Printer Friendly

A Harvard Project in Reverse: Materials of the Commission of the USSR Academy of Sciences on the History of the Great Patriotic War-Publications and Interpretations.

It is not possible to write a complete history of the war on the Eastern Front by relying solely on "official" materials, even if they are archived and not intended for publication. In particular, this applies to the social history of the war, whether it concerns the front, rear, or occupied territories. Hundreds, if not thousands, of memoirs published in the Soviet period are mostly useless to historians and useful only to researchers of the "politics of memory." These memoirs were edited multiple times, carefully censored and uniform in character. There were exceptions (for example, the memoirs of Marshal Andrei Eremenko or the diaries of Konstantin Simonov), but they are quite rare. Memoirs of the "officially sanctioned" veterans were almost always written by ghostwriters.

In addition, the authorities prevented not only publication but also the preservation of spontaneously recorded memories. A typical example of this practice was how Soviet authorities dealt with the famous Soviet writer Konstantin Simonov's proposal to create a repository of "soldiers' memoirs." In 1979, Simonov (at that time secretary of the Writers' Union of the USSR and member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU] Central Auditing Commission) proposed the creation of such an archive. The memoirs to be collected were not for publication, due to the literary weakness of the texts, but because they contained information that might be useful to future historians that would otherwise be lost. The materials were to be stored at the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense (TsAMO). This proposal provoked a sharp rebuke from the then-chiefs of the General Staff and the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army. This was because reluctant military commanders considered it taboo to encourage differences of opinion on the history of the war. Or rather, they did not want to allow any interpretations other than the official version of events. As a result, Simonov received an answer from the CPSU Central Committee that it was inexpedient to collect memories. (1)

The situation radically changed in the 1990s. In the former USSR, there was not only an "archival revolution" but also a "revolution of memory." Hundreds, if not thousands, of memoirs were published, in rare cases written in Soviet times "at the table," or off the record, but most appeared in the wake of the wave of historical revision of the Soviet past. Thousands of interviews with war veterans were recorded. Primarily, veterans conversed with military history enthusiasts and amateur historians. (2) The problems with interviewing veterans are obvious. First, these were the accounts of people who lived to the late 20th and early 21st centuries; the overwhelming majority of the deceased remained silent. Second, the veterans who were interviewed were not the people they had been half a century or more ago; in addition to the natural aberration of memory, their life experiences and what they had since read, heard, and seen affected the veterans' accounts. They unwittingly followed the established canon, which also had an impact. Finally, interviews were not always conducted professionally, and they were often edited, sometimes without restraint.

Given these circumstances, the value of more than 4,000 interviews recorded by professional historians in "hot pursuit" of events during the Great Patriotic War or immediately after its end becomes clear. The Commission of the USSR Academy of Sciences on the History of the Great Patriotic War recorded these interviews. The commission was established in January 1942 and worked until December 1945. (3) Formally, Grigorii Aleksandrov, the head of the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the VKP(b) (All-Union Communist Party [Bolshevik]) Central Committee, presided over the commission. The initiator and leader of the commission throughout its work, however, was Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Isaak Izrailevich Mints (1896-1991). As a result, the commission became known as the Mints Commission.

During the Civil War, Mints was a commissar in the cavalry corps of the Red Cossacks. He was an experienced organizer of research and took part in major Soviet historical projects such as The History of Factories and Plants and A History of the Civil War in the USSR. He also participated in the preparation of the famous "short course" on the history of the VKP(b). (4) Employees of the commission (who included the well-known Soviet historians E. B. Genkina, L. M. Zak, I. M. Razgon, A. L. Sidorov, and V. I. Shunkov) collected thousands of documents, but most important were the stenographs of the accounts of war veterans, both soldiers and commanders of the Red Army, as well as partisans. In addition, the commission recorded the histories of residents of territories liberated from German occupation. The commission's materials are divided thematically: the history of military units, the defense of cities, the partisan movement, life under occupation, Heroes of the Soviet Union, and some others.

The fate of the commission's members and materials was dramatic. After it completed its work in December 1945, most of its employees moved to the Sector for the History of the Great Patriotic War, created in 1946 at the Institute of History of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1947, however, this sector was merged with the Sector for the History of Soviet Society, and most of the commission's former employees were dismissed. In 1948, its archive became the basis of the Manuscript Division of the Institute of History, Academy of Sciences of the USSR (now the Scientific Archive of the Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences [IRI RAN]). V. V. Tikhonov, one of the commission's researchers, links the liquidation of the sector and the cessation of work on the materials collected by the commission with the persecution of Mints and his employees "within the framework of ideological campaigns against bourgeois objectivism and rootless cosmopolitanism." (5)

In my opinion, in this instance that was not the case. The real attack on the "cosmopolitans" Mints, E. N. Gorodetskii, I. M. Razgon, and others began in March 1949. In 1947, Mints continued to head the departments of Soviet history at the Higher Party School and Moscow State University and became a professor at the Academy of Social Sciences of the VKP(b) Central Committee. Mints's seminal article "Lenin and the Development of Soviet Historical Science" appeared in the first issue of Voprosy istorii for 1949.6 Thus the liquidation of the Sector of the History of the Great Patriotic War and the cessation of work on the materials collected by the commission had little connection with the campaign against "rootless cosmopolitans." Most likely, it was an expression of the general "line" limiting the study of the history of the Great Patriotic War. To create the official canon of the history of the war, it was unnecessary to work with documents, especially those of the kind that the commission had collected. It is no coincidence that on 23 December 1947, a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR canceled Victory Day as a public holiday, and on 1 January the sector ceased to exist.

