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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

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  2,256 Ratings  ·  117 Reviews
They died in vast numbers, eight million men and women driven forward in suicidal charges, shattered by German shells and tanks. They were the soldiers of the Red Army, an exhausted mass of recruits who confronted Europe's most lethal fighting force and by 1945 had defeated it. For sixty years, their experiences were suppressed, replaced by patriotic propaganda. We know h
Paperback, 462 pages
Published January 23rd 2006 by Picador (first published 2005)
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The story of the Soviet war experience from the ground up as recorded through dozens of interviews with octogenarian veterans has a distinctly polycephalic feel to it. The passage of time has left Catherine Merridale with a drop out of an ocean’s worth of stories, but by the time you turn the last page it will become clear why this is for the best. It was not only dangerous to testify against the authorized tale of the war, it often became simply inconceivable for the survivors to recount those ...more
Dec 03, 2012 Mariel rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2016 Scott rated it really liked it
Before reading Ivan’s War I thought I knew a bit about how tough life in the Red Army could be. I’ve read Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad, and watched Jude Law run into the same city on screen, armed only with a handful of bullets and his steely desire to become an A-list action hero. As I knew it, Russian soldiers fought hard, died in droves and existed as cogs in a callous engine of destruction that chewed them up for fuel. This was all true, but by the time I had finished this book I realised I ha ...more
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
Christopher Rex
Oct 27, 2011 Christopher Rex rated it really liked it
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
Mikey B.
Feb 01, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 02, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Shelves: soviet-history
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.
'Aussie Rick'
Aug 11, 2011 'Aussie Rick' rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2
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.
Jul 15, 2008 Graham added it
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
Jan 01, 2017 Michael rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Russian historians, history students, World War II buffs
Recommended to Michael by: Chad Bryant
This is a book that demonstrates that good scholarship and accessible writing and human interest are in no way mutually exclusive. Merridale has thoroughly researched and documented her subject, yet has also been able to write a compelling book that should appeal to and inform the average reader. It is directly comparable to the work of Cornelius Ryan in “The Longest Day,” only better, because it is better researched and addresses a topic most English-speaking readers are unfamiliar with: the da ...more
Juan Hidalgo
Jan 20, 2015 Juan Hidalgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
Aunque mucho se ha escrito sobre la IIGM y sobre todos sus aspectos y contendientes, siempre hay algo nuevo que descubrir en relación con ese terrible acontecimiento. En este caso se trata de las peculiaridades del Ejército Rojo, cuyas batallas se contaban como carnicerías por la cantidad de bajas que recibía, pero que, sin embargo, supo mejorar y reorganizarse durante la contienda, acabando por dar un giro radical a la guerra.

El libro está muy documentado y de él se puede obtener toda una lista
Jul 25, 2016 Olethros rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-Muy interesante aunque hay peros.-

Género. Historia.

Lo que nos cuenta. Acercamiento al soldado soviético durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial (recurriendo a momentos anteriores para explicar unas cuantas cosas importantes), a sus vivencias, costumbres, tácticas, organización y mil aspectos más, desarrollado en paralelo al transcurso de la propia guerra.

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Apr 27, 2011 Leo rated it did not like it
Horrible, I could not get past the propaganda.
Jun 13, 2011 Becca-Rawr rated it really liked it
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
Chris Brown
Mar 20, 2011 Chris Brown rated it it was ok
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
Aug 22, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
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
Jan 11, 2011 John rated it really liked it
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
Apr 08, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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
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

Bálint Pál
Feb 11, 2016 Bálint Pál rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not a well written piece. Forced myself to 50% on a Kindle version and then skipped to the last chapter. While the author did a great amount of research in archives and conducted many oral interviews with veterans, she ultimately failed to create an enjoyable and interesting writing from these sources. I feel like she tried to grasp too many things at once, not going into details where she should have and basically repeating herself where she shouldn't have. She used many excerpts from letters b ...more
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
Nov 16, 2015 Martin rated it really liked it
Really a great book for the avid WWII enthusiast or the piker... Goes behind the myths to get at the real sordid story of the Red Army in WWII. She's pretty ruthless about exposing what an insane thing the Soviet Army was... and their changing doctrines and purges. And then how they changed in the fire of the Great Patriotic War....
Mar 23, 2008 Jon rated it it was amazing

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.
Milton Soong
Jul 25, 2011 Milton Soong rated it it was ok
Did not make it through. The author's style is very chatty and verbose and it really got in the way of the history...
Oct 17, 2007 Jeff rated it really liked it
An excellent portrayal of the Soviet experience in World War II. Exposes the contradictions and secret shames of the "Great Patriotic War."
Sep 08, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war, wwii, nonfiction
A terrifying view of the average Red Army soldier in the largest and most brutal land conflict in human history.
Oct 24, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, wwii
This is an excellently researched text on the realities that the average Russian soldier faced as he confronted the German occupation and eventually the offensive against Germany that brought the end to the War in the European Theater. The Russian losses were astounding, some 8.5 million military dead, part of the total Russian war dead, which were mostly civilian of well over 27,000,000.
Stalin actually feared the enemy within more than any enemy from other nations. Brutally even when short of m
Oct 29, 2016 Liping rated it did not like it
I forced myself to finish reading this book. Several times I wondered if I was wasting my time. First, this book is not well written. The content is shallow. Second, the author gave a very biased account, probably out of her hatred of all things Soviet. I would estimate 80% of the book talk negatively about the Red Army and the rest is neutral. The book hardly mentions anything positive about the Red Army. I’m not saying that the Red Army is perfect (far from it), but the author’s biased opinion ...more
Ilya Slavutskiy
Oct 29, 2016 Ilya Slavutskiy rated it it was ok
Horrible book. Not enough context provided for almost anything. Incredibly shallow and rushed. Doesn't do the Red Army soldier justice at all. The section on the mass rapes committed by the red army and the section on superstition, song and poetry are the only decent parts of the book. The intro and conclusion are also much better than the actual meat of the book. Sometimes felt like I was reading a 400-page long Wikipedia article.
Nov 30, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a devastating book. It seems so trite to point it out, but a history of the Red Army during the Second World War makes incredibly depressing reading. ‘Ivan’s War’ covers a litany of disasters, cruelties, and mistakes inflicted on the Red Army, some by their commanders and some by their enemies. As well as documentary evidence, the book includes interviews with the rare surviving veterans. These interviews seem to demonstrate that carrying on after such extreme, traumatic experience requires ...more
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“The gentleness, the sentimentality, of many Soviet troops toward small children in Prussia was noted at the time. A woman with a baby, local people learned, was practically immune to rape. But even sentimental troops, the men who kept their pockets full of sweets for hungry German kids, worried about their families back home. It was a long time since any had seen their children.” 0 likes
“The men knew that their own conduct was turning brutal. “I have to say that the war has changed me a lot,” Aronov wrote. “War does not make people tender. On the contrary, it makes them reserved, rather coarse, and very cruel. That’s a fact.”4” 0 likes
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