The story of the invasion of Moscow, told through its people.
Fought over a territory the size of France, the Battle of Moscow in 1941 cost the Russians as many casualties as the British lost in WW1. It marked the first strategic defeat of the Wehrmacht and halted their seemingly unstoppable advance across Europe. This is the story of that battle - and the ordinary men and women who fought it.
Based on huge research and scores of interviews, this book offers an unforgettable and richly illustrated narrative of the military action that took place in Moscow during 1941. It paints telling portraits of Stalin and his generals: some apparatchiks, some great commanders. It also traces the individual stories of soldiers, politicians and intellectuals, writers and artists and dancers, workers, schoolchildren and peasants.
Putin's invocations in contemporary propaganda shows that the Great Patriotic War remains highly emotional for Russia, and many former Socialist Republics. Many of these countries must grapple with troubling legacies behind the appalling cost of victory - from the role of Stalin to the complicity of collaborationist forces from the occupied USSR in atrocities both behind the front line and the rapid Nazi advance.
In 1941, Moscow was ruled by Stalin and besieged by Hitler's armies, so it teemed with disagreeable characters, tragic events and a great deal of unrewarded heroism. Although the siege was a miserable experience for Muscovites, readers will enjoy reading about it. Braithwaite (Russia in Europe) was British ambassador from 1988 to 1992, so he clearly knows Russia. Early 1941 was a modestly hopeful time: a short-llived decrease in arrests after the massive purges of the '30s coincided with an increase in food in the stores. The official press had lavished praise on the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Friendship Pact, but by spring 1941 many Soviet leaders had seen enough evidence to convince them of an imminent German invasion. But the paranoid Stalin suspected an Allied plot to take the pressure off Britain, so Hitler's June 22 attack devastated Russia's unprepared troops. By autumn, Wermacht armies were threatening the capital, leading to the greatest battle in history, with more than 900,000 Russian deaths more than all WWII British and American casualties combined. Most accounts emphasize the fighting, but Braithwaite mixes interviews, diaries, memoirs and letters to portray the reactions of dozens of individuals to that catastrophic year. This is an absorbing contribution to what he considers WWII's turning point.