The commission's archive was closed to researchers. Some of the materials were eventually transferred to the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense, some to the archives of the Academy of Sciences, and a small number of files were destroyed. The majority, over 16,000 files, remained in the archives of the Institute of History. About a quarter of the files are transcripts of conversations (interviews) recorded by employees of the commission. From the mid-1950s to the 1980s, the documents stored in the archive became available to researchers, albeit on a very limited scale. (7) In particular, Academician A. M. Samsonov used them when working on The Battle of Stalingrad?

For many years the Mints Commission archive, which was kept at the Institute of the History of the USSR (since 1992, IRI RAN) was a coveted goal for historians of World War II and of Soviet society in general. Even during the "archival revolution," the archive of the Mints Commission (except for the publication of materials in several collections devoted to Moscow during the war years) was closed to researchers, including employees of the Institute of History, due to the policy of the institute's leaders at the time. Only in the last five years have historians, both institutional and "from outside," had the opportunity to work with the Mints Commission documents. It was not long before results appeared: materials, especially transcripts, were used in the preparation of a number of articles, some texts were published in scientific periodicals, and books appeared based on interviews recorded by employees of the Mints Commission. This article discusses these books, as well as some common problems with sources used in the study of the history of World War II.

The scale of the conversations recorded by the commission's employees can be compared to the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System. (9) If the Harvard project staff recorded interviews with "defectors," people by definition dissatisfied with Soviet power, the Mints Commission worked mainly with war heroes ready to give their lives for that power. Some of them did just that: not all the respondents whose accounts were recorded during the war survived until its end. The main goal of the Harvard Project was to study the structure of Soviet society. Information on the history of the war on the Eastern Front appeared in their interviews sporadically, and historians began to make use of it relatively recently. The primary aim of the Mints Commission was to extol the exploits of Soviet servicemen, the heroism of the workers in the rear, and life in the occupied territories. Regardless of the aims of the commission's staff, the interviews are a vast source on the history of Soviet society. Historians have not paid attention to this, including those who have worked with these texts and published them.

The introduction of the materials of the Mints Commission into academic circulation is due to the work of Professor Jochen Hellbeck of Rutgers University, who recognized their potential value and expended considerable effort to overcome various bureaucratic obstacles in accessing the transcripts. His Stalingrad is the first relatively systematic publication of transcripts of interviews conducted by members of the Mints Commission. Stalingrad was published in 2012 in German, three years later in English and Russian with stenographs of the original transcripts. (10)

Hellbeck's book is not a complete edition of the Stalingrad interviews; that would be impossible given their number (more than 200) and length. Nevertheless, in addition to the extensive introduction (1-84), the book contains two central sections titled "A Chorus of Soldiers" (86-262) and "Nine Accounts of the War" (263-398), which include interviews or excerpts from them. The book also contains a section titled "The Germans Speak" (399-430), which includes documents about the interrogations of German prisoners of war and the diary of a German corporal, a short essay on the fate of Vasilii Grossman and his novel about the battle of Stalingrad, and the fate of Isaak Mints and the commissions materials in the postwar period (431-42).

In 2014, following the publication of the first edition of Hellbeck's book, a number of Mints Commission interviews were published by Andrei Marchukov, a researcher at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in The Feats of Heroic Pokryshkinites and Those of Their Commander: The Truth from the Past, 1941-45. (11) Marchukov's book contains transcripts of the interviews conducted by the commission's staff with the servicemen of the Ninth Guards Airborne Division in December 1944 (21-416), published in full. This was the most illustrious air unit of the Soviet Air Force. The division's commander was the most famous Soviet ace, threetime Hero of the Soviet Union Colonel Aleksandr Pokryshkin. The division also included such stars of Soviet aviation as Grigory Rechkalov and Dmitry Glinka, twice named Heroes of the Soviet Union, and dozens of one-time Heroes of the Soviet Union and recipients of military orders. In addition to the transcripts, Marchukov includes a section on the "military performance" of the book's Heroes, written using materials from the Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense (417-620).

Another recent publication based on the commission stenographs is The Contribution of Historians to the Preservation of the Historical Memory of the Great Patriotic War: On the Materials of the Commission for the History of the Great Patriotic War of the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1941-45 (hereafter the Academic Collection). (12) The book was published in 2015 and prepared by the IRI RAN staff with help from the independent scholar Dar'ia Lotareva. The volume consists of two sections and an appendix. It includes chapters on the work of Soviet historians during the war, including the Commission on the History of the Great Patriotic War, as well as an analysis of the transcripts of the conversations recorded by the commission's staff (7-142). Selected materials from the commission's archive were also included, in total eight thematic blocks (143-350). The appendix contains the commission's instructional and methodological materials and a catalogue of inventories and materials of the commission's files, which are in the 1R1 RAN archives (351-82). The appendix's value for historians working with the commission's materials cannot be overestimated.

These books are interesting in several respects. They allow us to reflect, first, on methods of working with personal sources on the history of the Great Patriotic War (the war on the Eastern Front), and indeed in the history of Soviet society, and, second, on the influence of politics and public sentiment upon historiography. First, let us consider the key question that a historian must ask about any source: how reliable is it?

The Authenticity of the Mints Commission Transcripts

There are several aspects to the problem of the transcripts' reliability--specifically, how accurately did historians reproduce the accounts of veterans? To what extent, using sociological terminology, did historians make the "sampling" of respondents representative? Finally, how authentic were the accounts themselves? The authors of the publications reviewed in this article respond differently to these questions. Jochen Hellbeck notes: "The interviews bring the reader close to the battle and paint a vivid picture of the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the Soviet participants that is unique among known sources. Soldiers spoke off the cuff about their lives, delivering rich and colorful descriptions (some in vernacular idiom) with the immediacy of an audio recording" (4).

