A recent issue of World War II included a list of recommended books from investment screamer Jim Cramer.  One title, Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War 1941-1945 got Mr Cramer's endorsement as "The best-researched book yet to come out about where the war was truly won."  It is well, and thoroughly, researched.  It is also well organised and relatively short, two features contributing to a favourable Book Review No. 23.  The Great Patriotic War, to use the Soviet term, or the Ostfront, as the Germans had it, involved millions of men and numerous skirmishes as part of or in preparation for or incidental to the major set-piece battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk that get much of the attention.  It's thus easy to produce excessively complicated histories with lots of maps and units and minutiae.  Author Evan Mawdsley resists that temptation: for example, the description of the opening phases of Operation Babarossa occupy 32 pages and it might be possible to read them in less time than the opening movement of the Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony requires.  The author also suggests that Stalingrad and Kursk are not necessarily the pivotal events of the 1942 and 1943 campaigns: the outcome might have actually been determined or avoided by command decisions earlier in the campaign seasons.  By the end of 1944, however, the Soviets had organized their forces in such a way that campaign season lasted all year.  What intrigues, though, is the possibility Professor Mawdsley suggests of the successful Soviet war effort confirming the Stalinist model of political organization as something to be continued after the war ended.  (The Germans, Italians, and Japanese had to develop new models.)  Stalinist rigidities, combined with Russian nationalism, ultimately undid the Soviet Union.  Whether the end of the Great Depression coming with the end of World War II for the United States similarly ossified the New Industrial State and the Vital Progressive Center remains as a topic for future research.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

No comments: