Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 (Paperback)
A powerful, groundbreaking narrative of the ordinary Russian soldier's experience of the worst war in history, based on newly revealed sources.
Of the thirty million who fought in the eastern front of World War II, eight million died, driven forward in suicidal charges, shattered by German shells and tanks. They were the men and women of the Red Army, a ragtag mass of soldiers who confronted Europe's most lethal fighting force and by 1945 had defeated it. Sixty years have passed since their epic triumph, but the heart and mind of Ivan -- as the ordinary Russian soldier was called -- remain a mystery. We know something about hoe the soldiers died, but nearly nothing about how they lived, how they saw the world, or why they fought.
Drawing on previously closed military and secret police archives, interviews with veterans, and private letters and diaries, Catherine Merridale presents the first comprehensive history of the Soviet Union Army rank and file. She follows the soldiers from the shock of the German invasion to their costly triumph in Stalingrad, where life expectancy was often a mere twenty-four hours. Through the soldiers' eyes, we witness their victorious arrival in Berlin, where their rage and suffering exact an awful toll, and accompany them as they return home full of hope, only to be denied the new life they had been fighting to secure.
A tour de force of original research and a gripping history, Ivan's War reveals the singular mixture of courage, patriotism, anger, and fear that made it possible for these underfed, badly led troops to defeat the Nazi army. In the process Merridale restores to history the invisible millions who sacrificed the most to win the war.
"Catherine Merridale has picked the locks that kept this history hidden. . . . Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of the time.” —The Economist
“[A] breathtaking, sweeping, yet well-balanced and finely tuned study.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“With extraordinary patience and a wonderful ear for nuance . . . [Merridale] produces what may be the best historical portrait of life in the Red Army yet published.” —The New York Review of Books
“Combines, quite effectively, painstaking historical reconstruction and sympathetic projection.” —The New York Times
“[A] profoundly empathic work of history.” —Newsday
“An impressive work of history, managing to give a sense of the amazing hardships of the frontoviki's experience.” —The New York Sun
“Succeeds admirably in fashioning a compelling portrait, helped immensely by her talent as a writer.” —Foreign Affairs
“[Merridale] does a marvelous job. Ivan's War is full of the type of information that will make you find someone to tell.” —Richmond Times Dispatch
“This book is the raw and bleeding version . . . a tightly edited, well-paced and very readable account.” —The Seattle Times"
"Unprecedented in its approach, Catherine Merridale's research into the lives of Red Army soldiers combined with her perception makes this a most fascinating and important work.” —Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad
“Catherine Merridale has done something very unusual. The Soviet war effort has been described many times but her new book tells the searing story from the bottom up. Her account of the sufferings of the Red Army soldiers and their families is unlikely to be bettered.” —Robert Service, author of Stalin: A Biography
“Merridale's new book is excellent. This unique, strikingly original account of the Red Army in World War II is a first-rate social history as well as an important military study, and a stellar example of the combination of oral history with standard archival research. It makes the soldiers of the Red Army come alive.” —Stanley Payne, Hilldale-Jaume Vicens Vives Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Ivan's War is a marvelous book. All of Catherine Merridale's virtues are on display: remarkable research (based in this case on literally hundreds of interviews with survivors and witnesses); a clear, unpretentious style that belies the complexity of her material; comfortable historical command of a dauntingly large theme; and a rare compassion and empathy for her subjects. Ivan's War confirms what anyone who read Night of Stone already knew: that Catherine Merridale is a superb historian, among the very best of her generation.” —Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
“This is an inventively researched and evocatively written study of the Soviet soldier on the blood-ridden Eastern Front. Using freshly available archival materials, as well as sparkling interviews with a vanishing generation of veterans, Merridale has provided an empathetic and realistic portrait of the men and women who, more than any other combat soldiers, brought down the Third Reich.” —Norman M. Naimark , author of The Russians in Germany and Fires of Hatred