1997.

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    Although not based on Russian sources, Overy’s work is a masterpiece of objectivity, insight, and brevity. Focuses on key historiographical issues, the brutality of the war, and effects on civilian populations. Overy emphasizes the continued use of terror and repression by the Soviet state.

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  • Stone, David R., ed. The Soviet Union at War, 1941–1945. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword, 2010.

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    New collection of essays, including Mark Harrison on industry and the economy; Reina Pennington on women’s roles, both military and civilian; and several essays focused on effects on civilians, nationalities, and the rural population.

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  • Thurston, Robert W., and Bernd Bonwetsch, eds. The People’s War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

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    Based on newly available archival and printed materials, the essays break new ground. The contributors are Russian, German, and American scholars, providing an international range of views.

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Historiography and Bibliography

A number of excellent guides are available that detail key issues, of which every researcher should be aware. Together, they trace the rapid evolution of the study of the Great Patriotic War in recent decades. Parrish 1981 lists Soviet sources published in the first thirty-five years after the war. Erickson 1992 reviews works by Glantz and Ziemke, and some of the newly translated Soviet General Staff studies of key battles. Hill 2007 provides a survey of key sources from the 1990s. Glantz 1995 and Glantz 2005 identify common gaps and myths about the Red Army.

  • Erickson, John. “New Thinking about the Eastern Front in World War II.” Journal of Military History 56.2 (1992): 283–292.

    DOI: 10.2307/1985800Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A review essay that assesses the state of field in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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  • Glantz, David M. “The Failures of Historiography: Forgotten Battles of the Great Patriotic War.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 8.4 (December 1995): 768–808.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518049508430217Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This essay explains the origins of Glantz’s mission as a historian to correct the German-dominated view of the Eastern Front that has prevailed since the end of the war. Also seeks to redress the omission from Soviet literature of many failures and “forgotten battles.” Researchers seeking a neglected topic should read this. Originally published by US Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS, 1992. Available online.

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  • Glantz, David M. “Fact and Fancy: The Soviet Great Patriotic War, 1941–1945.” In Warriors and Scholars: A Modern War Reader. Edited by Peter B. Lane and Ronald E. Marcello, 4–26. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2005.

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    A useful discussion of common myths about Soviet performance in the war.

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  • Hill, Alexander. “Recent Literature on the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union 1941–1945.” In The Second World War. Vol. I, The German War 1939–1942. Edited by Jeremy Black, 399–409. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Review essay of key publications from the first post-Soviet decade, when new works based on newly available archival materials began to appear. Reprint of original article in Contemporary European History 9 (2000): 169–179.

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  • Parrish, Michael. The USSR in World War II: An Annotated Bibliography of Books Published in the Soviet Union, 1945–1975: With an Addenda for the Years 1975–1980. New York: Garland, 1981.

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    Excellent annotated list of Soviet sources published between the end of the war and 1980. More than 7,500 entries. Updated in “Soviet Historiography of the Great Patriotic War 1970–1985: A Review,” Soviet Studies in History 23.3 (1984–1985): iii–x.

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Documents

Extensive collections of documents have been published in Russian, but sadly, only a few are available in English translation. It is appalling that a complete order of battle is still unavailable. Conner and Poiries 1985 provides the best, although incomplete, version in English. The five-volume work Grylev 1963–1990 is the most complete, but we still await a comprehensive order of battle updated since the opening of the archives. Hill 2009 is the best collection for use in the classroom, whereas Orenstein 1991–1993 offers more detail for the serious researcher who needs English translations. Glantz 2005 is an excellent source of translated documents on the first period of the war. Parrish 1989 is one example of a series of translated Soviet General Staff studies on specific major battles. Zolotarev, et al. 1993–2002 is the go-to source for original Russian-language published documents on the war.

  • Conner, Albert Z., and Robert G. Poiries. Red Army Order of Battle in the Great Patriotic War: Including Data from 1919 to the Present. Modern War Studies. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1985.

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    With no footnotes or discussion of sources, the only benefit of this book is that it is the only work in English on this topic.

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  • Glantz, David M. Companion to Colossus Reborn: Key Documents and Statistics. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005.

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    Handy compendium on the first period of the war.

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  • Grylev, A. N. Boevoi sostav Sovetskoi Armii. 5 vols. Moscow, Soviet Union: Voenno-nauchnoe upravlenie General’nogo shtaba, Voenno-istoricheskii otdel, 1963–1990.

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    The best source for order of battle information, in detail.

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  • Hill, Alexander. The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941–45: A Documentary Reader. Cass Series on the Soviet (Russian) Study of War. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    A useful, selective collection of primary sources, especially for teaching purposes. Particularly interesting on Lend-Lease, partisans, the offensives of 1944, and major battles.

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  • Orenstein, Harold S., ed. and trans. Soviet Documents on the Use of War Experience. 3 vols. Cass Series on the Soviet Study of War. London: Cass, 1991–1993.

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    Translations from the very important series of Soviet General Staff studies and reports prepared during the war for the senior military leadership. Some information is inaccurate but reflects what was known or believed during the war. As with similar primary sources, these should be used in conjunction with scholarly works that have cross-checked and updated information.

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  • Parrish, Michael, ed. Battle for Moscow: The 1942 Soviet General Staff Study. Washington, DC: Pergamon-Brassey’s, 1989.

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    First in a series of translations to be published, excerpts of materials from Soviet documents written during and immediately after the war.

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  • Zolotarev, Vladimir Antonovich, A. S. Emelin, et al., eds. Velikaia Otechestvennaia. 14 vols. Moscow, Soviet Union: TERRA, 1993–2002.

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    The prolific Zolotarev edited this monumental and indispensable collection of wartime documents. Includes orders of the People’s Commissariat of Defense; materials from the Stavka and the general staff; documents relating to various battles; and a volume devoted to naval documents.

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Barbarossa

The German invasion of Russia in 1941 is perhaps the best-studied aspect of the entire war on the Eastern Front. For many years, studies were based largely on German sources and emphasized German tactical strengths and catastrophic Soviet failures. More recent works incorporate Soviet documents and offer a more balanced point of view that helps explain how the Soviet Union was able to absorb this devastating attack and rebound to defeat Germany eventually. Glantz 2001 analyzes the period in detail and offers a controversial argument that emerging Soviet strengths and determination enabled the Red Army to impair seriously the success of Barbarossa; Stahel 2009 focuses on the Germans and also concludes that ultimate German defeat was evident by the end of Barbarossa. Bergström 2007 provides essential detail on the role of air forces on both sides. Erickson and Dilks 1994 assesses casualties, Lend-Lease, and collaboration. Barber 1991 examines the reaction of the public to the invasion.

  • Barber, John. “Popular Reactions in Moscow to the German Invasion of June 22, 1941.” Soviet Union / Union Sovietque 18.1–3 (1991): 5–18.

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    A microcosmic look at the attitudes of the Soviet public to the invasion.

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  • Bergström, Christer. Barbarossa: The Air Battle July–December 1941. Hersham, UK: Midland, 2007.

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    Details the destruction of the Soviet air forces during the first months of the war, an essential factor in the success of the German invasion. Thoroughly documented, wonderfully illustrated, and supported with biographical information, graphs, tables, and technical data.

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  • Erickson, John, and David Dilks, eds. Barbarossa: The Axis and the Allies. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

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    The most important essay for military history is Erickson’s chapter, “Soviet War Losses—Calculation and Controversies.” Other key topics include Lend-Lease and collaboration.

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  • Glantz, David M. Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia, 1941. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2001.

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    Glantz argues that the will to fight and increasingly good organizational skills accounted for the Red Army’s survival in the face of near-destruction. Controversially argues that the Soviet defeat at the lengthy battle of Smolensk seriously slowed the German advance and played a role in the strategic failure of Barbarossa.

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  • Stahel, David. Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East. Cambridge Military History Series. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Focusing on Germany, Stahel argues that the initial successes of the Wehrmacht were not sustainable; Germany never had the logistics or personnel to capture Moscow. Stahel suggests that it was clear before the fall of 1941 that Germany would not be capable of winning the war in the east. Tightly argued and based on sound archival research.

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Battle of Moscow

The battle of Moscow marked the first major failure of the Wehrmacht, the end of Operation Barbarossa, and the effective end of blitzkrieg as a viable tactic on the Eastern Front. Braithwaite 2006 is an outstanding overview of events with a social history focus but includes important coverage of strategy as well. Parrish 1989 is an essential primary source. Bukov 1993 examines public attitudes in Moscow and the panic of October 1941. Sevruk, et al. 1970 offers some accounts by senior Soviet military leaders. Fedorov 1975, although dated, is still a useful source on Red Air Force operations during the battle. Hill 2006 is an interesting case study on the early effects of Lend-Lease. Zhilin, et al. 2001 is an essential collection of primary documents in Russian.

  • Braithwaite, Rodric. Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War. 1st American ed. New York: Knopf, 2006.

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    A former British ambassador to Russia writes a compelling and accessible study of one city at war in one of the most important battles of World War II. Covers the highest levels of leadership as well as individual stories of ordinary citizens. The best book to read on this battle.

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  • Bukov, K. I. “The Anxious October of ’41.” Russian Studies in History 31.4 (1993): 30–48.

    DOI: 10.2753/RSH1061-1983310430Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Translation of the original article, “Trevozhnyi oktiabr’ 41-go . . . ,” that appeared in Kentavr’ (October–December 1991): 70–79. Excellent analysis of the panic in Moscow as the Germans approached in October 1941.

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  • Fedorov, A. G. Aviatsiia v bitve pod Moskvoi. Moscow, Soviet Union: Nauka, 1975.

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    Classic Soviet work on aviation during the battle of Moscow.

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  • Hill, Alexander. “British ‘Lend-Lease’ Tanks and the Battle for Moscow, November–December 1941—A Research Note.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 19.2 (2006): 289–294.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518040600697811Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Continued in “British Lend-Lease Tanks and the Battle for Moscow, November–December 1941—Revisited” (The Journal of Slavic Military Studies 22.4 [2009]: 574–587). This monograph examines in detail the effects and limitations of early Lend-Lease efforts and argues that British tanks that arrived in time to be used at the battle of Moscow were more important than most Soviet sources suggest, although not decisive.

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  • Parrish, Michael, ed. Battle for Moscow: The 1942 Soviet General Staff Study. Washington, DC: Pergamon-Brassey’s, 1989.

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    First in a series of translations of battle studies done by the Soviet General Staff during and immediately after the war. Selected excerpts from the originals are extremely useful as a primary source.

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  • Sevruk, Vladimir, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Vassilevskii, et al. Moscow-Stalingrad 1941/1942 Recollections, Stories, Reports. Moscow, Soviet Union: Progress, 1970.

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    Translated essays by Marshals Vassilevsky, Zhukov, and Rokossovsky, as well as contributions by journalists such as Konstantin Simonov, make this an oldie but goodie.

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  • Zhilin, V. A., et al. Bitva pod Moskvoi: Khronika, fakty, liudi. 2 vols. Moscow, Soviet Union: Olma-Press, 2001.

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    One of the best of the wave of Russian-language Great Patriotic War studies to be published in post–Soviet Russia. Zhilin, a former tank commander turned historian, edited this collection of archival materials, including operational reports, directives of the Supreme Command, Sovinformburo reports, and captured German documents. Volume 1 focuses on the German offensive; Volume 2 focuses on the Red Army counteroffensive.

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Battle of Leningrad

The siege of Leningrad is the interesting story of how a major city held out against the Germans for nearly 900 days. Jones 2008 is the best recent overview of the battle, with an emphasis on life inside the besieged city, whereas Glantz 2004 is the most accurate account of the military events on the Leningrad Front from 1941 to 1944. Bidlack 2000 is an excellent brief overview of civilian life during the siege. Barber and Dzeniskevich 2005 focuses on issues of health and crime inside the city. Cottam and Masolov 1998 offers insight into the motivations of young women who joined the partisans, Wayne 1992 provides a firsthand account from a nurse and a teenage boy, Simmons and Perlina 2002 presents a collection of primary materials—any of the three would be a useful teaching tool. Loznitsa 2006 is a stark and disturbing film that brings to life the ordeal of survival and is good for classroom use.

  • Barber, John, and Andrei Rostislavovich Dzeniskevich, eds. Life and Death in Besieged Leningrad, 1941–44. Studies in Russian and East European History and Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

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    Translation of a Russian book first published in 1991; nine essays focus on medical care, psychology, and crime during the siege. Concludes that the death toll was closer to 700,000 than one million, the traditional figure.

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  • Bidlack, Richard. “Survival Strategies in Leningrad during the First Year of the Soviet-German War.” In The People’s War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union. Edited by Robert W. Thurston and Bernd Bonwetsch, 84–107. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

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    Focuses on civilian hardships during the siege of Leningrad.

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  • Cottam, Kazimiera J., and Nikolaĭ Vissarionovich Masolov. Defending Leningrad: Women Behind Enemy Lines. Edited and translated by Kazimiera J. Cottam. Nepean, ON: New Military, 1998.

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    Absorbing account of the participation of three young women in the war. Focuses on the diary and letters of one young teenager who scouted for the partisans until her death in 1944.

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  • Glantz, David M. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941–1944: 900 Days of Terror. London: Cassell Military, 2004.

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    Military history documenting the unique challenges facing the Red Army on the Leningrad Front. Soviet forces tried repeatedly to break the well-established German defensive lines and supported lifeline operations into the city. Glantz argues that this front tied down almost 20 percent of all German forces in the east and eventually liberated the city, at a cost of more than three million military casualties.

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  • Jones, Michael K. Leningrad: State of Siege. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

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    Strong focus on social history and human experience. Excellent account of the city administration’s attempts, often unsuccessful, to handle food rationing and distribution, medical care, housing and sanitation, and work.

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  • Loznitsa, Sergei, dir. Blockade (Blokada), 2005. DVD. Brooklyn, NY: First Run/Icarus Films, 2006.

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    Compelling montage of footage shot in wartime Leningrad. Shows some of the military defenses of the city, such as tank traps and barrage balloons. The focus is on daily life, as citizens were filmed looking for fuel and water, transporting the dead or sometimes leaving them in the streets, and simply trying to survive. Good for classroom use. 52 min.

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  • Simmons, Cynthia, and Nina Perlina. Writing the Siege of Leningrad: Women’s Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose. Series in Russian and East European Studies. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.

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    A majority of the besieged population of Leningrad were women, and this outstanding collection presents a variety of firsthand accounts.

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  • Wayne, Kyra Petrovskaya. Shurik: A Story of the Siege of Leningrad. New York: Lyons and Burford, 1992.

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    A firsthand account of a Russian actress and nurse who adopted an orphaned boy in besieged Leningrad. The story of their efforts to survive while also serving others is compelling and emblematic of similar primary sources.

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Battle of Stalingrad

Jones 2007 is the best one-volume overview of the battle. Glantz and House 2009 is the most in-depth study of the battle to date and is essential for anyone researching actual military operations. Rotundo 1989 is an essential primary source in English, and Samsonov 1989 is the best source in Russian. Zhilin 2002 provides published documents in Russian. Bergström 2007 supplements the other works with an in-depth examination of the role of aviation. Pennington 2005 examines women’s roles in the battle.

  • Bergström, Christer. Stalingrad: The Air Battle: November 1942 through January 1943. Hinckley, UK: Midland, 2007.

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    This extensively researched book is the first in English to focus on the role of military aviation at Stalingrad. The Soviet air force was at first overwhelmed in quantity and quality but prevailed over the Luftwaffe in both by the end of the battle. Concisely covers key units and aircraft, leadership, aerial resupply, Lend-Lease, and more. Essential corrective to other works that generally overlook air operations.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. The Stalingrad Trilogy Vol. 1, To the Gates of Stalingrad: Soviet-German Combat Operations, April–August 1942. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009.

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    Continued in Vol. 2, Armageddon in Stalingrad: September-November 1942. Comprehensive operational history of the entire campaign. Places the battle in context of the broader war and the urban fighting in context of the campaign. Argues that instead of a continuous advance, the Germans were forced into a stop-and-start method of conducting offensive operations, due to delays caused by Soviet opposition as much as by logistics.

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  • Jones, Michael K. Stalingrad: How the Red Army Survived the German Onslaught. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2007.

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    Essential overview of the battle, based on the latest archival materials. Corrects many myths and misinterpretations propagated in popular works such as Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad (New York: Viking, 1998). Excellent coverage of command relationships and developing Red Army capabilities under the most harrowing of circumstances.

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  • Pennington, Reina. “Women and the Battle of Stalingrad.” In Russia: War, Peace and Diplomacy—Essays in Honour of John Erickson. Edited by Mark Erickson and Ljubica Erickson, 162–211. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005.

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    In-depth study of the varied roles played by women, both civilian and military.

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  • Rotundo, Louis, ed. The Battle for Stalingrad: The 1943 Soviet General Staff Study. Washington, DC: Pergamon-Brassey’s, 1989.

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    Essential document for the study of the battle of Stalingrad. One of a series of studies produced by the Soviet General Staff during the war. English translation of the unpublished 1943 manuscript, designed to analyze combat experiences and derive lessons learned for the military leadership.

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  • Samsonov, Aleksandr Mikhailovich. Stalingradskaia bitva. 4th ed. Moscow, Soviet Union: Nauka, 1989.

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    Originally published in 1968 and often reprinted, this is still the best Russian-language operational history and the one used by all academic historians. Samsonov is a model of what Soviet-era historians were able to achieve with archival sources and the careful use of memoirs. Translated into several languages, but never into English.

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  • Zhilin, V. A., ed. Stalingradskaia bitva: Khronika, fakty, liudi. 2 vols. Moscow, Russia: Olma-Press, 2002.

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    One of the best of the wave of Russian-language Great Patriotic War studies to be published in post–Soviet Russia. Zhilin, a retired general, edited this collection of archival materials, including operational reports, directives of the Supreme Command, Sovinformburo reports, and captured German documents.

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Battle of Kursk

Glantz and House 1999 is the most in-depth study of the battle to date and is essential for anyone researching actual military operations. Although it is not a strong narrative overview, in the absence of one, this is the best place to start. All researchers who cannot read Russian must use Glantz and Orenstein 1999, a translation of the Soviet General Staff study of the battle. Zetterling and Frankson 2000 presents statistical data that must be addressed by any researcher. Bergström 2007 covers the usually neglected role of aviation. Zhilin, et al. 2003 and Zamulin 2008 provide published documents in Russian.

  • Bergström, Christer. Kursk: The Air Battle, July 1943. Hersham, UK: Classic, 2007.