It was not without reason that the authors of the Academic Collection referred to Hellbeck's conclusions as a "source of optimism." They quite rightly point out that the respondents obviously "used smoothed constructions in their speech, avoiding, for example, obscene expressions and numerous inconvenient details and stories." Moreover, interviews were edited, and the extent of editing is now virtually impossible to discern because the original records have not been preserved. Nevertheless, the individual narrative traits suggest that the editing was designed to give the account a coherent form. But the greatest problem is that no lists of the questions asked during the interview have been found. Therefore, it is impossible to determine to what extent the interviewers determined the course of the interview, its dynamics and content (133).

In his publication, Andrei Marchukov also draws attention to the lack of questions (18). Marchukov, however, is not inclined to question anything said by the heroes of his book. For him, the transcripts are "words of truth that have been passed down to us from the past; the truth about the war, about a country that no longer exists, and about people who were the Nation." He believes that these voices were preserved because of "God's Providence" (8, 20). If divine Providence intervened in the matter, it is somewhat inappropriate to raise the question of who and how the "voices that told the truth" were recorded.

As demonstrated by the Academic Collection, the influence of the interviewers on the content of the interview was sometimes quite significant. The stenographers working for the commission differed in their experience and qualifications; often they did not understand military matters, and sometimes they distorted the accounts of respondents. From the documents discussing the stenographers' work, it becomes obvious that in many cases they wrote down only what was considered important and not the interviewee's entire account. When interviews took place with several veterans a day, the stenographers could simply not cope with the workload. Therefore, the stenographs are not comparable with the quality of the audiotape recordings. Moreover, it is evident from discussions among the commission's staff that many of them interfered in their respondents' accounts and tried to direct the conversation. The commission employee A. Ia. Grunt explicitly said: "The main task in stenography is to lead the conversation and be active in instances when the hero is talkative. It is necessary to direct the conversation" (109--10). Such intervention is obvious from the texts of the stenographs themselves, which in most cases have a similar structure.

It is noteworthy that the key discussion about the permissible degree of editorial intervention among the members of the Mints Commission took place at the time of the interviews with the pilots who became heroes in Marchukov's publication. The commission employee Lev Petrov conducted these conversations, talking with Pokryshkin and servicemen from his division. Petrov did not hide his stylistic and semantic editing of the stenographs. Grunt, who believed that the conversations should be directed, nevertheless sharply opposed the "Petrov method," arguing "in Petrov's stenographs, we feel Petrov in every hero." "You should not correct the stenograph," he continued. "It seems to me that sometimes there is no need to record all a hero's repetitions and the roughness and clumsiness of his speech. If you correct the stenographs too much, then every hero would sound like a novelist." Arkadii Sidorov, the future director of the Institute of History who fought against Mints, however, supported Petrov's method. He stated that he preferred that the verbatim transcripts be corrected: "While not allowing literary liberties and keeping the specifics, it was necessary to correct what was said in the transcript." It remains unclear how it was possible to "correct" what is said in a transcript without taking "literary liberties." The commission employees Berta Korfini and Anisia Sertsova, however, opposed the correction of the transcripts. Sertsova said: "I do not agree with correcting the transcripts. When I go to write about this or that hero, I always use the unofficial stenograph, because when correcting the transcript, you cannot avoid making errors and changing the meaning of what the hero said" (Academic Collection, 110-11). Unfortunately, only the edited transcripts remain in the archives of IRI RAN.

Regrettably, not all recent historians who have used the Mints Commission interviews understand (or want to understand) the extent of editorial intervention. Andrei Marchukov writes about the interviews with the Pokryshkinites: "The material of these conversations ... was not subject to editing by the editors (... it is clear from the texts that this was precisely quoted testimony)" (9). Marchukov says this even though he knew about the discussion on editing the interviews. Among the questions discussed, as Marchukov himself points out, was: "Do you need to correct the transcripts to improve the style and specificity of the respondents' accounts?" (17). Marchukov preferred not to mention that the discussion arose precisely because Petrov had significantly edited the transcripts.

If we set aside Marchukov's moral and philosophical arguments--in particular, that the war brought the "unity that was necessary and highly desirable in Russian history--both among the people and between the people and the authorities," his book closely approaches the needs of the "average reader" (5-6). The transcripts are published in full, without any abridgment. Marchukov supplies a commentary, with facts of undoubted value, for he believes the transcripts to be materials fromTsAMO. This creates an interesting effect: it becomes clear in which places the celebrated aces were "serving" their political obligations, or when they hid or exaggerated something. For example, one operational report detailed the downing of a Messerschmitt due to an accidental midair collision with a Soviet fighter. The regimental commander, however, later portrayed this episode as a deliberate ram and presented the pilot with an award (48 n. 1).

This leads us to another important issue, the degree of candor among the respondents. Marchukov believes, largely because the conversations were recorded during the war, that they are "unique in content and frankness. They were not intended for publication--and therefore people were not afraid to be misunderstood and say too much about someone or something; they had no reason to flatter anyone, and did not think about saying what was 'right' ... There was no self-censorship or censorship from those above them" (9). Marchukov's colleagues at IRI RAN did not consider this argument convincing. They rightly believed that the sincerity of an interviewee is hardly determined by whether his account is published or not. After all, in Soviet times, "even an unpublished document could land a person in big trouble" (Academic Collection, 132). Representatives of Moscow conducted the conversations, and the distinction between historian and political commissar was not always clear in the Mints Commission's interlocutors. In reality, they were "fighters on the ideological front" no less than they were historians.

