Several months back, Dave Stone drew attention to the new website, 1941-1945: Chronicle of Victory, recently established by the Russian Ministry of Mass Communications “for the purpose of providing objective information about the Great Patriotic War.” [natch]
The MinMassComm isn’t the only Russian state agency sponsoring a site devoted to the War. The Ministry of Defense also has one of its own. Titled “Feat of the People,” this new(ish) site aims: “to perpetuate the memory of all the Wars’ heroes – irrespective of rank, scale of exploit, or award status; to educate youth concerning the military valor of their forefathers; and to provide a documentary base for counteracting attempts the falsification of World War II history” by creating a digital database of the 30 million military awards given out during the conflict together with archival documents relating to wartime military operations.
As with the “Chronicle of Victory,” non-Russian speakers are a bit out of luck. Although an “English” button is available on the site, it only translates the site’s anchor page and navigational bar.
Although there’s no shortage of books and monographs devoted to the history of the Eastern Front during the Second World War, readers interested in supplementing their personal libraries with documentary collections have been hard-pressed to find accessible and affordable volumes.
Fortunately, this situation is about to change. Late next month, Routledge publishers will make its 2009 release The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945: A Documentary Reader by Alexander Hill (Associate Professor of Military History, University of Calgary) available in a handy paperback edition.
Hill’s edited volume contains documents covering wide-ranging aspects of the Soviet military experience: from pre-War diplomacy and preparations, through the debacle of 1941, to the Fall of Berlin and invasion of Manchuria. Separate chapters covering the Siege of Leningrad, Lend-Lease and the Economy, and the Partisan movement round out the volume. The collection is accompanied by Hill’s expert commentary and suggestions for further readings.
The book is an ideal supplement for individuals interested in the documentary history the Soviet war effort. And it makes a terrific companion text for courses devoted to the Second World War.
To pre-order your copy directly from Routledge, just click on the link above.
Turns out the Russian government’s fight against historical falsification has some good sides as well. The site runivers.ru (all material in Russian) has a truly amazing collection of scanned historical works. Interlibrary loan offices throughout the country will give thanks for everything that’s now available digitally. It starts with the standard great works of Russian-language historiography (Karamzin, Soloviev, Kliuchevskii), extends to three major pre-revolutionary military encyclopedias, and includes a host of 19th century military histories.
My only quibble is that the works are overwhelmingly pre-1917, which reduces the site’s usefulness to me personally. Nonetheless, there are a few post-revolutionary publications. I was delighted to see, for example, the Red Army’s seven-volume Strategicheskii ocherk of World War I. I weep for the trees I killed a couple of years ago making copies of what’s now available online. Likewise, there’s A. A. Svechin’s Evoliutsiia voennogo iskusstva, which will immediately handy.
For a site that seems inspired by the anti-falsification campaign, there’s remarkably little on the things that have preoccupied the Putin-Medvedev regime. Those fall under the site’s category “historical themes.” The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact page, say, has some standard documents (text of the Pact and the secret protocol) but nothing at first glance that seeks to whitewash Stalin. The Katyn section likewise recognizes Soviet responsibility for the massacre and the clear evidentiary trail.
A couple of drawbacks from a technical point of view–the site loads slowly. Full functionality seems to require the use of a DejaVu plugin, which I could not make function on my Mac system. Nonetheless, I was still able to get to everything I wanted to see.
My imperial Russian comrades should bookmark this site and visit often.
Thanks to colleagues at the Command and General Staff College for pointing me to this video on Mikhail Nikolaevich Tukhachevskii. The historical commentary is OK, though its list of Tukhachevskii’s feats omits his disastrous defeat before Warsaw in the 1920 Russo-Polish War.
Its real value is in the archival footage of Tukhachevskii, including an excerpt from an actual speech. The vignettes are somewhat datable. The budyonovka peaked cap (which looks strikingly like the German pikelhaube spiked helmet in several of these shots) is earlier–Civil War era and the early 1920s. You can also note the rank insignia on Tukhachevskii’s collar–in late 1935, Tukhachevskii and four others (Voroshilov, Budyonny, Bliukher, and Egorov) were made Marshals of the Soviet Union, with a single star. Before that, he had four diamonds.
There’s also some very nice shots of other leading Red Army commanders of the time:
Ian Alksnis, key figure in the development of the Soviet air force (2:43)
Vasilii Bliukher, who fought the Japanese at Lake Khasan (2:51–far right)
Semyon Budyonny, cavalry hero and namesake of the budyonovka peaked cap (2:51–with mustache)
Aleksandr Egorov, Chief of the General Staff 1931-1935 (1:39–on right)
Ieronym Uborevich, ninety-eight pounds soaking wet, whom Georgii Zhukov called the most military man he ever met (2:46)
Kliment Voroshilov, Stalin’s lackey and dim-witted long-time head of the Red Army (2:09)
plus non-military figures like
Sergo Ordzhonikidze, industry tsar (2:34)
Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s right hand man and World War II foreign minister, who appears with Tukhachevskii while both are in civilian clothes (3:06)
No Stalin, though.
Of these, Alksnis, Bliukher, Egorov, and Uborevich died in the purges; Ordzhonikidze committed suicide.
As the only English-language print journal devoted to Russian & East European military history and defense issues, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies (JSMS) is an essential and highly regarded resource for professional scholars and graduate students. Despite its status as a peer-reviewed academic publication, JSMS has a great deal to offer non-academics as well.
The Journal features readable articles on topics relating to war, diplomacy, and espionage; authoritative reviews of related scholarly and trade books; discussions of works- and research-in-progress; and historically informed analysis of contemporary developments as well as translations of recently released archival documents otherwise unavailable in English.
The Journal’s editors (whose numbers include more than a few “Frontoviki“) are hardly constrained by conventional academic models. They encourage North American and European scholars at all stages of their careers to contribute articles, notes, and related items for consideration of publication. Whether you are a senior scholar, young graduate student, or lay reader interested in the military history of Eastern Europe and the lands of the former Soviet Union, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies should be considered “must” reading.
For more information on JSMS (including recent Tables of Contents and instructions on subscribing) stop by the Journal’s official website.