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The Russian Version of the Second World War, A Book Review

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by belasar, May 11, 2011.

  1. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    The Russian Version of the Second World War, Edited by Graham Lyons, Facts on File Publications, New York, 1976, 142 pages, 10 photos, Amazon Used, $6.00

    This slim volume is a translation of the histoy of WWII as it was taught to soviet school childern from about 1953 to the fall of communism in Russia. The text is a literal translation of school text as presented in classrooms. It is an interesting look into how the Soviet era government wished to present the subject of the Second World War to its children.

    At times this book will make an western reader boil in some of its assertions on how the war came about, how it was faught, and eventually won. In a nut shell the responcibility for the war lay primarily with Germany, and secodarily with the western Allies (Britain, France, Poland and the United States) The only honest player in these events was the Soviet Union, who never took by force anything not theirs and always strove to keep the peace. This despite the greed of Nazi Germany and the perfidity of the western allies who tried to manipulate a German attack on the USSR.

    According to the Soviet history, all credit for the defeat of Germany must be given to the USSR as the western allies always held back, and never faced any serious Axis opposition. No mention of the stuggle against the U-boats, or of the Strategic Bombing campaigns. The Allies only landed in France in June of '44 because it had become clear that the USSR would defeat Germany. Worse the Allies landed against ' No serious resistance' in Normandy.

    Nor did the allies liberate western Europe, the Communist led partisans did that. It was they, more than the combat troops of the Commonweath, United States, Free French and other allied that is responcable for the defeat of the German forces in the west.

    The Soviet history is not above using fuzzy numbers to support their arguments either. On page 11 the Soviet history states that the Franco-British armies in the west numbered 115 divisions as opposed to 23 German divisions holding the West Wall while Hitler invaded Poland. Later Skorzeny used an entire Parachute division to free Mussolini from captivity. All "Hitlerite' divisions are implied to be German when in reality the 50 or so allied divisions were in reality equal to a German brigade for combat puposes. The Soviet history tended to count German Divisions the way Hitler did as always at full strength, when in truth by late 1943 they were often well below full TOE.

    My review sounds critical I know, but I believe it is worth the read if in no other reason than to understand how that era is perceived by so many people in the former Soviet Union. I hope the the changes seen over the recent past has given an oppertunity for a more even handed history of the war

    BR-VI
     
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  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I didn't think you were critical enough.
     
  3. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    There is always more than one version of a history school book floating around...... My parents for example brought their school books with them in which mention is given to the battle for Atlantic, Normandy and even Lend Lease. With that said, you should not be too surprised as to what Soviet Era school books contained. ;)


    As to the 'no serious resistance in Normandy' I will state the following: The Russians faced an average of about 150 German divisions (the cream of the crop) everyday for 3 years, on the Western front the Allies (GB, Canada, France and the U.S.) faced an average of about 30 German Divisions (not cream of the crop) for about 9 months. While fighting gallantly against these never before seen numbers by the West, to a Russian (myself included), 30 divisions with no air support and outnumbered does not constitue 'serious resistence'.....

    No pun intended of course.



    P.S.

    How many divisions did the British and French Armies have in Western Europe when Germany invaded Poland?
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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  5. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Slava,

    The issue brought forth was not a commentary on the soldiers, but rather the political light in which the war itself was presented by the self-serving interests of the Communist Party. We can discuss a tit-for-tat counting of the forces involved, but that is not the contention. In this forum, you seek to make sure that the Russian (and other nationalities fighting under the Red Banner) get their due in the Western World and that is a good thing. Is it not also a good thing to make sure that the Western soldiers, sailors and airmen gets theirs in return in Russia and other areas of the former Warsaw Pact?

    As always...
     
  6. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5

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    Aye, indeed.
     
  7. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Good on you for reading it Belasar. I had a period at Uni where we were 'forced' to read Soviet era texts, and a lot of it, while often pretty turgid, was indeed quite enlightening on why certain themes rumble on, and can be so deeply ingrained.

    I thoroughly endorse reading stuff from the other side of the 'conventional' hill.
    It widens the perspective, as long as it's always perceived in the usual contexts of who, what, where how & why it was written.
    I went through a period a while back where I'd read anything and everything I could find that was written by deniers, neo-nazis (whatever that means... just 'nazis' will do), conspiracists and other loonies; it broadens the mind, strengthens ones own arguments against them, and often makes you laugh quite a lot.
    It also helps with identifying when someone is pretending to be something they're not in a given debate - certain quotes and an overall tone can suddenly seem familiar...

    It's perhaps also worth remembering that it's only comparatively recently that our own accessible historiography of the war in the East has improved. Pretty much since hostilities ended, and right up until the early 90s, the mainstream Western view of those events was largely founded on Cold War politics and interviews with German officers; a great deal of it had nothing to do with the reality, and you'll still find many that have failed to catch up with that shift in knowledge/information/objectivity.

    We all have our propaganda to bear.
    Of varying degrees, admittedly, but it is/was there, whatever side of the curtain you grew up on.

    ~A
     
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  8. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Ставка

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    Absolutely. During the Cold War neither side was very informed on the actions of the other. Civillians both in the Soviet Union and the West only knew what the Govt. told them. Soviet WW2 books written prior to 1990 are of no exception and fail to give the allied soldiers their due. Today these books are relics and are not taken seriously, in fact the book above almost sounds comical....

    I will say this though, having attended the U.S. schooling system from elementary till college, the U.S. school books which I was given to read were not much better. ;)


    Thank god for this forum! :D
     
  9. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Depending on what state, school district, and teacher you had contributed to the quality (good, fair, poor, miserable, pathetic, etc.) of information taught of course. But no matter what or how much was taught about WW2 in US schools, it was not the commie-fabricated propaganda spewed out of the book in question.

    Now don't get bent out of shape about the above statement. In no way shape or form does it or I imply that the Soviet Union embellished their participation in WW2, or that the sacrifices of the Red Army or the people were not significant. Quite the contrary actually, they bore the lion's share of the conflict without question. Without the Rooskies, the rest of us would play hell beating the Germans alone. It's just that their historians and their take on history that are being questioned here, not their true history.
     
  10. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I am led to disagree with the word "only". While US media outlets were often supportive of the US Gov't's goals and actions, they were not beholding to them. Daniel Ellsberg's published leaks are one prime example of the lack of control the White House or Congress had over the news services.
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    The best part of the Soviet version is that the turning point of the Pacific War in Soviet history is Stalingrad. Yep, when the Soviets won that battle the Japanese recoginzed that the Soviets would win the war against Germany and eventually attack them so they knew that the war was lost......
     
  12. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    I think a more accurate title would have been The Soviet Version of the Second World War.
     
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  13. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Sloniksp, the history does claim that 115 Franco-British divisions faced some 23 German ones during the invasion of Poland, how they got that number is a mystery to me. Your point about elementary/high school history has some merit. As I recall mine was American centric, and really covered only the highlights. Still it did offer some on non-american events and tended to give credit to the other players for their actions, such as Dunkirk, BoB, Leningrad/Moscow, Stalingrad and El Alemein.

    Now I must qualify this somewhat as I took every History, World History and Social Studies course offered to me. Also I was reading on my own from about age 10 on (not that I understood it all). So my memory may be clouded from time. I do recall a moment in High School when our teacher imparted a 'fact' that would be on a future test. I believed wrong and said so, in class. She was not impressed, so the next day I brought a book from the school libary that contridicted our school book. She replied that very well may be so, but if you want the question scored correct, then you should answer as the school book says. I would like to say I took a principled stand on the matter, but my History "A's" helped balance my Math "C's", so I did what the 'Man' told me to.
     
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