Cover for THURSTON: The People's War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union

The People's War

Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union

A unique and rare look into life as it was for the people in the Soviet Union during WWII, unclouded by old-style Soviet portrayals and psuedo-histories that painted a glowing portrait of the “heroic proleteriate.”

The People's War lifts the Stalinist veil of secrecy to probe an almost untold side of World War II: the experiences of the Soviet people themselves. Going beyond dry and faceless military accounts of the eastern front of the "Great Patriotic War" and the Soviet state's one-dimensional "heroic People," this volume explores how ordinary citizens responded to the war, Stalinist leadership, and Nazi invasion.

Drawing on a wealth of archival and recently published material, contributors detail the calculated destruction of a Jewish town by the Germans and present a chilling picture of life in occupied Minsk. They look at the cultural developments of the war as well as the wartime experience of intellectuals, for whom the period was a time of relative freedom. They discuss women's myriad roles in combat and other spheres of activity. They also reassess the behavior and morale of ordinary Red Army troops and offer new conclusions about early crushing defeats at the hands of the Germans–-defeats that were officially explained as cowardice on the part of high officers.

A frank investigation of civilian life behind the front lines, The People's War provides a detailed, balanced picture of the Stalinist USSR by describing not only the command structure and repressive power of the state but also how people reacted to them, cooperated with or opposed them, and adapted or ignored central policy in their own ways. By putting the Soviet people back in their war, this volume helps restore the range and complexity of human experience to one of history's most savage periods.


"One of this book's virtues is that it brings together authors from Russia, Germany, and the US. . . . The essays are well documented. Recommended." -- Choice

"A balanced, comprehensive picture of civilian life behind the front lines, candid descriptions of command structure and the repressive power of the soviet state, and the reaction, cooperation, and opposition to them by the soviet people, all provide a wide ranging, complex, and revealing historical portrait not previously possible." -- Bookwatch

"An exemplary foray into the study of the effect of World War II on the people of the Soviet Union. Using primary materials and asking important questions of social history, this collection should encourage other social historians to look more closely at commonly accepted conclusions and raise new questions about the war and the people." -- Roger Reese, Slavic Review

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