Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Review of "Russia Besieged," by Nicholas Bethel


Review of

Russia Besieged, by Nicholas Bethel

Five out of five stars

 As a two-time traveler to the lands of the former Soviet Union, I can attest to the lingering memory of what the Soviets call “The Great Patriotic War.” Most elderly men walked around with medals on their outer garments and there are war armaments and memorials in many places to commemorate the titanic struggle that took place in Eastern Europe between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It is truly the case that compared to what took place in Eastern Europe, all other fronts were sideshows.

 The amount of death and destruction that took place in the Soviet Union is still staggering to contemplate. The best estimates of the total deaths is 24 million, more than one-quarter of all the people killed and the economic destruction was horrific. Both sides carried out a scorched-Earth policy, so the land in the Soviet Union that was fought over was razed twice within a few years.

 This book is primarily a photo documentary of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union in the years where there was doubt as to the victor. The initial welcoming of the invaders is covered, for many Ukrainians thought that the Germans had to be better than the Stalinists. That quickly changed as the death squads did their work and the war became about defending “Mother Russia” rather than the battle between political ideologies.

 It is an excellent primer on the war, showing the citizens that formed the Red Army for what they were. Enormously patriotic people that willingly risked death in order to defeat a brutal and hated invader.

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