Nevertheless, the authors of the Academic Collection provide several rather convincing arguments in favor of the veracity of the transcripts. First, the accounts were recorded not long after the events occurred, which allowed the interviewers "to be hot on the trail of recording impressions of what happened." At that time, the authentic "language of war" was not yet mixed with the "modern language of describing the war imposed by the official version of history," and the social and ideological canon of describing the war in the conditions of the "cult of victory" had not yet materialized. (13) Second, most of the transcripts are organized thematically: for example, the Battle of Moscow, the battle of Stalingrad, the partisan movement, and so on. This provides a "certain guarantee against serious distortions" because the same events are described by different people and this "stereoscopic" view allows for the compilation of a complete picture and the verification of the information. The interviews feel like a "live commentary" about the war, from a time when the conventionally accepted language to describe it had not yet developed (134-35). Even so, the authors of the Academic Collection state that standardized slogans and propaganda cliches can be found in the transcripts, the presence of which often depended on the "status of the interviewee." As one would expect, the accounts of the rank and file were the most direct. Their commanders were more restrained. The interviews most " 'clogged' with ideological cliches" were those with political commissars, who "understood the political nuances of making certain statements" (135). Although at the individual level there could be significant deviations from the "norms" derived from above, these observations are generally difficult to challenge.

Hellbeck also pays special attention to respondents' language. He compares his narrative montage with the technique used by Akira Kurosawa in the famous film Rashomon, where the characters talk about the same event in completely different ways. Hellbeck writes, however, that the difference between the film and the Stalingrad interviews is that they are "strikingly consistent down to the smallest detail, from their ideas of heroism, fear, and self-actualization to their accounts of combat and the conduct of fellow soldiers" (83). From this Hellbeck concludes that the interviews did not consist of Soviet cliches, but "rather, one finds a language shared by foot soldiers and officers alike, informed by the same ideas and horizons of experience." Noting that the political officers of the Red Army vigorously instilled Soviet ways of talking about themselves and about the enemy in their soldiers, Hellbeck asserts that "the language of the interviews was thus twofold: a description of the battle and a mark of ideological conditioning" (83).

The interviews were "documented" primarily through the language of ideological "processing" and not by those who were the object of political indoctrination. The voices of the rank and file are almost silent in Hellbeck's collection. Among the respondents, senior officers predominate. (14) About a third of those interviewed by the commission's staff were political commissars. A rare exception are the interviews with the servicemen from the 39th Guards Division of the 62nd Army. Out of ten respondents, one was a Red Army serviceman, three were sergeants, one was a general, and two were political commissars. In the 74th Guards Rifle Division, conversations were conducted only with the division commander, deputy for political affairs, the head of the division's political section and one of the regimental commanders. In the 36th Guards Rifle Division, historians interviewed only five officers, including the division commander and two political commissars. (15) We can observe a similar picture in other military units and formations.

Thus the Stalingrad interviews resemble an inverted pyramid, which is not surprising: the task of the Mints Commission was to create a heroic saga about the defense of Stalingrad and the Red Army command and the political leadership could provide the materials for such an endeavor. Hellbeck seems to realize this, noting that "the historians who conducted the interviews in Stalingrad not only documented the work and impact of the ideological apparatus but participated in it" (68). In essence, however, he does not consider this circumstance in his conclusions. Hellbeck does not even question the reexamination of sources. He actually considers the "testimonies" of political commissars to be credible because other respondents used the same language. The evidence to support this stance is clearly insufficient. According to my estimates, interviews with ordinary participants in the battle of Stalingrad were conducted approximately 14 times less often than with officers and 5 times less than with political commissars. The soldiers with whom the Muscovite historians spoke were not ordinary but specially selected and, as a rule, possessed distinguished awards, as Hellbeck rightly acknowledges (374). In my opinion, it is impossible on the basis of such meager evidence to build any theory, let alone expound on the language of the Red Army. If you take on faith the stories of political commissars, one can predict the results in advance. Let us now see how researchers applied their ideas to their work with the sources and what this offers for understanding of the history of the war on the Eastern Front. Next, let us consider the two most extensive publications on the subject: the Hellbeck compilation and the Academic Collection.

Hellbeck's Stalingrad and the Reality of the Battle of Stalingrad

Jochen Hellbeck's book is addressed primarily to German readers, and it was not by chance that stenographs of conversations with participants in the battle of Stalingrad were selected for publication. In German memory, the battle of Stalingrad remains an enormous tragedy. Moreover, as Hellbeck notes, one that "emphasiz[es] the suffering of German soldiers and seldom bother[s] to mention its opponent." Soviet soldiers appear as an abstract mass, as a "tawny-colored horde that rushed its opponent while crying out 'Hurrah!' driven by pistol-waving political officers" (15). Hellbeck's book, which depicts the image of Soviet military personnel very differently, had considerable resonance among members of the German public with an interest in the war, and mixed responses among professional historians. (16)

Hellbeck sets himself the task of identifying, on the basis of the "Stalingrad protocols," what "cultural impressions they [Red Army soldiers] brought to bear on the war, what drove them as they fought against forces they believed were superior to their own" (19). He considers that the Stalingrad interviews
   reveal an element at odds with most western depictions: the
   Communist party's enormous effort to condition the troops. The
   party was an ever-present institutional force in the form of
   political officers and ideological messages. It permeated all
   military levels and sent its emissaries--political officers,
   agitators, party and youth league secretaries--into the trenches
   ... the interviews show how this apparatus functioned, how it
   mobilized soldiers, and how it responded to crisis. (19)

In fact, what the interviews reveal is how the party-political apparatus functioned, or more precisely, how political workers viewed their role, since we hear about political work almost exclusively from the mouths of representatives of that apparatus (36). This is most apparent in the materials of the book's second, most expansive section, which endeavors to show events through the eyes of various participants. The section is titled "A Chorus of Soldiers," but we shall see who in fact is "singing" in that choir. The chapter "Fate of the City and Its Residents" contains interviews with four city and regional administrators, nine party officials, and four "specialists, workers, residents." However, despite the title no workers turned up in the last category, while all the specialists turned out to be chiefs--two head engineers, of major factories no less--the Red October Factory and the Stalingrad Power Station, as well as the acting director of the Stalingrad Medical Institute and the foreman of a workshop at the Red October Factory. Among seven respondents included in the category "military personnel" are Lieutenant General Vasilii Chuikov, two political workers of high rank, the commandant of Stalingrad, a division commander, the commandant of brigade headquarters, and one scout (92).

