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Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945
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Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  1,523 ratings  ·  89 reviews
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, 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 leth
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ebook, 480 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

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Mariel
Dec 03, 2012 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: it's the monsters
Recommended to Mariel by: it's the blood
Red army, white death. I want a daughter with lips as red as blood. I want a son with translucent skin view-finding the reals of my backyard. The frozen over graveyard. Mother Russia ran into a door knob when the Fatherland had too much to drink and said let's conquer our neighbors today, tomorrow the world. The deserters walked off with the door. The only knobs with issued guns shot the deserters. There was a fairytale about Ivan, the Russian soldier with a stout heart. War as anatomically corr ...more
Tamara
Most books about WW2 at some point include a description of the Red Army as it sweeps westward across Europe. These tend towards the exotic - much mention of cossacks with whips, shaggy ponies pulling sleds side by side with tanks, etc. This one is almost totally - and refreshingly - devoid of that kind of thing. Which isn't to say the Red Army wasn't brutal and weird, but Merridale focuses on experiences that seem to have been the norm, in as much as there was any. There's a broad social contex ...more
Mikey B.
This book is an astounding examination of the Red Army during World War II.

Ms. Merridale examines the prelude: the purges of the officer corps in the late 1930’s, the invasion of Poland and the attack on Finland. She examines in detail the disastrous first years of the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union. She bases many of her findings on the now newly opened archives and interviews with surviving veterans. But she does not stop there, and realizes the limitations of these; veterans and letters hom
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Graham
Great social history of the Red Army: This is a very well-written book about the people who fought in the Red Army and not a military history of that Army and its campaigns. As anyone who has ever spoken to fathers and uncles about WW2 knows, it is very difficult to get these men to open up. The author makes clear that the problem is even greater for members of the Red Army. Nevertheless, she did get real stories from the frontoviki and she weaves their stories beautifully into this terrific his ...more
John
The mind reels at the fathomless suffering of the foot soldier in the Soviet army during WWII as well as their capacity to survive any hardship - short of murder - and privation - short of death by starvation - that man can devise. It added immensely to the understanding that I am developing of the nearly boundless suffering that the Soviet people endured from the Bolshevik Rev through the death of Stalin. Unimaginable.
Michael Dorosh
Excellent book; not sure what Bryan Cross was complaining about - Catherine Merridale wasn't in the Red Army so it is unfair to criticize her for not telling the story from the point of view of a Russian veteran. As a researcher, this book was an excellent resource and reference; it's the reader's responsibility going into the book to know what they're getting into. Reviews like this help with that process. And if you're looking for "The Forgotten Soldier" from the perspective of the Soviet side ...more
Christopher Rex
This is (yet another) of those "it might not be for everybody" books. In fact, I imagine those who don't care for history might find it "dull". Personally, I found it fascinating. An essential addition to any WWII buff's reading-list. If you know anything about WWII & the USSR it is usually thru sterilized US-based history (which often over-glorifies D-Day and minimalizes the USSR role) or it is thru the "traditional" USSR lens of the Patriotic War filled w/ heroic, selfless sacrifice for th ...more
Becca-Rawr
For those of us who are true history buffs and love a few hours of reading a thick and juicy non-fiction volume, this book is not only a treat but something I hope all World War II buffs will get their hands on.

