Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Roger R. Reese's "Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought"

Roger R. Reese is professor of history at Texas A&M University and author of Stalin’s Reluctant Soldiers: A Social History of the Red Army, 1925–1941; Red Commanders: A Social History of the Soviet Army Officer Corps, 1918–1991; and The Soviet Military Experience: A History of the Soviet Army, 1917–1991.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought: The Red Army’s Military Effectiveness in World War II, and reported the following:
Page 98-100 closes out parts I and II and the discussion of why so many Soviet soldiers were captured in encirclements in 1941 by showing how in two separate incidents U.S. Army soldiers, facing similar circumstances fared about the same, the main difference being the historical interpretation of their motives. The historical profession is divided over the issues of why Soviet soldiers were captured en masse and why they fought at all for the Stalinist regime. The arguments are that they either fought out of love for Stalin and the Stalinist state, or they fought out of fear of the threat of execution. Anti-Stalinist sentiment is supposedly why they surrendered by the millions in 1941. I argue that while some soldiers did support Stalinism and others despised it, the majority of citizens who became soldiers fought for many reasons, most of which had nothing to do with their feelings about Stalin or his politics, or policies. Soldiers mostly fought out of elemental patriotism, for their country that had been invaded, without reference to or in spite of their government. I further argue that most surrenders and captures were a result simply of the chaos of war, the ineptitude of Soviet generals, and the German intent to capture as many Soviet soldiers as they could. No one has ever ascribed political motives or questioned the loyalty of the U.S. soldiers that were captured. The rest of the book analyzes the motivation and morale of the Soviet soldiery revealing that Russians were the most motivated to fight and the national minorities the least. The fact that there were more than two million cases of desertion and draft evasion disproves the contention that coercion was a significant factor in keeping men in the line. Above all, this book attempts to show, from their perspective, that Soviet soldiers were ordinary human beings who experienced the war in the same ways as soldiers in other armies.
Learn more about Why Stalin’s Soldiers Fought at the University Press of Kansas website.

--Marshal Zeringue