In "Gurtyev's Rifle Division in Battle," the 23 respondents included 11 political workers, 2 Red Army soldiers, and 2 women--a nurse and a paramedic. In "The Capture of Field Marshal Paulus" six of the nine respondents from the 38th Motorized Rifle Brigade were political workers (224). In my opinion, we should judge the effectiveness of propaganda not by what the political workers say but by soldiers' perception of it. But their voices in Hellbeck's collage are almost entirely unheard. The commissars drown them out.

In the accounts of some military commanders, in particular those of political workers, the transfer of propaganda methods and the lexicon of the first five-year plans to the realities of wartime are visible to the naked eye and, of course, an integral component of the period of "building socialism"--socialist competition, accompanied by the padding of results inherent to it. This is especially obvious when it involves enemy losses. The sniper movement constitutes quite a special category, which without a stretch can be likened to the Stakhanovite movement, and which apparently holds its own with the former in the degree of its padding. (17)

It is not entirely clear if Soviet commanders in fact ever figured out the true kill ratios or if they were guided by Suvorov's principle "don't spare the infidels," all the more so while interacting with historians. That being said, the divergence between their estimation of German losses and reality is astonishing. Chuikov stated that the "enemy's losses were around three to four times higher than ours, for both tanks and infantry" (279). In fact, for the battle of Stalingrad total Soviet losses were 1,129,619, while the losses of Germany and its allies were only two-thirds as large. (18)

Other commanders' accounts of enemy losses are similar to Chuikov's. Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Gerasimov reported that during the hostilities in the vicinity of Stalingrad the 101st Guards Regiment under his command destroyed around 3,000 enemy soldiers and officers, as well as about 60 tanks, 3 aircraft, 28 armored vehicles; up to 150 enemy trucks were rendered inoperable, as were 2 mortar batteries and up to 12 field guns (Stalingrad, 331). Considering that the Wehrmacht's Sixth Army, advancing on Stalingrad, counted around 500 tanks in its ranks, (19) if we believe Gerasimov, then one of his infantry regiments had destroyed 12 percent of Paulus's tank army by the middle of September.

The commander of the 347th Rifle Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Andrei Chamov, reported that Senior Lieutenant Vasilii Kalinin "in the duration of 12-15 minutes burned out five German tanks and disabled six." Thereafter, with a group of seven submachine gunners he mounted a counterattack on some paratroopers, in the course of which they exterminated "more than 100 fascists" (Stalingrad, 170). It is not difficult to calculate that Kalinin spent on average 1 minute, 22 seconds, on the destruction of each tank. However, when recommending Kalinin for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, Chamov wrote that he had destroyed 1 heavy and 3 medium tanks and personally killed 17 Hitlerites in two days, 17 and 19 October 1942. (20) Division Commander Gurt'ev cited rather different numbers when telling Grossman about the same episode: according to him, Kalinin killed 27 people and disabled 4 tanks. Kalinin himself informed the commission members that in two days he had destroyed seven tanks along with their crews (Stalingrad, 181).

The hero himself and his superiors are recounting a real feat of heroism. How many German tanks Vasilii Kalinin actually disabled is not so important; the main thing is that the German attack was repulsed. Gurt'ev's division was located in the line of the main German thrust, and it was specifically about them that Vasilii Grossman wrote his famous essay. First of all, however, as can be seen in the materials about this case, even accounts recorded in the immediate aftermath of events should serve the historian merely as a starting point for research. Second, officers were prone to exaggerating their subordinates' achievements. This was especially true in conversations with journalists or historians. There are almost no exceptions to this rule.

The higher an officer's rank, particularly among political workers, the greater was the scale of the opponent's losses (and the heroic deeds of the forces entrusted to that officer). On 9 January 1943, Brigade Commissar and Head of the Political Department of the 62nd Army Ivan Vasil'ev recounted of the 33rd Guards Rifle Division that had especially distinguished itself in battle on the outskirts of Stalingrad: "According to our counts, they hammered the Second Division. There were days when they pulverized 100-120 tanks." (21) The 33rd Division did in fact render stiff resistance to its opponent, but it was surrounded and almost entirely destroyed. By the beginning of September, only 160 people remained in the division. Of course, it is out of the question that the 33rd Division destroyed two enemy divisions, not to mention the better part of the Sixth Army's tanks.

Captain Nikolai Aksenov, deputy chief of staff of the 1047th Regiment of the 79th Guards Division and a historian by profession, reported that the regiment had 48 snipers, who in fighting around Stalingrad killed 1,278 Germans. Besides the "professional" snipers, "a lot of people went to the front line on their own initiative" (Stalingrad, 338). Doctor Krasnov went there "secretly"--he had eight dead Germans to his count. It was easier for the medic Izvekov: he was located at the front lines dressing the wounded, and in between would "run over" to firing positions to shoot at the Germans. He had 21 Germans to his count. Another medic, Zekov, had two specialties; along with his primary one, he was also a sniper. He killed 45 Germans. "Even the commander's adjutants would sneak out to try their hand at sniping" (Stalingrad, 339).

Aleksandr Koshkarev, secretary of the party bureau of the 339th Regiment of the 308th Rifle Division, recalled the new method of party-political work: "We introduced a new idea: every soldier had to start a personal account of how many Germans he'd killed. This was essentially a stimulus for socialist competition: to see who could kill the most Germans. We would check these accounts, and if a comrade didn't have any dead Fritzes, we'd have a talk with him, make him feel the shame" (Stalingrad, 188).