When it comes to the second world war, we’re all rather associated with the European front in terms of the British, American, and German forces. Rarely do we get a sufficient peek in on the Russian soldiers, and if we do it’s almost never about their lives during the war. Through Catherin
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Sarah
Like many others, I've come to realize my teaching in history was lacking, particularly when it came to Russia's role in the Second World War, or as they know it, the Great Patriotic War. American schools show pictures of Normandy on D-Day, but give the barest mention to the millions of lives lost by the Soviet Union in fending off the Nazi menace. Stalingrad, Leningrad, Kursk, Orel, Operation Bagration...none of these places meant anything to me until I really began to study on my own, to see w ...more
John
Really interesting, especially if you have read anything about the experiences of American soldiers in WWII. I know that war was awful for everyone, but it really seems to have been amazingly awful for Russian soldiers. Wrapping one's head around Soviet casualties is really hard; the US lost less than half a million soldiers, while the Soviets lost over 8 million soldiers. Mere days of fighting regularly killed tens of thousands. It's just mind-boggling. And the Americans were fighting for a cou ...more
Brian
I've seen and read a lot about WWII from the US perspective, but didn't know much about the Soviet experience. When I lived in Russia, each city - no matter the size - had a WWII monument of considerable grandeur. A few Russians even tried to convince me that they won the war, an idea I thought ludicrous at the time. After reading about the national sacrifice of the USSR to win the war, in terms of lives alone, I no longer find the idea ludicrous.
One of my favorite moments of the book is an eco
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Bookmarks Magazine

Doing research in the Soviet archives seems like a trying task, but critics revere the work Catherine Merridale did to prepare Ivan's War. The professor from Queen Mary, University of London, conducted over 200 interviews with Soviet veterans and visited major battle sites, but the most enlightening information came from tireless vetting of diaries, transcripts, and officers' reports. That Merridale can plait all this information into "an attempt to fathom war's meaning, effect and legacy" (Fore

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Heather
I'm a WWII buff, but was more motivated to read this book from the standpoint of having had a very close, dear friend who was drafted (along with the rest of his first year university class) into the Red Army for the Finnish campaign, wounded twice in WWII, and had mentioned some / but never much detail about his own experiences during the war. I'd also spent quite some time as a student in Kharkov, which was occupied twice. This personal connection to the Russian front is what attracted me to t ...more
Rob
This book was so long overdue. Using archival material that was only recently made available in 2000 and interviews with surviving veterans, Ms. Merridale tells the complicated, horrific and misunderstood story of the Eastern Front as experienced by the Soviet soldier.

The Eastern theater is well covered from the perspective of military science, but this is the first and best attempt at a Stephen Ambrose-styled personalized view of the war. Admittedly, this brings along some of the baggage of Am
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Baris
As somewhat of a geek of Red Army during in Second World War, I enjoyed reading this book. Beyond the official "hero" narrative of Soviet Union/ Russia, Merridale provides good account for the experiences of ordinary Soviet soldiers; their suffering, fear, exhaustion, depression and sense of duty during so-called Great Patriotic War.
I particularly liked her explanation for the vengeful violence against the German women at the end of War; and the moral responsibility of Soviet propaganda machine
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Jon

A Russian grunts view of the Second World War. With all the hoopla
around Ken Burns series and "The Greatest Generation", reading this book will be a salutary corrective to the notion that the US military defeated Hitler.

At the cost of staggering losses of life, the Red Army pushed the Nazis out of Russia under condtitions that are just unimaginable today.
'Aussie Rick'
In this book the author attempts to look at the life of the Russian soldier of WW2 fame – ‘Ivan’. We get to see the Russian soldier fighting his way from the terrible early days of 1941 to the end of the war, not a pretty sight! The author uses numerous first-hand accounts to tell her story, overall not a bad book if you’re interested in the subject.
Jeff
An excellent portrayal of the Soviet experience in World War II. Exposes the contradictions and secret shames of the "Great Patriotic War."
Paragoalie
Horrible, I could not get past the propaganda.
Brian Bae
To honor and relive the stories of the men and women, both warrior and civilian, that took part in the greatest conflict in modern history are quite possible, even perhaps a largely painless exercise, due to the many accessible first-person-POV accounts that exist in the world's literary archives.. unless your professor assigns a midterm paper that must explore, dissect, and elaborate the experiences of Soviet soldiers during World War 2.

This book was a lifesaver in an academic aspect; the sheer
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Jenna
Sep 09, 2013 Jenna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hey, if you think you can do it.
Recommended to Jenna by: anonymous youtube commenter on a Sabaton Video
Ah, what shock! To think that my all time favorite History book was sitting on my virtual shelf un rated and un reviewed, wondering if it will ever get a chance to have its wonders praised to the community of Goodreads, fret not! For I, *refuses to say full name*, have arrived!

Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood.

So, as I've mentioned this is one of my all time favorite history books and the thing that makes this so remarkable is that it's not written through the Soviet lens, if you will. You
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Chris Brown
Based on the author's interviews with actual participants of the Great Partiotic War.

I'm glad I read Ivan's War, it provides some insight into life on the Eastern Front during the Second World War. But only a very shallow insight. It becomes very apparent that the author might not have an historical background, she also seems to have very little understanding of (or interest in) the war or military history. If Merridale were more knowledgable she might have produced an product similar to Stephen
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Adam
Nov 06, 2008 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: American war buffs
This is a book of enormous promise. Accessing a bunch of newly-unearthed primary source material in Russia, Merridale explores the experiences of the Red Army in the Second World War. To a considerable degree, she is able to use this to get behind and beyond the enormous mythologies that impede understanding of Russia's 'Great Patriotic War' even in the present. And her interviews with surviving veterans are remarkable, a joy to read. But sometimes Merridale gets caught up in the standard tropes ...more
Devon
Plenty of reviewers have noted that this book is not “objective” and not based enough on “hard facts.” Perhaps that’s because the book is mostly based on the interviews and letters of Red Army soldiers – men who are so scarred by the war, and being immersed in Red Army propaganda, that they can hardly remember things as they actually happened, but only as the USSR told them they happened. I thought Merridale did a wonderful job sifting through each soldier’s account and balancing it with the ver ...more
Marks54
My daughter recommended this book to me. She was reading it for a course in 20th century Russian history. It makes use of recently opened Soviet archives (and other national sources) to tell the story of regular soldiers fighting the Germans in WWII. I have long been a fan of history from this war, but there has been little until recently about the experience of actual soldiers, at least little comparable to the histories of US forces after Normandy (numerous books by Stephen Ambrose). The resul ...more
Colin Guy
This is a really engrossing book which addresses not only Russias role in WW2 and Operation Barbarossa, but the life and times of the typical Russian of this era. It is not an examination of war in the sense that it relies heavily on dates and events of the campaign (though all relevant details are presented accurately) but more of a humanistic look at the simple soldier and his environment. It strives to seek answers to such questions as how could a normal man be drafted to fight against an ene ...more
Jim Good
Book covers the Russian experience in World War II against Germany in detail.Includes descriptions of life at the front, political indoctrination, and changes as the Russian effort evolved first from initial defeats at German hands to final victory and occupation. The descriptions Are very hostile to communist dictatorships and some of the results attributed to that would be found in any war vetrin from any county (disallussion, dehumanized enemy, feelings of lack of voice and respect on returni ...more
James
A look at the life of everyday soldiers in the Red Army from the disastrous Nazi invasion in 1941 to the carnage-filled march into Berlin in 1945. Ivan's War avoids detailed descriptions of battles, instead focusing on the experiences and sentiments of Soviet soldiers during a time of great upheaval that resulted in a complete overhaul of the Red Army while it was fighting. The later chapters (about the march west and demobilization after the war) are the best and most interesting.

On the Eastern
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Tomi
This is an excellent, very readable book about the average Russian soldier in WWII. It explains why the soldiers fought and what their lives were like during the war. Merridale is a very good writer. With the events occurring now in Ukraine and the Crimea, this is a very timely read. If we could just learn from history..
Marianne
Here in the states all I knew of the Soviet Union during WW2 was a passing comment by my dear Grandmother that The Soviet Union was "just devastated by that war". Ivan's War outlines that devastation. The Red Army and Soviet citizens generally lacked food,clothing, as well as proper equipment to work farms or win in the battle field. They were attacked not only by Nazis but Stalin. When the finally entered enemy territory they let loose their battle stress on citizens gruesome ways.
Catherine
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