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Moscow 1941

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Moscow 1941
A City and Its People at War. By Rodric Braithwaite. (Vintage: 2007. Pg. 448.)
ISBN: 140009545X

Reviewed by Herbert White - March 12, 2007

Written by Rodric Braithwaite, the former British ambassador to Moscow, Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War is a history of the Battle of Moscow. Braithwaite's history of this momentous battle begins in the months before the German onslaught that pushed across the Soviet border in June of 1941. Braithwaite paints a gripping picture of what life was like in Moscow before the Soviets were forced into the war, and how life quickly changed as the Nazis converge upon Moscow. In October of 1941, as winter began to descend upon the city, the Red Army, and the civilian inhabitants of Moscow embarked upon a heroic defense of their city. The battle of Moscow lasted through the entirety of the winter, ending around April of 1942. For a while, it looked as if the German offensive would succeed, but the Soviet army was able to regroup and in January of 1942 the Red Army began to push the Wehrmacht back. In the end, the Muscovites successfully defended their city, but they did so at an astronomical cost. In all, it is estimated that there were at least a million military causalities associated with the Battle of Moscow, a battle which was to turn out to be one of the biggest and most decisive battles of World War II. The civilian toll taken by the battle, has never been officially calculated.

In this moving book, Braithwaite examines not only the military aspects of the battle, but also how the conflict affected the residents of the city. The book is abounding with the stories of those that lived through these historic events, and graphic details about everyday life during the conflict. The stories of the Muscovites are recounted from letters, diaries, and other source documents, as well as by countless interviews that Braithwaite conducted with those who survived the Battle. More of a social history than a military history of the battle, Moscow 1941 is an accessible and unforgettable account of this crucial battle which represented, for the Wehrmacht, the first of many defeats to come. It was also a battle that showed, for the first time, the true might of the Soviet army. Moscow 1941 is also an illuminating text that shows what life was like under Stalin and the Communist regime that controlled Russia and how the communist dictates affected every aspect of daily life from what jobs people had to the information they received about the war.

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