The introduction of the sniper movement was mandatory, as with the Stakhanovite movement. Almost all the higher commanders and political workers talk about their achievements in this regard. Let us cite some examples from stenographs that did not make it into Hellbeck's book. Commander of the 73rd Guards Division General-Major Gani Safiulin told the historians: "During the defense, I launched the sniper movement everywhere. During the defense, snipers alone killed and wounded up to 1,700 people." (22) Colonel Artemii Shlikhter, deputy commander for political affairs of the 298th Rifle Division, reported that a "mass sniper movement" had been launched throughout the division and as a result, snipers killed 2,700 Germans in two months. Listing the best-known snipers, Shlikhter clearly adhered to the principle of "proletarian internationalism," specifying the nationality of "representatives" of various peoples of the USSR: an Azeri, a Russian, a Ukrainian, a Georgian, an Altaian, a Kazakh, and a Iakut. The methods of organizing the sniper movement were the same, by Shlikhter's own admission, as the ones he employed in party work. Bulletins were placed in each issue of the division newspaper, describing the snipers' work, their first and last names, the total number of Germans they had killed, and the number for the last two days. In the newspaper from 15 September 1942, the names of 5 snipers were published, increasing to 11 on 24 September, 21 on 21 October, and 34 on 5 November. All in all, the number of snipers in the division exceeded 100. (23)

Lieutenant Colonel Afanasii Svirin, deputy division commander for political affairs, however, surpassed everyone. He reported that the division's political workers trained their soldiers to follow the example of the 28 Panfilovites, teaching them not to fear not only tanks but also airplanes. Among other things, they conditioned the soldiers to believe that they could shoot down airplanes using rifles, submachine guns, or antitank weapons. Additionally, political workers set the goal that no less than 25 percent of the divisions 3,000 Komsomol members become snipers (Stalingrad, 150): 750 people in total! Hellbeck includes this fragment in his montage without any commentary. Likewise, he does not comment on similar "sniper-Stakhanovite" stories from the political workers' toolbox that have no confirmation in independent sources.

Hellbeck believes political workers' reports that inclusion in the Communist Party or Komsomol or striving to receive an "admission pass" to the Party increased the aspirants' fighting effectiveness. He cites Major Iakov Serov, Political Department director of the 45th Division: "People took joining the party very seriously and applied only when they had six, seven, ten Fritzes to their name. One would show up and claim: I have killed ten Fritzes. Here is my certificate. No commando would apply before opening his [vengeance] account" (37). The conversation with Serov did not make it into the ranks of the Stalingrad materials that were published. However, it was very typical. Major Serov provided examples of the heroism of soldiers-machine gunners, one of whom destroyed "40 Fritzes," and another who "gunned down 50 Fritzes," underscoring that both were Komsomol members. (24)

Accounts of the connection between martial prowess and membership in the Communist Party or the Komsomol, as well as those striving to go into battle as a Communist or Komsomol member can be found in other interviews with political workers. Hellbeck cites several, including soldiers' applications to join the Party (37-38). Without denying that some Red Army soldiers did indeed aspire to join the Party, I am of the opinion that the increase in its ranks is explained first and foremost by party politics, not only relaxing the criteria for admission (which Hellbeck mentions) but also conducting a campaign for the mass admission of service members into the Party. This campaign can be compared to "Leninist conscription." Entrance into the Party was one indicator of political workers' effectiveness in the army, and this served as the basis for the conferral of military decorations. The nomination of Deputy Commander of the 298th Rifle Division Lieutenant Colonel Shlikhter for the Order of the Red Star openly states that he "devoted great attention to growing the party organization," in support of which concrete numbers were provided: "Between December and 20 January alone the party organization has grown by 277 people." (25) Colonel Nikolai Ziablitsyn, chief of the political department of the 57th Army, was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War in the First Degree because, among other things, he "attached exceptional importance to the growth of the party organization." "Under his direction ... despite the small number of units making up the army, he grew the party organization from 2,300 people to 6,000. (26) Military decorations for ensuring an increase in party ranks were awarded subsequently to other political workers who participated in the battle of Stalingrad. (27) Mass entrance into the Party and Komsomol was far from being a chaotic movement from below. It was initiated from above, and political workers were vitally interested in the movements reception. To refuse membership in the Party was rather complicated, if it was even possible. The procedure to join the Komsomol was simplified to the utmost extent possible. (28)

Still another measure of political workers' success--closely related to increases in party membership--was securing the "avant-garde role of Communists and Komsomol members." This is unambiguously expressed in award documents. Major Iakov Serov was nominated for the Order of the Red Banner for "actively organizing work in increasing the avant-garde role of Communists and Komsomol members in combat with the enemy." According to the commendation list, "Communists and Komsomol members of the division demonstrate courage and decisiveness, leaving non-Party members behind them." (29) For the "correct distribution of Communists and Komsomol members," ensuring the success of their forces in combat, Deputy Director of the Political Department of the Volga Flotilla Regiment Commissar Georgii Spitskii and Head of the Political Department of the 73rd Guards Rifle Division Colonel Petr Molchanov were decorated with the Order of the Red Star and the Order of Lenin, respectively. (30)

In reality, no direct connection between military prowess and membership in the Communist Party or Komsomol has been established. As Roger Reese justly notes based on published Soviet sources: "Communists and Komsomolets proved to be just as prone to human frailties as other soldiers--to the constant exasperation of the party, which unrealistically expected superhuman efforts and results.... Overall, the performance of communists and Komsomolets was mixed, but, of course, only their heroic acts were made public." (31)

As for the distinguished combat results, which served as an entry pass into the Party, in some cases they corresponded to reality, but for the most part they were simply posturing. (32) If we contrast the reports of Soviet propagandists with the Wehrmacht's actual losses in Stalingrad, then for all their severity, there simply are not enough Germans. Consequently, it is hardly worth relying on the reports of political workers invested in exaggerating the importance of their activity and unarguably engaging in "padding" a critical measure of their work--success on the battlefield, including opponent losses. Political work undoubtedly played a role in organizing and inspiring soldiers in Stalingrad, but it was hardly decisive. At the very least, the Stalingrad interviews do not provide sufficiently reliable statistics for this conclusion.