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    Another in a series of extensively researched books by Bergström; the only book in English to focus on the role of military aviation at Kursk. Extremely useful comparison of the Luftwaffe and the Soviet Air Force (VVS) forces in terms of numbers, training, technical capabilities, etc. As with all Bergström’s books, the balanced narrative, the outstanding illustrations and photographs, and the statistical, technical, and biographical information all make this an essential work for researchers.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Jonathan M. House. The Battle of Kursk. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

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    Detailed operational-level history of the battle. Detailed orders of battle and other statistical information, indispensable bibliography, and historiographic discussion of whether it was possible for Germany to win. Particularly useful examination of Soviet preparations for the battle. Argues that despite the German defeat, Germany continued to underestimate Soviet resources and ability to fight.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Harold S. Orenstein, eds. The Battle for Kursk, 1943: The Soviet General Staff Study. Cass Series on the Soviet (Russian) Study of War 10. London: Cass, 1999.

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    Another in a series of studies produced by the Soviet General Staff during the war. The frank discussion of the details of planning and execution outweighs the sometimes bombastic conclusions. Interesting analysis and criticism of air operations involving more than 4,300 aircraft.

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  • Zamulin, Valerii Nikolaevich. Zasekrechennaia Kurskaia bitva: Neizvestnye dokumenty svidetelstvuiut. Moscow, Russia: Eksmo, 2008.

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    A recent collection of formerly classified archival documents.

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  • Zetterling, Niklas, and Anders Frankson. Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis. Cass Series on the Soviet (Russian) Study of War 11. London: Cass, 2000.

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    Reference work with even more statistics and data than Glantz and House 1999. Argues that Germany lost fewer tanks than is generally believed and was able to replace most of its losses by the end of 1943. Presents evidence that casualties on both sides were less than 3 percent of total casualties in 1943. Overall, suggests that Kursk was not as decisive as it is usually portrayed to be.

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  • Zhilin, V. A., et al. Kurskaia bitva: Khronika, fakty, liudi. 2 vols. Moscow, Russia: Olma-Press, 2003.

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    Retired general Zhilin, a former tank commander turned historian, edited this collection of archival materials, including operational reports, directives of the Supreme Command, Sovinformburo reports, and captured German documents. One of the best of the wave of Russian-language Great Patriotic War studies to be published in post–Soviet Russia.

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Operation Bagration

This June 1944 campaign of 2.5 million troops was one of the largest operations of the entire war. After liberating Ukraine in 1943 and 1944, the Red Army destroyed the Army Group Center in Belorus, advancing 170 miles in two weeks. Baker 2008 is an excellent, brief introduction to the historical literature and issues. Dunn 2000 is a methodical examination of Red Army logistics and planning. Glantz and Orenstein 2001 is a translated Soviet General Staff study written immediately after the operation. Bergström 2008 focuses on the increasingly adept use of aviation. Zhilin, et al. 2004 provides published documents in Russian.

  • Baker, Lee. “Explaining Defeat: A Reappraisal of ‘Operation Bagration,’ 1944.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 21.1 (2008): 129–145.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518040801894308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brief overview of key issues in Operation Bagration. Good discussion of historiographical issues, including varying interpretations of the reasons for German defeat and Soviet success. Argues that although the Wehrmacht was certainly under strength and poorly equipped and trained, the Red Army conducted a well-planned and carefully implemented campaign, demonstrating the dramatic shift in Soviet capabilities since 1941.

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  • Bergström, Christer. Bagration to Berlin: The Final Air Battles in the East, 1944–1945. Burgess Hill, UK: Classic, 2008.

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    Bergström continues to bring attention to the role of military aviation with his usual painstakingly detailed description of Luftwaffe and Soviet Air Force (VVS) forces.

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  • Dunn, Walter S., Jr.. Soviet Blitzkrieg: The Battle for White Russia, 1944. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2000.

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    Examines the extensive Soviet preparations for the offensive; especially good on logistics, transport (including American-built trucks), force ratios, and the use of maskirovka. Argues that by the time of Bagration, the Red Army had become better at implementing blitzkrieg than the Wehrmacht was.

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  • Glantz, David M., and Harold S. Orenstein, eds. Belorussia 1944: The Soviet General Staff Study. Cass Series on the Soviet (Russian) Study of War 12. London: Cass, 2001.

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    This translation of a Soviet General Staff study stresses quality over quantity in the planning and execution of Operation Bagration, without ignoring tactical errors by tank units and logistical problems.

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  • Zhilin, V. A., et al. Operatsiia “Bagration”: Osvobozhdenie Belorussii. Moscow, Russia: Olma-Press, 2004.

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    Retired general Zhilin edited this collection of archival materials, including operational reports, directives of the Supreme Command, Sovinformburo reports, and captured German documents.

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Aviation

The air war on the Eastern Front is one of the least-understood aspects of World War II. The authoritative source in English is Hardesty 1982, as of 2011, only a handful of works have added to the field since then. Greenwood 1998 is useful for a briefer overview and/or for classroom use. Kozhevnikov 1983 focuses on leadership and strategic issues, whereas the Bergström and Mikhailov 2000 series focuses on the tactical level of air operations. Gordon 2008 is an up-to-date technical reference on aircraft. Antipov and Utkin 2006 is a regimental history; many such references are available in Russian, but this is the only one in English. Pennington 2001 examines women’s groundbreaking roles in combat aviation.

  • Antipov, Vladislav, and Igor Utkin. Dragons on Bird Wings: The Combat History of the 812th Fighter Regiment. Translated by James F. Gebhardt. 1st English ed. Kitchener, ON: Aviaeology, 2006.

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    A rare and essential item in English, a complete (through May 1944) regimental history of a Soviet Air Force unit during the Great Patriotic War. Based on memoirs, interviews, and archival materials; lavishly illustrated. Essential insight into daily operations. Sortie rates, training, accidents, tactics, technology, and unit cohesion are all covered. Organizational charts, kill lists, and casualty lists are also included.

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  • Bergström, Christer, and Andrey Mikhailov. Black Cross / Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern Front. Vol. 1, Operation Barbarossa 1941. Pacifica, CA: Pacifica Military History, 2000.

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    The first of three volumes of a planned four-volume series focuses on the tactical level of air combat, interweaving German and Soviet accounts. (See Volume 2, Resurgence January-June 1942, and Volume 3, Everything for Stalingrad.) There is little strategic context in these three volumes, but the coverage of air combat is excellent.

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  • Gordon, Yefim. Soviet Air Power in World War 2. Hinckley, UK: Midland, 2008.

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    Useful technical reference.

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  • Greenwood, John T. “Soviet Frontal Aviation during the Great Patriotic War, 1941–45.” In Russian Aviation and Air Power in the Twentieth Century. Edited by Robin Higham, John T. Greenwood, and Von Hardesty, 62–90. London: Cass, 1998.

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    Good, brief overview of aviation in the war. Excellent for classroom use.

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  • Hardesty, Von. Red Phoenix: The Rise of Soviet Air Power, 1941–1945. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1982.

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    Classic and essential study of Soviet military aviation, with a focus on the Great Patriotic War. Details the stress on tactical aviation and combined arms operations, as opposed to strategic bombing. Excellent discussion of the transformation of the Soviet Air Force (VVS) under Commander in Chief Alexander Novikov, including the complete reorganization and the creation of air armies and strategic reserves.

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  • Kozhevnikov, M. N. The Command and Staff of the Soviet Army Air Force in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945: A Soviet View. Translated and published under the auspices of the US Air Force. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1983.

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    This translation of the 1977 Komandovanie i shtab VVS Sovetskoi Armii v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine 1941–1945 gg is a unique examination of the higher command of the Soviet Air Force (VVS). The book covers VVS command and staff and representatives of the Supreme High Command General Headquarters and at various front headquarters, as well as the activities of Long-Range Aviation, Strategic Air Armies, Frontal Aviation, and many formations and units.

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  • Pennington, Reina. Wings, Women, and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War II Combat. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

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    Comprehensive analysis of women’s roles in combat aviation. The Soviet Union was the first nation to allow women pilots to fly combat missions. Based on interviews and archival materials. Useful in teaching and for research.

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Partisans

Scholars have recently devoted critical scrutiny to the role of partisans. Slepyan 2006 is the best single study; all scholars should start with this work; Grenkevich 1999 is an older but still useful work. Hill 2004 studies partisans in northwest Russia and finds that their activities do not live up to the legends of partisan effectiveness; Statiev 2008 also examines regional differences. Shepherd 2004 examines German responses to partisan activities.

  • Grenkevich, Leonid D. The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941–1944: A Critical Historiographical Analysis. Edited by David M. Glantz. London and Portland, OR: Cass, 1999.

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    Classic study, although based mostly on Soviet, pre-glasnost sources. Strong on activities of partisan groups; less so on the connections among the military, party, and NKVD (secret police) with partisans.

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  • Hill, Alexander. The War behind the Eastern Front: The Soviet Partisan Movement in North-West Russia, 1941–1944. London: Cass, 2004.

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    This case study argues that the Soviet portrayal of partisans as a widespread popular movement is exaggerated. Focuses more on life in occupied areas and the consequences for civilians than on partisan activities per se. Using new archival materials, Hill argues that brutal German antipartisan activities were largely successful in this region and that anti-Semitism was not a major factor.

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  • Shepherd, Ben. War in the Wild East: The German Army and Soviet Partisans. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    Examines German antipartisan operations on the Eastern Front, including German antipartisan theory. The focus is on 1942 to 1943 and the Army Group Center, when German responses to partisan activities often descended into indiscriminate murder and atrocity.

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  • Slepyan, Kenneth. Stalin’s Guerrillas: Soviet Partisans in World War II. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006.

