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Publisher's Summary

In 1941, Russian-born British journalist Alexander Werth observed the unfolding of the Soviet-German conflict with his own eyes. What followed was the widely acclaimed book, Russia at War, first printed in 1964. At once a history of facts, a collection of interviews, and a document of the human condition, Russia at War is a stunning, modern classic that chronicles the savagery and struggles on Russian soil during the most incredible military conflict in modern history.

As a behind-the-scenes eyewitness to the pivotal, shattering events as they occurred, Werth chronicles with vivid detail the hardships of everyday citizens, massive military operations, and the political movements toward diplomacy as the world tried to reckon with what they had created. Despite its sheer historical scope, Werth tells the story of a country at war in startlingly human terms, drawing from his daily interviews and conversations with generals, soldiers, peasants, and other working class civilians. The result is a unique and expansive work with immeasurable breadth and depth, built on lucid and engaging prose, that captures every aspect of a terrible moment in human history.

©1964 Alexander Werth; Foreword copyright 2011 by Nicolas Werth; English translation of foreword copyright 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing (P)2021 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Russia at War, 1941–1945

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Simply Astonishing

For any serious student of World War II history these days, it's hard to find any original content, especially on the War in the East. The same hoary anecdotes about Stalin ("Lenin gave us this great country and we f•••ed it up" etc.) are repeated ad infinitum, often just with different words; it's like watching documentaries about Stalingrad where you've seen the same clips literally countless times ("Oh no, here comes the guy wearing coconuts on his feet!")—the same stories, the same framings, the same characters and the same histories.

Obviously, there are some standouts, especially on the Russian angle—Beevor's "Stalingrad" and "Ivan's War" by Catherine Merridale are two incredible examples—but most of the rest, to one degree or another, are similar and repetitive.

There are the histories for military types, which run down battalion numbers and tank designations ("Kirponos's 4th Army 3rd Battalion's impressive stand on the Maeda escarpment's western salient, with Yeremenko's 4th Division 2nd Guard's Army's 1,500 Mark IV self-propelled 54mm howitzers were seen at 7:23 pm on January the 23rd, 1942 by blah blah blah blah blah blah") and then there are the man-in-the-street human interest stories and then there are the mechanical treatises of just the fax, ma'am, but a book that takes all this and stands it on its head is hard to come by.

Werth actually takes us *into Stalingrad three days after the surrender and to within ten feet of von Paulus himself* in the **first person** . . . you just can't get more direct than that.

By being perfectly bilingual (trilingual if you count German, oh, and French) he was allowed unprecedented access to most of the major front lines of the war (Leningrad, in the middle of the siege . . . Kharkov, four days after the liberation, Stalingrad, Moscow, and on, and on, and on) and then to many of the personalities (Stafford Cripps, Clark-Kerr, Molotov, etc. etc.) and then at length with German prisoners of war (in German!) as well as all the Russian/Ukrainian citizens themselves, speaking with their voices and then re-speaking in English, so that you have translations that are so authentic it sounds as if the speakers were actually speaking English, not Russian—and they were, in Werth's mind!

But all this, this rich, tapestry-like-detailed history would have all been for naught if the narrator had been, like so, so many narrators of WWII histories, with their myriad places and persons' names mangled atrociously; I could name a dozen right off the top of my head right now where you just stop and *groan* as you hear "Yamamoto" pronounced "Yamomota" and "Ordzhonikidze" as "Ordikidz." You get the picture!

But Derek Perkins is an astonishing narrator; perhaps the best narrator I have ever heard of any audiobook I have ever heard—and I have been listening to audiobooks every single day of my life since 2016.

Perhaps only one of the Churchill books' narrators came close, but Perkins nails every single accent there is in this book. His pronunciation of "Yeremenko" is bizarre; not even recognizable as the same name, but I went and checked—Perkins was correct!

It's obvious he has studied every single non-English word down to the tiniest syllable and worked them out carefully before committing them to tape. Further, his pitch, rhythm and pauses are exquisitely good.

The combination puts this book—and I'm only halfway through it! In the top five of any book—audio or otherwise—about the two world wars and probably THE top audiobook about World War II that I have ever listened to.

I knew Werth was around—I just never ran across any of his books as audiobooks before.

I would have given this book ten stars if they had been available.

(A little personal bio: I'm a 64-year-old American, now Canadian, born in India and lived there for ten years, educated at British public (private) schools for six years and lived in Africa (5 years) Japan (five years) California, France and now Montreal; speak Japanese and French fluently, German passably and used to speak Hindustani at a native level.

(Father was a radio operator in B-24s over Europe and flew 26 missions, later moved to Pan American and then The U.N.)

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Ok

Sounded too much like an apology for the Soviet Union and a small tirade against the Western Allies.

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TImeless masterpiece

I was stunned when I read that it was written in the sixties; It feels truly timeless.

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