Attaching great importance to party-political work, Hellbeck disagrees with authors who underscore the role of violence and the scale of repression in regard to Red Army soldiers. Referring to publications from the Federal Security Service (FSB) archive, he writes that the Special Department of the NKVD of the Stalingrad front from 1 August to 15 October 1942 shot 278 Soviet service members and considers that the Stalingrad interviews "suggest that western notions of mass executions on the Stalingrad Front need to be revised" (17). Citing publications from the FSB archive, (33) however, Hellbeck himself writes that shortly thereafter, toward the end of September, 664 "cowards, panickers, and self-mutilators" were shot by blocking squads (58). Note that the document collection Stalingradskaia epopeia and the publications of Vasilii Khristoforov, head of the FSB archive, give rather inconsistent and, it would seem, incomplete information. (34)

The situation, however, is more complicated. In my opinion, it is evident that most of the "cowards and panickers" were shot not by NKVD employees but by Red Army commanders and political workers. They had the right to shoot on the spot, at their own discretion, granted by Order no. 227 of the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR. In turn, the high command had the right to shoot commanders and political writers. Stalin wrote explicitly about this in the order: "We can no longer tolerate commanders, commissars, political workers, divisions, and forces that abandon their battle positions at will ... panickers and cowards should be annihilated on the spot." (35) In the Stalinist system, the right to repress entailed the responsibility to enact repression, at one's own discretion and without judicial delay. Fragments of the interviews published by Hellbeck speak about this explicitly.

General Vasilii Chuikov commented in conversation with the Moscow historians: "Honestly, most of the divisional commanders didn't have the stomach to die here. The second something happens, they start saying: 'Permit me to cross the Volga.' I yelled, 'I'm still here,' and sent a telegram: 'If you take one step I'll shoot you'" (Stalingrad, 51). These were not empty words. Chuikov recounted: "We immediately began to take the harshest possible action against cowardice. On the 14th [September, two days after the army commander's appointment--O.B.] I shot the commander and commissar of one regiment, and a short while later I shot two brigade commanders and their commissars. This caught everyone off guard" (.Stalingrad, 273). "Every divisional and regimental commander knew that anyone who went back to the riverbank, anyone who came close, was to be shot" (Stalingrad, 274).

Major Iakov Serov (Stalingrad, 89) and General Aleksandr Rodimtsev also recall the public execution of self-mutilators and cowards, the latter finding nothing surprising in this typical means of influence. While one of the regiments in Rodimtsev's division was crossing the Volga on a barge, "the engineer started turning some lever back and forth--nothing ... [he] lost his nerve. We had to shoot him and put someone else in his place" (Stalingrad, 300). Rodimtsev claimed that he ordered all the Uzbek reinforcements that had not gone into the attack to be shot (Stalingrad, 56, 309). He did not specify how many of them there were. While storming the railway workers' building some soldiers did not move--"the platoon commander just lifted them up by the collars and shot them" (Stalingrad, 309).

Civilian executions did not lag behind soldiers'. The secretary of the Stalingrad City Party Committee Ivan Piksin recounts how "by order of the workers" an employee of the Red October factory was shot. He had tried to steal several pairs of overalls. In addition to Piksin, the decision to shoot him was taken by the district committee secretary, the NKVD chief and the factory party organization; moreover, the decision was taken on the spot and implemented immediately, three steps away from the assembled workers (.Stalingrad, 111-12). Several people were shot on the spot after being caught red-handed while pillaging (usually stealing flour), beginning on the second and third days of the bombing (Stalingrad, 112).

It is hardly correct to draw conclusions on the sparse number of victims of "disciplinary" measures on the basis of such incomplete statistics on the blocking squads' repressions. Executions "for show" of Red Army soldiers and commanders, conducted in response to orders from highly ranked commanders or even by those commanders personally, was not a source of shame but considered an act of valor, the realization of Order no. 227.

Reports on executions for show are found in virtually every interview with a commander or political worker. Major Iakov Serov recalled: "Some go for self-inflicted wounds, hoping to preserve their honor by pretending to be wounded and get across to the east bank.... We started exposing these ones publicly and had them shot in front of their units. The number of similar cases started dropping rapidly. That was the only type of desertion. You couldn't do anything else: the Volga behind us let no one get by." (36)

Violence played an exceptionally important role in "disciplining" the Red Army during the battle of Stalingrad and, dare I suggest, a substantially more important role than party-political work. General Vasilii Chuikov, one of the main heroes both of Stalingrad and Hellbeck's book, expresses this absolutely clearly, not in conversation with Moscow historians but in a "private" chat with Vasilii Grossman, one of ours, "a Stalingrader." Here is Grossman's telegraph of Chuikov's speech: "To retreat is to perish. You retreat--they shoot you. I retreat--they shoot me.... Everyone knew that those who ran would be shot on the spot; it was more frightening than the Germans." (37) Surprisingly, Hellbeck does not mention this particular fragment of Grossman's notebooks, though he resorts so often to citing what is undoubtedly one of the most authentic sources on the battle of Stalingrad. Clearly, however, great battles are not won only through fear of punishment. Stalingrad's main hero and its great chronicler specifically focused on this topic. Grossman wrote: "On tenacity. I'm speaking about the miracle of tenacity, that I don't understand, how those who fled before became tenacious." Chuikov: "just imagine, in the end, I still don't fully understand it myself." (38)