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    The best work to date. Sets partisan activities in historical context and examines the development of increasing organization and structure within partisan groups during the Great Patriotic War, as well as the harsh conditions and brutality that affected partisan life.

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  • Statiev, Alexander. “Was Smuglianka a Lunatic or a Siguranţa’s Agent-Provocateur? Peculiarities of the Soviet Partisan Struggle in the Western Borderlands.” Journal of Strategic Studies 31.5 (2008): 743–770.

    DOI: 10.1080/01402390802197860Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that partisan motivations and targets differed in annexed territories compared with the western provinces. Nuanced examination of regional variations among partisan groups.

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Penal Battalions

The shtrafbaty, or penal battalions, composed of criminals, released gulag prisoners, and newly sentenced “prisoners” such as soldiers charged with a wide variety of infringements, have begun to generate a substantial literature in Russian and a few items in English. Researchers should start with Statiev 2010, then turn to Mangazeev 2002. Pyl’cyn 2009 and Suknev 2006 provide firsthand accounts.

Lend-Lease, Soviet-American Operations

There is still no scholarly study of Lend-Lease overall. The whole topic of Lend-Lease remains underexplored. There are differences among the numbers of items sent, what actually arrived, and what made it to the field. American sources usually give the first, whereas Soviet sources emphasize the latter. Hill 2009 and Hill 2006 emphasize some of those differences. Krasnov and Krasnov 2008 and Suprun 2006 present some of the latest Russian thinking. Conversino 1997 studies one interesting attempt at cooperation between Soviet and American aviation.

  • Conversino, Mark J. Fighting with the Soviets: The Failure of Operation FRANTIC, 1944–1945. Modern War Studies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997.

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    Fascinating study of the attempt to set up three bases in Ukraine for American bombers to refuel and rearm after hitting targets deep in Germany and eastern Europe. Describes the miscommunication, the differing understanding of security needs, the four shuttle missions, and the German air raid that destroyed more than fifty B-17s on the ground.

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  • Hill, Alexander. “British ‘Lend-Lease’ Tanks and the Battle for Moscow, November–December 1941—A Research Note.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 19.2 (2006): 289–294.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518040600697811Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thoroughly documented case study.

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  • Hill, Alexander. The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941–45: A Documentary Reader. Cass Series on the Soviet (Russian) Study of War. New York: Routledge, 2009.

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    Contains a chapter on Lend-Lease aid, the Soviet economy, and the Soviet Union at war, with primary documents. One case that Hill describes is that the United States offered to deliver 600 aircraft from October through December 1941, reduced that promised total to 395, and actually shipped 204, with 95 arriving in the Soviet Union as of 9 January 1942, and 106 described at that time as “en route.”

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  • Krasnov, Vladimir N., and Igor V. Krasnov. Lend-liz dija SSSR, 1941–1945. Moscow, Russia: Nauka, 2008.

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    Recent book with some of the latest available statistics based on Russian sources.

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  • Suprun, M. N., ed. Lend-liz i Rossiia. Arkhangel’sk, Russia: Pravda Severa, 2006.

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    Essays from an international conference on Lend-Lease.

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Social and Economic Aspects of the War

Barber and Harrison 1991 examines the home front in general and war industry in particular. Garrard, et al. 1993 is a useful collection of essays on various facets of the war. Merridale 2006 is an outstanding work of history from the bottom up and would be especially engaging for students. Moskoff 1990 demonstrates that Soviet civilians often had to find ways to feed themselves. Reese 2007 examines what motivated Red Army soldiers.

  • Barber, John, and Mark Harrison. The Soviet Home Front, 1941–1945: A Social and Economic History of the USSR in World War II. London: Longman, 1991.

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    Argues that the war was largely won by the millions of workers and administrators who contributed to war production. Insightful study into the importance of mobilizing the home front to support the war effort. Appropriate for classroom use.

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  • Garrard, John, Carol Garrard, and Stephen White, eds. World War II and the Soviet People. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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    Very useful collection of conference papers on social aspects of the Great Patriotic War. Topics include the Katyn Massacre, women in the military, and wartime deportations, by contributors including John Erickson, Martin Gilbert, and Nina Tumarkin.

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  • Merridale, Catherine. Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939–1945. New York: Metropolitan, 2006.

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    Acclaimed study of daily life for the average Soviet soldier. Incisively researched. Presents a nuanced study of the social diversities of the Red Army. Investigates many topics that were censored during the Soviet era, such as the relationship between party representatives and soldiers and ethnic tensions, and the very real role of ideology and patriotism.

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  • Moskoff, William. The Bread of Affliction: The Food Supply in the USSR during World War II. Soviet and East European Studies 76. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    Argues that a wartime priority on support for the army and lack of resources meant that the civilian food supply was largely produced by private initiatives, including private plots and the black market.

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  • Reese, Roger R. “Motivations to Serve: The Soviet Soldier in the Second World War.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 20.2 (2007): 263–282.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518040701378287Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent study of the variety of motivations that produced Red Army soldiers who were, on the whole, stoic and dedicated.

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Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Interviews

Thousands of memoirs were published in the Soviet Union, and a new wave of memoirs has appeared in post–Soviet Russia. A recent trend to translating memoirs into English for publication is most welcome. Many are translations of long-published Soviet-era memoirs. Newly written recent memoirs, no longer subject to censorship, are even more frank and revealing than Soviet-era writings and often address difficult topics that were glossed over or omitted in earlier works. Some important memoirs, such as those of Marshal Zhukov, have reappeared in new editions that include sections deleted by Soviet publishers. A number of Internet sites have sprung up, of which I Remember / Ia pomniu is the best.

  • I Remember / Ia pomniu.

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    Site founder Artem Drabkin is a virtual powerhouse of last-ditch preservation of the stories of the Great Patriotic War veterans. This outstanding site collects interviews and memoirs by Soviet women and men who participated in the war; all branches and types of service are represented. Also available in Russian online.The Russian-language site is more extensive, but a significant number of entries are available in translation on the English-language site.

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Commanders

All researchers should begin with the memoirs of Marshal Zhukov (Zhukov 2002). Chuikov 1963 and Rokossovskii 1985 stand the test of time and correspond well to newly available archival materials; Chuikov’s is one of the most direct and compelling memoirs, whereas Gorbatov 2008 is one of the most literate. Shukman 1993 offers biographical portraits of twenty-five key leaders, written by top scholars.

  • Chuikov, Vasilii Ivanovich. The Beginning of the Road. Translated by Harold Silver. London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1963.

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    Several of Chuikov’s works have been translated into English; this is one of the best. The original Russian Nachalo puti is best read in the 1959 “thaw”-era version, which was less edited than in later reprintings. This translation was based on the 1962 version. Focuses on Chuikov’s early days as commander of the 62nd Army at the battle of Stalingrad. Interesting coverage of the roles of military women.

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  • Gorbatov, Aleksandr V. Gody i voiny: Zapiski komandarma, 1941–1945. Moscow, Russia: Tsentrpoligraf, 2008.

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    One of the better-written memoirs, first published in Russian in 1969 and reprinted in 2008 by Tsentrpoligraf. General Gorbatov fought in both World Wars and the Civil War, served in both the army and air force, and experienced the gulag as well.

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  • Rokossovskii, Konstantin Konstantinovich. A Soldier’s Duty. Translated by Vladimir Talmy and edited by Robert Daglish. Moscow, Soviet Union: Progress, 1985.

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    Originally published in Russian in 1962 and often reprinted. Compelling story of a Soviet marshal who survived the purges and emerged as one of the best military leaders of World War II in any country.

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  • Shukman, Harold, ed. Stalin’s Generals. New York: Grove, 1993.

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    Essential reading on the Soviet high command. Includes portraits of Chuikov, Novikov, Rokossovkii, Rudenko, Vasilevskii, and Zhukov. In the absence of English-language translations of memoirs or full-length biographies of most key leaders, this is indispensable.

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  • Zhukov, Georgi Konstantinovich. Marshal Zhukov’s Greatest Battles. Edited by Harrison Evans Salisbury. New York: Cooper Square, 2002.

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    First published in 1969 in Russian; published in 1979 in two volumes in Russian (with an English edition in 1985), and in 1985 in Russian in three volumes. Available in Russian online. This translation includes a portion of Zhukov’s memoirs published in various sources up to 1969. Controversial assertions and contradictions with Chuikov and Rokossovskii.

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Armor and Artillery

Bessonov 2005; Drabkin and Sheremet 2006; Mikhin, et al. 2010; Krysov and Britton 2010; and Kobylyanskiy 2008 are all interesting and frank firsthand accounts. Loza 1996 offers a unique view from a hero of the Soviet Union who fought in eastern Europe and then Manchuria.

  • Bessonov, Evgenii. Tank Rider: Into the Reich with the Red Army. Translated by Bair Irincheev. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2005.

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    Bessonov was assigned to the tankodesantniki, infantry troops who rode on tanks into attacks and often conducted antitank operations. Events include the liberation of Ukraine and the battle of Berlin. Interesting account by a platoon leader who was not afraid to discuss the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the Red Army.

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  • Drabkin, Artem, and Oleg Sheremet. T-34 in Action. Translated by Dmitri Kovalevich, et al. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2006.

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    Useful collection of interviews with ten veterans, describing in detail the experiences of T-34 crews in the war. Translation of Ia dralsia na T-34 (Moscow, Russia: Iauza, Eksmo, 2005).

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  • Kobylyanskiy, Isaak. From Stalingrad to Pillau: A Red Army Artillery Officer Remembers the Great Patriotic War. Edited by Stuart Britton. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2008.

