Book Review: Why Stalin's Soldiers Fought: The Red Army's Military Effectiveness in World War II


by Roger R. Reese

Lawrence, Ks.: University Press of Kansas, 2011. Pp. xxii, 386. Illus., map, notes, biblio., index. $37.50. ISBN: 0700617760

Prof. Reese (Texas A&M) gives us a new and different look at the roots of the success of the Red Army in the “Great Patriotic War”. 

In writing Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought, Reese drew upon an enormous amount of previously unavailable documentary material and an extensive body of interviews, letters, diaries, and memoirs by veterans, both made available largely due to the end of the Soviet Regime.   Ultimately, he makes five six points: although not as militarily proficient as the Wehrmacht, the Red Army grew to become an effective fighting force; Soviet morale fluctuated, due to a variety of factors, but tended to rise as the war went on; a broad variety of factors influenced the troops’ motivation varied greatly; state use of coercion was not as important has been assumed;
and that Soviet patriotism was very real, but meant different things to different people.  Each of these themes is examined at some length, as Reese takes the story of the Red Army through the war, from Finland in 1939-1940 to Berlin in 1945.  Along the way he also gives us some interesting looks at the motivations and experiences of women in military service, the evolution of a “carrot and stick” policy toward troop management, and much more, including valuable comparisons with other armies.

A volume in the excellent UPK series “Modern War Studies,” Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought is a ground-breaking study and essential reading for students of the Eastern Front and useful for anyone interested in soldiers at war.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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