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    Memoir of an artillery officer in the 2nd Guards Army. Topics include his experiences as a Jew in the Red Army, perceptions of the enemy, attitude toward political officers, unauthorized retreats, and rape.

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  • Krysov, Vasiliy, and Stuart Britton. Panzer Destroyer: Memoirs of a Red Army Tank Commander. Translated by Vladimir Kroupnik and edited by Stuart Britton. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2010.

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    Krysov served in tanks and self-propelled artillery. Interesting observations of night operations, daily life, combat, war crimes, and casualties.

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  • Loza, Dmitriy. Commanding the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks: The World War II Memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union, Dmitriy Loza. Edited and translated by James F. Gebhardt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.

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    Loza was a tank battalion commander with the 6th Guards Tank Army in Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. After the German surrender, Loza’s unit was sent to Mongolia and fought in Manchuria.

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  • Mikhin, Petr, Bair Irincheev, and Stuart Britton. Guns against the Reich: Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2010.

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    A frankly written memoir by an artillery observer who fought at Rzhev, Kharkov, Kursk, the Dnestr, and Moldavia. Topics include alcohol use by troops and soldiers’ reactions to unrealistic and even suicidal orders from above.

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Infantry and Cavalry

Abdulin 2004 is one of the best and most personal memoirs, and a good starting point. For infantry life, Litvin and Britton 2007 and Temkin 1998 are interesting and honest. Drabkin and Kobylyanskiy 2009 is a very useful selection of a variety of short memoirs by soldiers, although the English translation is awkward. Yakushin 2005 provides a rare glimpse into cavalry operations. Pyl’cyn 2009 stands out for its coverage of the missions and experiences of a penal company commander whose wife ended up serving in the same unit. Zaitsev and Okrent 2009 and Pilyushin and Anisimov 2010 offer insight into sniper operations.

  • Abdulin, Mansur. Red Road from Stalingrad: Recollections of a Soviet Infantryman. Translated by Denis Fedosov and edited by Artem Drabkin. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2004.

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    Abdulin, a Siberian-born Tatar, has produced a highly readable account of one soldier’s experiences, mostly post-Stalingrad, including the battle of Kursk. Discusses unit cohesion and the daily life of the soldier in somewhat more detail than most memoirs. Excellent for use in teaching. If you read only one memoir, start here.

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  • Drabkin, Artem, and Isaak Kobylyanskiy. Red Army Infantrymen Remember the Great Patriotic War: A Collection of Interviews with 16 Soviet WW-2 Veterans. Edited by Todd Marvin. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009.

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    Excellent collection of firsthand accounts, unfortunately marred by a bad translation. Useful glossary of soldiers’ slang. Several of the accounts stress problems with rations. Contrasting accounts of lax discipline and harsh punishments. General stress on good relations between ethnic groups.

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  • Litvin, Nikolai, and Stuart Britton. 800 days on the Eastern Front: A Russian Soldier Remembers World War II. Translated and edited by Stuart Britton. Modern War Studies Series. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

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    Litvin served on an artillery gun crew, as a machine gunner, and as driver of a Lend-Lease jeep. He endured forced marches and a stint in a penal company and was wounded several times. Especially useful regarding the intense combat training of the Red Army soldier, sometimes under live fire, and psychological training to confront German tanks. Reveals the perseverance, resourcefulness, and astonishing toughness of the typical soldier.

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  • Pilyushin, Iosif Iosifovich, and Sergei Anisimov. Red Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Joseph Pilyushin. Edited by Sergei Anisimov and translated by Stuart Britton. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2010.

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    A unique, thoughtful memoir. The author, drafted into the Red Army in his mid-thirties, lost his wife and two sons in the siege of Leningrad, while he served with the Red Army outside the city. Abridged translation of memoir first published in 1958 (U sten Leningrada) and republished several times, most recently in 2009 (Snayper Velikoi Otechestvennoi).

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  • Pyl’cyn, Alexsandr V. Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of a Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943–45. Edited by Artem Drabkin and translated by Bair Irincheev. Stackpole Military History Series. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.

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    Absorbing memoir of an officer who was given command of a penal company. Fascinating story of how he fell in love with a nurse and married her at the front; they ended up serving together. His mother-in-law was a military doctor who had served in the Civil War and the Finnish War.

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  • Temkin, Gabriel. My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1998.

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    The content is more compelling than the writing. Temkin, a Polish Jew, was drafted into the Red Army in 1941 and fought through the end of the war. His family all perished in the Holocaust. One of more than 400,000 Jews who served in the Red Army, Temkin survived, but the book reveals the price he paid. Many insights into the daily life of an infantry soldier.

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  • Yakushin, Ivan. On the Roads of War: A Soviet Cavalryman on the Eastern Front. Translated and edited by Bair Irincheev. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2005.

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    Describes Yakushin’s experiences, first in the siege of Leningrad, then at the battle of Kursk and in Operation Bagration, from the unique point of view of a young lieutenant in a cavalry regiment.

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  • Zaitsev, Vasily Grigorevich, and Neil Okrent. Notes of a Russian Sniper: Vassili Zaitsev and the Battle of Stalingrad. Translated by David Givens, Peter Kornakov, and Konstatin Kornakov. Edited by Neil Okrent. London: Frontline, 2009.

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    At last, Zaitsev’s memoir has been translated. Zaitsev became famous for his activities at the battle of Stalingrad, including the possibly apocryphal “sniper duel.” Uncritical and practical description of his training and how he conducted his sniper school; a useful antidote for the film Enemy at the Gates (Jean-Jacques Annaud, dir.; Los Angeles: Paramount, 2001).

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Aviation

Aviation memoirs are now plentiful in Russian and several good translations into English have also been published in recent years. Drabkin and Summerville 2007 focuses on air combat in the first tragic months of the war, and Drabkin 2010 provides a wide range of memoirs by aircrews. Emel’ianenko 2005 is the first-rate memoir of an IL-2 Shturmovik pilot who earned the Hero of the Soviet Union award. Kaberov 1999 offers the perspective of a pilot in Soviet naval aviation, whereas Mariinskiy 2006 covers the experiences of a P-39 pilot. Reshetnikov 2008 and Golovanov and Svanidze 2008 provide insight into long-range aviation, and Kramarenko 2008 is the longer-range memoir of a pilot who served in both World War II and Korea.

  • Drabkin, Artem. IA dralsia na bombardirovshchike. Moscow, Russia: Iauza, Eksmo, 2010.

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    Drabkin has published or helped publish nearly two dozen books of memoirs. Several of his books in the “I Fought” series focus on aviation. This book features interviews with nine bomber pilots and crewmembers. See also IA—istrebitel’! (Moscow: Iauza: Eksmo, 2009), which combines two previous books of fighter pilot memoirs, and IA dralsia na Pe2 (Moscow, Russia: Iauza, Eksmo 2009), which includes an interview with a female pilot.

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  • Drabkin, Artem, and C. J. Summerville. Barbarossa and the Retreat to Moscow: Recollections of Fighter Pilots on the Eastern Front. Translated by Bair Irincheev. The Red Air Force at War Series. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2007.

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    The candid memories of half a dozen Soviet pilots about their experiences during the first bleak months of the war. Their views on best and worst aircraft of the time are informative, and they also comment on training, Air Force life, and air combat.

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  • Emel’ianenko, Vasilii. Red Star against the Swastika. London: Greenhill, 2005.

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    Memoir by a famous IL-2 pilot who was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union for his ninety-two combat sorties. He survived being shot down three times. One of the best and most compelling memoirs; it vividly depicts the risks of wartime aviation. The Russian version is included in a 2010 combined edition (My dralis’ naIL-2: Glavnaia udarnaia sila, by Vasilii Emel’ianenko and Artem Drabkin [Moscow: Iauza: Eksmo]) along with the collected memoirs of other IL-2 crewmembers.

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  • Golovanov, Aleksandr Evgenevich, and Marina Svanidze. Dal’niaia bombardirovochnaia. . . : Vospominaniia Glavnogo marshala aviatsii, 1941–1945. Moscow, Russia: Tsentrpoligraf, 2008.

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    Memoir of the controversial Soviet chief marshal of aviation, often regarded as Alexander Novikov’s rival, who headed long-range aviation during the war. Portions in English available in Golovanov’s article “Long-Range Bombing Aviation” (Soviet Studies in History 23.3 [1984]: 34–82).

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  • Kaberov, Igor. Swastika in the Gunsight: Memoirs of a Russian Fighter Pilot. Translated and abridged from the original Russian edition by Peter Rule. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1999.

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    Memoir of the Soviet Naval Aviation fighter pilot and Hero of the Soviet Union with twenty-eight kills who helped break the siege of Leningrad. This translation of the 1975 memoir keeps the Soviet-era style intact. Translated and abridged version of V pritsele—svastika (Leningrad, Soviet Union: Lenizdat, 1975).

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  • Kramarenko, Sergei. The Red Air Force at War: Air Combat over the Eastern Front and Korea: A Soviet Fighter Pilot Remembers. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Military, 2008.

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    One of a very few memoirs that include the air war in Korea; written from a Soviet-era point of view.

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  • Mariinskiy, Evgeniy. Red Star Airacobra: Memoirs of a Soviet Fighter Ace, 1941–45. Edited by Artem Drabkin and translated by Vladimir Krupnik. Solihull, UK: Helion, 2006.

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    A fighter ace and Hero of the Soviet Union who flew a Lend-Lease P-39. Provides insight into daily operations and experiences of fighter pilots and includes information about Mariinskiy’s female mechanic. Translation of E. P. Mariinskii, IA dralsia na Aerokobre (Moscow, Russia: Iauza, Eksmo, 2005).

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  • Reshetnikov, Vasilii V. Bomber Pilot on the Eastern Front: 307 Missions behind Enemy Lines. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword Aviation, 2008.

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    Unusual memoir of a bomber pilot and Hero of the Soviet Union (later a colonel-general) who flew more than 300 sorties. Includes interesting stories of the experience of crews shot down behind enemy lines and useful details of the involvement of the NKVD (secret police) with crews who escaped capture. Also covers his view of Golovanov (see Golovanov and Svanidze 2008). Translation of Chto bylo—to bylo (Moscow, Russia: Iauza, Eksmo, 2005).

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Women

No researcher can ignore the contributions of the 800,000 women who served in the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. Alexiyevich 1988 is the best single collection of firsthand accounts by women veterans; if it were in print, it would be a first choice for classroom use. Cottam was one of the first to translate and present information about these women in English; Cottam 1997 and Cottam 1998 compile materials from earlier publications and add new information. Cottam presents lightly edited translations of Soviet-era materials. Noggle 1994 offers interviews that are more frank about some wartime matters, as is the memoir of a female doctor (Engel 1999). Timofeeva-Egorova 2009 is the only memoir of a female veteran available in English, and it is good. Of works so far available only in Russian, Chechneva 2006 is essential for information on the night bomber regiment, and Zhukova 2006 is a rare full-length memoir by a female sniper. Many shorter interviews are available at I Remember / Ia pomniu (cited under Memoirs, Autobiographies, and Interviews).

  • Alexiyevich, Svetlana. War’s Unwomanly Face. Translated by Keith Hammond and Lyudmila Lezhneva. Moscow, Soviet Union: Progress, 1988.

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    Essential collection of interviews with veterans; one of the best single sources available that presents a cross section of some two hundred women who served in various military services and roles. Gripping and compelling, with a focus on lesser-known and lower-ranking veterans.

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  • Chechneva, Marina. Podrugi moi boevye. Moscow, Russia: Patriot, 2006.

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    Excellent memoir by a pilot who served with the so-called Night Witches, bombing enemy positions from obsolete biplanes. She flew 810 combat sorties. Chechneva was a prolific writer who produced several memoirs dating back to 1961.

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  • Cottam, Kazimiera J. Women in War and Resistance: Selected Biographies of Soviet Women Soldiers. Nepean, ON: New Military, 1998.

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    Essential reference work that collects brief biographies of one hundred women, primarily those who received the Hero of the Soviet Union award.

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  • Cottam, Kazimiera J., ed. Women in Air War: The Eastern Front of World War II. Rev. ed. Nepean, ON: New Military, 1997.

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    An essential reference work; a collection of memoirs of women who served in wartime aviation. Edited translation of M. A. Kazarinova, N. F. Kravtsova, and A. A. Poliantseva, eds., V nebe frontovom: Sbornik vospomimanii sovetskikh letchits-uchastnits Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny (Moscow, Soviet Union: Molodaia Gvardiia, 1962); revised 1971.

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  • Engel, Barbara Alpern. “The Womanly Face of War: Soviet Women Remember World War II.” In Women and War in the Twentieth Century: Enlisted with or without Consent. Edited by Nicole Ann Dombrowski, 138–159. New York: Garland, 1999.

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    This essay focuses on interviews with Vera Ivanovna Malakhova, a military physician.

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  • Noggle, Anne. A Dance with Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994.

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    Outstanding collection of interviews with veterans of aviation.

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  • Timofeeva-Egorova, Anna Aleksandrovna. Red Sky, Black Death: A Soviet Woman Pilot’s Memoir of the Eastern Front. Translated by Margarita Ponomaryova and Kim Green. Edited by Kim Green. Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2009.

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    This translation of the memoirs of a Hero of the Soviet Union who flew the IL-2 Shturmovik ground-attack aircraft in World War II is the first book-length memoir by a female Soviet pilot that was published in English. Timofeeva-Egorova’s memoir appeared in Russian in 1983 and again in 2007. Her experiences as a pilot and POW are a must-read. Edited translation of Derzhis’, Sestrenka! (Moscow, Soviet Union: Voenizdat, 1983).

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  • Zhukova, Iuliia K. Devushka so snaiperskoi vintovkoi: Vospominaniia vypusknitsy Tsentralnoi zhenskoi shkoly snaiperskoi podgotovki, 1944–1945. Moscow, Russia: Tsentrpoligraf, 2006.

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    Memoir by a graduate of the Central Women’s School for Sniper Training, whose 1,500 graduates accounted for 11,280 enemy troops killed by the end of the war.

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Postwar/Cold War

The military history of the postwar years has not been as thoroughly explored as the diplomatic and political aspects of that era. Zaloga 2002 and O’Neill 2002 provide brief but useful overviews of the strategic and conventional military forces respectively, whereas the essential Odom 1998 is the most thorough work on the military in the Cold War era as a whole. Naimark 1995 covers the immediate postwar effects of Red Army actions in occupied Germany, and Statiev 2010 examines little-known Soviet actions against anti-Soviet insurgent groups that continued from the war’s end well into the 1950s. Edele 2008 is an incisive review of the fate of veterans of the Great Patriotic War.

  • Edele, Mark. Soviet Veterans of the Second World War: A Popular Movement in an Authoritarian Society 1941–1991. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    A gritty examination of the experiences and hardships of Soviet veterans. Focuses on the reintegration of veterans into society after the war, war invalids, and former POWs.

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  • Naimark, Norman M. The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945–1949. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    Although this work largely focuses on political aspects of the four-and-a-half-year occupation, there is informative discussion of the adverse effects of army actions on the attempt to create popular support for a Communist state. Argues that Soviet soldiers raped as many as two million women in Germany.

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  • Odom, William E. The Collapse of the Soviet Military. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

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    The single most essential work to understand the degeneration of the Soviet military and the ways in which that degeneration contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union.

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  • O’Neill, Mark. “The Cold War on the Ground, 1945–1981.” In The Military History of the Soviet Union. Edited by Robin D. S. Higham and Frederick W. Kagan, 221–236. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Incisive overview and a good starting point for research.

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  • Statiev, Alexander. The Soviet Counterinsurgency in the Western Borderlands. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511730399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Statiev breaks new ground with his examination of Soviet counterinsurgency operations from 1944 to 1953. Paramilitary forces were raised primarily to combat armed resistance of various nationalist groups in tricky territories such as eastern Poland and the Baltic states. Based on archival research.

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  • Zaloga, Steven J. “Soviet/Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.” In The Military History of the Soviet Union. Edited by Robin D. S. Higham and Frederick W. Kagan, 199–220. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Brief but useful overview of the heart of the Cold War superpower arsenal: atomic weapons.

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Afghanistan

The experiences of the Red Army in Afghanistan and the American army in Vietnam are often compared, and with good reason; both involve asymmetrical warfare, counterinsurgency, and problems with morale. McMichael 2002 is a good, brief overview. Several journalists have provided excellent coverage of the experience of Soviet soldiers, including Alexiyevich 1992, Borovik 1990, and Feifer 2009. Liakhovskii 1995 offers a general officer’s point of view, including some documents. The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan is a key starting point for research, with its many excellent documents. Grau 1998 is a detailed Soviet perspective in the classic “lessons-learned” format, whereas Grau and Gress 2002 is a higher-level professional military analysis of the war. Researchers should combine the rather sanitized official views presented in Grau with journalistic accounts to get a full picture.

  • Alexiyevich, Svetlana. Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War. Translated by Julia Whitby and Robin Whitby. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.

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    Riveting interviews with infantry, pilots, and medics that reveal the experiences and morale of Soviet troops during the war in Afghanistan. Also includes interviews with widows and mothers of soldiers. The title refers to the zinc coffins used for the remains of soldiers killed in the war.

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  • Borovik, Artem. The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist’s Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990.

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    Borovik is a prominent journalist whose coverage is gritty, focusing on the Soviet soldier’s experience of war. Often compared to Michael Herr’s Dispatches (New York: Knopf, 1977), this would be a good book for classroom use.

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  • Feifer, Gregory. The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan. New York: Harper, 2009.

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    The strength of this journalistic work is its broad array of firsthand accounts of Soviet participants in the war in Afghanistan. The brutality of the war is obvious in the veterans’ tales of all kinds of unethical actions against civilians. The costs of the war for the veterans themselves also become clear.

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  • Grau, Lester W., ed. The Bear Went over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1998.

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    Documents from the Frunze Military Academy detailing military operations with commentary by the editor, himself a Vietnam veteran. Focuses on the operational level of activity. Six chapters cover blocking and destroying guerrilla forces, air assault tactics, operations in populated and urban areas, force protection, march and convoy security, and ambushes.

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  • Grau, Lester W., and Michael A. Gress. The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

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    The official view by the Russian General Staff details an army that was not trained or equipped to fight this war but attempted to transform itself and was increasingly successful by the mid-1980s. When the United States began providing Stinger missiles and financial incentives to the rebels, the Red Army lost ground.

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  • Liakhovskii, Aleksandr A. Tragediia i doblest’ Afgana. Moscow, Russia: GPI Iskona, 1995.

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    Study of the Afghan war by a General Staff officer and veteran of that war. Includes many important documents.

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  • McMichael, Scott R. “The Soviet-Afghan War.” In The Military History of the Soviet Union. Edited by Robin D. S. Higham and Frederick W. Kagan, 259–274. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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    Excellent overview. Examines Soviet overconfidence; problems with military leadership, especially at the tactical level; systemic social problems in the army; poor medical support; atrocities against Afghan fighters and civilians; and the inability of the Red Army to adapt fast or far enough.

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  • Savranskaya, Svetlana, ed. The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan: Russian Documents and Memoirs. National Security Archive.

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    An essential resource that summarizes the topic and includes links to many key documents, including minutes of Politburo discussions and KGB and military intelligence reports, all translated into English.

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Chechnya

Russia’s 200-year conflict with Chechnya tells us much about “little wars,” ethnic conflict, and Islamic-inspired insurgencies, and it has inspired an extensive literature, mostly about the two Chechen wars of 1994 and 1999. Evangelista 2002 is the best starting point. Gammer 2006 and Seely 2001 provide historical context. Oliker 2001 and Schaefer 2010 are the best sources for military aspects, and Thomas 2005 provides a tactical analysis. Gilligan 2009 stresses the effects on civilians, whereas Murphy 2010 focuses on the involvement of Chechen women in war.

  • Evangelista, Matthew. The Chechen Wars: Will Russia Go the Way of the Soviet Union? Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2002.

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    The single best overview of the two post–Soviet Chechen wars. Readable, concise, and good for classroom use. Focused more on political/diplomatic than on military aspects of the wars.

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  • Gammer, Moshe. The Lone Wolf and the Bear: Three Centuries of Chechen Defiance of Russian Rule. London: Hurst, 2006.

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    A good overview of Russian/Chechen interaction, from the early 18th century to the early 21st century. Gammer argues that Russia (and the Soviet Union) relied on force rather than diplomacy. Provides historical context with a focus on the long-standing cultural conflict.

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  • Gilligan, Emma. Terror in Chechnya: Russia and the Tragedy of Civilians in War. Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity Series. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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    Argues that the Russian military could have avoided many of the civilian casualties inflicted in Chechnya and that racism and nationalism accounted for much of the Russian army’s brutality.

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  • Murphy, Paul J. Allah’s Angels: Chechen Women in War. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010.

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    Fascinating and extensively researched study of the effects on, and participation of, women in the Chechen conflicts, including the role of female suicide bombers.

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  • Oliker, Olga. Russia’s Chechen Wars, 1994–2000: Lessons from Urban Combat. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001.

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    Concise overview by a RAND Corporation analyst of the military aspects of the wars, especially those involving urban areas. Covers Russia’s attacks on Grozny, citing failures in intelligence as a primary problem. Evaluates the attempts of a modern, well-equipped military force to take on insurgents, and argues that the Russian military did, at least partially, successfully adapt. Chapters available online.

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  • Schaefer, Robert W. The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International, 2010.

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    Military analysis by an army officer, focusing on insurgency and counterinsurgency strategies.

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  • Seely, Robert. Russo-Chechen Conflict, 1800–2000: A Deadly Embrace. Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2001.

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    Better on the post-Soviet aspect of the conflict than on the historical background. Highlights the surprisingly good performance of the Chechens in the 1990s and the perhaps less surprising inadequacies of the Russian military.

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  • Thomas, Timothy L. “Russian Tactical Lessons Learned Fighting Chechen Separatists.” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 18.4 (2005): 731–766.

    DOI: 10.1080/13518040500355015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful focus on the tactical military aspects of the war.

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Journalistic Accounts

Two female journalists provide the best coverage of this war. Nivat 2001 is notable for its “behind the lines” coverage. The actions of the Red Army and the Chechen separatists are seen as equally brutal, and the focus is on “collateral damage,” with civilians bearing the real cost of the conflict. Nivat 2001 and Politkovskaia 2001 are both essential sources.

  • Nivat, Anne. Chienne de guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.

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    Disguised as a Chechen woman, French reporter Nivat sent accounts from Chechnya at a time when journalists were officially banned from the area. Notable for the inclusion of a variety of perspectives, including those of the rebels and the Russian military. Her coverage of the brutal actions of kontraktniki (mercenaries) is compelling.

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  • Politkovskaia, Anna. A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya. Translated from Russian and edited by John Crowfoot. Introduction by Thomas de Waal. London: Harvill, 2001.

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    Continued in A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). Famed journalist Politkovskaia, who was murdered in 2006, wrote numerous articles about Chechnya, later collected into several books; two are available in English. She focuses on daily life amid extended war. Her own experiences (detentions, interrogations, beatings, and death threats) are as riveting as her reporting and reveal much about political sensitivities to the war.

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Post–Soviet Russia

The challenges to transformation of the post-Soviet military are substantial. Odom 1998 is still the best starting point. Barylski 1998 focuses on civil-military relations. Daucé and Sieca-Kozlowski 2006 offers a series of essays on one of the most serious institutional problems in the post-Soviet military, dedovshchina. Aldis and McDermott 2003; Webber and Mathers 2006; and Fitzgerald, et al. 2010 are all excellent collections of essays on a range of topics. Russian Series Publications provides up-to-date papers on current military topics.

  • Aldis, Anne, and Roger N. McDermott, eds. Russian Military Reform, 1992–2002. Cass Series on Soviet (Russian) Military Institutions 4. London: Cass, 2003.

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    Analysis of the first decade of change in the post-Soviet military. Excellent contributions by Jennifer Mathers, Jacob Kipp, and Christopher Donnelly, among others.

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  • Barylski, Robert V. The Soldier in Russian Politics: Duty, Dictatorship and Democracy under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1998.

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    Argues that the military leadership performed relatively well during the transition to a post-Soviet era, maintaining cohesion and avoiding political involvement despite intense economic and other pressures.

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  • Daucé, Françoise, and Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski, eds. Dedovshchina in the Post-Soviet Military: Hazing of Russian Army Conscripts in a Comparative Perspective. Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society 28. Stuttgart: Ibidem-Verlag, 2006.

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    This comparative study provides context for a major problem in the Soviet and post-Soviet military: dedovshchina, the institutionalized, hierarchical hazing and harassment of soldiers.

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  • Fitzgerald, Mary C., Stephen J. Blank, and Richard Weitz, eds. The Russian Military Today and Tomorrow: Essays in Memory of Mary Fitzgerald. Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2010.

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    The authors of these essays are a “who’s who” of experts on the post–Soviet/Russian military, and they cover such diverse topics as military reform, information warfare theory, and Russian-Chinese security relations. Available online.

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  • Odom, William E. The Collapse of the Soviet Military. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998.

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    The most important work on the decline of the Soviet military. Odom argues that the military was essential to the Soviet regime. The integration was such that Gorbachev’s reforms, designed to create a small, civilian-controlled professional army, could not be achieved without damage to the political system itself. The best overview to understanding the challenges still facing the post-Soviet military.

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  • Russian Series Publications. Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

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    Offers many useful, short papers on contemporary military subjects. Authors include well-known historians such as Stephen Blank.

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  • Webber, Stephen L., and Jennifer G. Mathers, eds. Military and Society in Post-Soviet Russia. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006.

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    Mathers’s excellent conclusion argues that practically every aspect of the relationship between society and the military in Russia is contested or under pressure.

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Casualties

The Soviet Union suffered more military casualties than any other state in the 20th century. Its casualties were generally proportionate to those of other major combatants until World War II. Several works deal specifically with these issues. Erickson 1994 is the best starting point for research, whereas Krivosheev 1997 is the bible on Soviet casualties. Clodfelter 2008 is a useful comparative reference work at the macro level, whereas Zetterling and Frankson 2000 is one example of a micro-level study of casualties in one battle. Parrish 2004 is a comprehensive resource on general officer casualties, whereas Maslov 1998 and Maslov 2001 provide a Russian perspective. Sella 1992 studies the policy and ethos behind the willingness to risk high casualties.

  • Clodfelter, Micheal. Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1494–2000. 3d ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.

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    A useful resource. Although the figures for the Eastern Front often differ from other sources, this provides a comparative dimension that is essential for context.

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  • Erickson, John. “Soviet War Losses: Calculations and Controversies.” In Barbarossa: The Axis and the Allies. Edited by John Erickson and David Dilks, 255–277. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1994.

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    An excellent overview of the issues in determining casualties in the Great Patriotic War.

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  • Krivosheev, G. F., ed. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. Translated by Christine Barnard. London: Greenhill, 1997.

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    This translation of Krivosheev’s 1993 book (revised in 2001) is one of a kind. Military casualties of all kinds are exhaustively detailed in four sections: Red Army losses during the Civil War, losses during the interwar period; losses during the Great Patriotic War; and losses from 1945 to 1989. John Erickson’s introduction evaluates the reliability of the data. Originally published as Grif sekretnosti sniat: Poteri Vooruzhennykh Sil SSSR v voinakh, boevykh deistviiakh i voennykh konfliktakh (Moscow, Russia: Voenizdat, 1993).

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  • Maslov, Aleksander A. Fallen Soviet Generals: Soviet General Officers Killed in Battle, 1941–1945. Translated and edited by David M. Glantz. Cass Series on Soviet (Russian) Military Institutions 1. London: Cass, 1998.

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    Based on extensive archival research, remains an excellent resource on casualties among the highest ranks of the Red Army. Continued in Maslov 2001.

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  • Maslov, Aleksander A. Captured Soviet Generals: The Fate of Soviet Generals Captured by the Germans, 1941–1945. Translated and edited by David M. Glantz and Harold S. Orenstein. Cass Series on Soviet (Russian) Military Institutions 2. London: Cass, 2001.

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    This companion title to Maslov 1998 is also an excellent resource on casualties among the highest ranks of the Red Army. The descriptions of the fates of the seventy-seven Soviet generals taken prisoner (sixty-eight in 1941 to 1942) are especially informative.

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  • Parrish, Michael. Sacrifice of the Generals: Soviet Senior Officer Losses, 1939–1953. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2004.

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    Brief biographies of some one thousand Soviet generals who died or were killed. Argues that Stalin killed more generals than did the Great Patriotic War. Despite the seemingly high casualties, German generals died at twice the rate of Red Army generals during the war.

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  • Sella, Amnon. The Value of Human Life in Soviet Warfare. London: Routledge, 1992.

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    Examination of the common perception that the Soviet Union embraced a strategy of combat through the willingness to sustain high casualties. Argues that the Soviet leadership did not heedlessly squander the lives of its soldiers.

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  • Zetterling, Niklas, and Anders Frankson. Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis. Cass Series on Soviet (Russian) Study of War 11. London: Cass, 2000.

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    An example of how casualty figures can be analyzed in a specific battle.

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Military Medicine and Psychiatry

No overall study of Russian or Soviet military medicine is available in English, and the studies that do exist are more narrowly focused, generally on World War II. Amosoff 1975 and Engel and Posadskaya-Vanderbeck 1998 provide firsthand accounts of Red Army medicine under fire during the Great Patriotic War. Conroy 2008 examines the kinds of medicines and vaccines that were available. Wanke 2005 is an excellent study of military psychiatry in the first half of the 20th century and is virtually the only study of its kind in English. Seniavskaia 1995 is an essential resource for interviews.

  • Amosoff, Nikolai Mikhailovich. PPG-2266: A Surgeon’s War. Translated and adapted by George St. George. Chicago: Regnery, 1975.

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    Compelling memoir of frontline medicine in the Red Army during World War II. Describes the challenging conditions, being constantly on the move, setting up hospitals in whatever tent or shack was available, the long days, and the poor supplies. Most interesting are the actual medical techniques and the search for improved treatment of gangrene.

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  • Conroy, Mary Schaeffer. Medicines for the Soviet Masses during World War II. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008.

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    Useful study that describes the medicines that were available and how they were produced and distributed; also covers homemade, popular medicines, which were widely used during the war.

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  • Engel, Barbara Alpern, and Anastasia Posadskaya-Vanderbeck, eds. A Revolution of Their Own: Voices of Women in Soviet History. Translated by Sona Stephan Hoisington. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1998.

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    The chapter titled “Four Years as a Frontline Physician” is based on interviews with a woman who served as a military doctor during the Great Patriotic War.

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  • Seniavskaia, Elena S. Frontovoe pokolenie: 1941–1945: Istoriko-psikhologicheskoe issledovanie. Moscow, Russia: Institut rossiiskoi istorii RAN, 1995.

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    Key study of historical psychology, widely cited. Includes extensive firsthand accounts.

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  • Wanke, Paul. Russian/Soviet Military Psychiatry, 1904–1945. Cass Series on the Soviet (Russian) Study of War 20. London: Cass, 2005.

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    Important and overlooked study of how the military viewed and treated psychiatric problems in the first half of the 20th century

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Women

Women have played a significant role in Russian and Soviet military history, serving in combat and support roles in virtually every military specialty, from machine gunners to scouts to fighter pilots. Tens of thousands participated in World War I and the Civil War; that number soared to the hundreds of thousands in World War II, then dropped precipitously in the postwar period. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the number of women has begun to rise again, albeit slowly. There is no good general history of women in Russian and Soviet military history in English; Ivanova 2002 is the best source in Russian. Griesse and Stites 1982 is the best brief overview, and Ivanova 1993 offers an interesting study of women who attended senior military schools.

  • Griesse, Anne Eliot, and Richard Stites. “Russia: Revolution and War.” In Female Soldiers—Combatants or Noncombatants? Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. Edited by Nancy Loring Goldman, 61–84. Contributions in Women’s Studies 33. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1982.

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    Excellent overview of women and the military. The best starting point for research and accessible for undergraduates and classroom use. Despite its age, stands up well.

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  • Ivanova, Iu. N. “Vypusknitsy voennykh akademii.” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal 8 (1993): 88–89.

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    Discusses the careers of a number of women who later became prominent in the Great Patriotic War; for example, Marina Raskova, who was a pilot, and A. P. Bogat, who served in the Russian Civil War and wrote some of the first studies of Russian military women.

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  • Ivanova, Iu. N. Khrabreishie iz prekrasnykh: Zhenshchiny Rossii v voinakh. Moscow, Russia: ROSSPEN, 2002.

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    Excellent review of women’s roles in Russian wars from the Crimean War (1853–1856) to the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945). Includes some fifty archival documents.

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19th Century and Earlier

No general works focus on women’s military roles in this time frame. Durova 1988 is the story of the best-known female soldier of the 19th century. Ivanova 1992 is a brief review of two other women who fought in disguise in the Napoleonic wars.

  • Durova, Nadezhda. The Cavalry Maiden: Journal of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars. Translated and edited by Mary Fleming Zirin. Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

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    Translation of Durova’s well-known 1839 memoir, Zapiski Aleksandrova (Durovoi): Dobavlenie k Devitse-kavalerist. The translator’s essay and notes add context to the story of a young woman who left her husband and child and joined the army in disguise, was promoted to officer rank, and was eventually recognized by the tsar for her service.

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  • Ivanova, Iu. N. “Zhenshchiny v istorii rossiiskoi armii.” Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal 3 (1992): 86–89.

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    At least two other women, much less known than Durova, also fought during the Napoleonic era. Captain Tatiana Markina was eventually discovered and forced to retire. Sasha Tikhomirova took on her dead brother’s name (Alexander) and identity and served for fifteen years until her death in 1807, when her identity was discovered posthumously.

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First World War and Civil War

Stoff 2006 is the definitive study on women soldiers in World War I; Stockdale 2004 is a useful article-length study. Bogat 1928 is an early study of women’s military roles during this period. Botchkareva 2009, Dadeshkeliani 1934, and Yurlova 2010 are firsthand accounts by female veterans. Ivanova 1992 covers women who received high military recognition.

Second World War

The Red Army, quite unintentionally, became the pinnacle of women’s military service during the Great Patriotic War, when about 800,000 women served in its ranks. Krylova 2010 is the only book-length study in English; Murmantseva 1974 and Galagan 1986 are the best starting points for those who read Russian. Conze and Fieseler 2000, Erickson 1993, Pennington 2010a, and Pennington 2010b provide article-length studies of women in combat and noncombat roles. Cardona and Markwick 2009 is a useful case study of one troubled rear-area brigade.

  • Cardona, Euridice Charon, and Roger D. Markwick. “‘Our Brigade Will Not Be Sent to the Front’: Soviet Women under Arms in the Great Fatherland War, 1941–45.” Russian Review 68.2 (2009): 240–262.

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    Examines a plan in 1943 to form fifty women’s volunteer rifle brigades; only one was created, which suffered serious problems. The mostly male leaders were accused of harassment. Some volunteers were told they would be going to the front and felt misled when relegated to rear-area guard duties. The unit was active for only six months in 1944.

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  • Conze, Susanne, and Beate Fieseler. “Soviet Women as Comrades-in-Arms: A Blind Spot in the History of the War.” In The People’s War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union. Edited by Robert W. Thurston and Bernd Bonwetsch, 211–234. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.

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    Brief overview of women’s military roles.

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  • Erickson, John. “Soviet Women at War.” In World War 2 and the Soviet People. Edited by John Garrard, Carol Garrard, and Stephen White, 50–76. New York: St. Martin’s, 1993.

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    Useful review of women’s military experiences.

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  • Galagan, Valentina Yakovlevna. Ratnyi podvig zhenshchin v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny. Kiev, Soviet Union: Vyscha shkola, 1986.

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    An academic study that provides citations for most of the information. Useful lists of sources and names. Covers many interesting women, such as E. S. Kostrikova (daughter of the assassinated Communist Party boss of Leningrad, Sergei Kirov), who commanded a tank detachment.

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  • Krylova, Anna. Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    A dense theoretical study argues that multivalent ideas about gender explain the mass employment of women in the Red Army. Provocative cultural and institutional history, but not for casual readers or undergraduates.

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  • Murmantseva, Vera Semenova. Sovetskie zhenshchiny v Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine 1941–1945. Moscow, Soviet Union: Mysl’, 1974.

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    Groundbreaking work by a Soviet academic author based on archival research, fully cited. Although written during the Soviet era, it is relatively free of rhetoric. This work is the foundation work cited by all other authors.

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  • Pennington, Reina. “Offensive Women: Women in Combat in the Red Army in the Second World War.” Journal of Military History 74.3 (2010a): 775–820.

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    Detailed analysis of the varied military roles played by women during the war.

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  • Pennington, Reina. “Our Women Know the Price of War and Peace.” In The Soviet Union at War, 1941–1945. Edited by David R. Stone. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword, 2010b.

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    Overview of both civilian and military women’s roles in wartime.

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After World War II

Women have been largely excluded from military roles after World War II. Mathers 2006 is one of the rare studies that trace the reasons for this.

  • Mathers, Jennifer G. “Women, Society and the Military: Women Soldiers in Post-Soviet Russia.” In Military and Society in Post-Soviet Russia. Edited by Stephen L. Webber and Jennifer G. Mathers, 207–227. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006.

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    Excellent study of women in the post-Soviet army.

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