In conversation with Grossman Chuikov expressed an exceptionally important thought, which partly explains what happened with the Red Army in Stalingrad: "Courage is as infectious here as cowardice was in other places." (39) Grossman preserved testimonies of such courage for the entire war--the dispatches of Lieutenant Kolaganov, commander of the squadron defending the Stalingrad train station. The dispatches contained, amid other things, the assertion: "Until they go over my dead body, the Fritzes will not succeed. Guardsmen do not retreat, soldiers and commanders may die heroes' deaths, but the opponent shall not break through our defense. Let the entire country hear of the 3rd Rifle Company of the 13th Guards division. "While the company commander is alive, not a single whore will break through." (40)

To me, historians have yet to answer the question of which factors secured the Red Army's victory in the battle of Stalingrad. In particular, these include the radically changed behavior of its soldiers and commanders: the sense of personal responsibility for what was happening, battlefield camaraderie, loyalty to one's unit, self-esteem, boldness when soldiers realized that the seemingly invincible opponent could be beaten, violence, the physical impossibility of crossing the Volga that left no other choice besides fighting tenaciously, and political work. Yet another important factor was that street fighting nullified the German Army's advantage in maneuverability. Similarly, another element was the improvement in military technology and ammunition, uniforms, and foodstuffs with which the Red Army was provisioned. This, among other things, bolstered the troops' spirits. To me, one thing is clear: we have no basis to rank party-political work as first among these factors. Or we have insufficient data to make this assertion. Hellbeck's sources by no means serve as proof in this regard, as they are one-sided and nonrepresentative.

Hellbeck's book subscribes to the way in which the Red Army's commanders and political commissars understood the victory. In reality, we have yet to ascertain the real causes. The Stalingrad transcripts, like other accounts recorded by the Mints Commission, are undeniably a valuable resource for understanding the social history of the Red Army and Soviet society as a whole. In their level of authenticity, these interviews far surpass all surveys conducted in the late and post-Soviet periods. One must, however, work with this material very carefully, understanding the aims of the commission members and the degree of openness displayed by the respondents, which was frequently limited. This applies to accounts of the battle of Stalingrad most of all, as their collection was conceived of from the beginning as material for the creation of a heroic saga, while the selection of respondents was perhaps the most specific in comparison to any other interviews conducted by the commission.

The Historians of the Academy of Sciences and the Mints Commission Materials

The book by the IRI RAN historians is typical of work produced with support from the Russian Foundation for Research in the Humanities within the framework of the competition "70 Years of Victory in the Great Patrio tic War." As always, the anniversary arrived unexpectedly, and as a result, the authors had only two years to prepare and publish the book. The book is distinctly "hybrid" in nature. On the one hand, the authors and publishers are qualified researchers and represent the "trends" of contemporary historiography quite well. On the other hand, in tackling an "anniversary" theme with state funding, they obviously considered the political climate, in that the history of the Great Patriotic War has been "canonized" in contemporary Russia. Strikingly, the authors attempt to unite these two elements in the introduction, first noting the "increase in patriotic sentiments in Russian society and the revision of negative attitudes toward the Soviet past," and second, appealing to the "anthropological turn" in world historiography and the popularity of problematizing the "history of emotions" (16-17).

Attempts to meet the patriotic demands of society and authorities while simultaneously subscribing to mainstream world historiography (as well as simple professionalism, in which the authors are not lacking) led to the creation of a "hybrid." This is particularly true of the second section of the book, "The Informative Potential of the Documents of the Commission for the History of the Great Patriotic War and Debunking Contemporary Myths about the War." This section includes eight "histories." It is obvious that the materials were selectively chosen for their relationship to the war's cult heroes (the pilot Nikolai Castello, commander of the cavalry corps General Lev Dovatot and the 28 Panfilovites) and landmark events (the defense of the Brest Fortress and the tank battle outside Prokhorovka). The inclusion of some of the "stories" can be explained because they were at the center of public discussions, or because they were the subject of Soviet-era myths, which the authors wished to debunk. In one case, the selection of the hero-pilot Vitalii Popkov is explained because he served as the archetype of the heroes of the popular Soviet film Only Old Men Are Going to Battle (1973). The interviews with the party worker N. M. Gubarev on the evacuation of the Donbass and First Secretary of the Smolensk Oblast Committee D. M. Popov at the beginning of the war do not conform to the Soviet myth. Yet the inclusion of some of the interviews is clearly an answer to the "demand for patriotism." Thus the interviews with Gastellos comrades-in-arms are not particularly informative and add hardly anything new to the already familiar account of one of the war's first heroes. This likewise pertains to the interview on General Dovator.

Three chapters precede the interview transcripts. The first, "New Tasks of Historical Science: Academics on the Front and in the Rear of the Great Patriotic War," bears a stylistic resemblance to Soviet-era reports. An enumeration of the deeds of Soviet historians concludes an uplifting section on the historical works of the war years that received Stalin Prizes (48-49). "Rough edges" are treated with great care. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is considered "forced" and concluded "in conditions of increasing international tension" (23). Neither the pact's secret transcripts nor the division of Poland, annexation of the Baltic States, and other territorial acquisitions by the USSR are mentioned at all.

The longest and most informative chapter, "The Creation and Activity of the Commission for the History of the Great Patriotic War of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1941-1945," was clearly written by Dar'ia Lotareva, who has worked on this topic for many years. To date, this is the most complete account of the commission's history and the specifics of its work, including its relationship with governing party bodies. The author's analysis of how the commission prepared materials for publication is of particular interest. These publications, dedicated to heroes of the war, were rare. The history of the publication of conversations with the sniper Vasilii Zaitsev is typical. (41) Comparing the stenograph and the published text, Lotareva concluded that "the published version was significantly abbreviated and edited--and not only stylistically." Not only Zaitsev's critical remarks regarding his prewar experiences but also his character were played down, as Zaitsev was quite conceited and "aware of his worth." In addition, in the pamphlet's conclusion the publishers included a large segment of the ideological plan, absent in the stenograph and written by one of the commission's staff, evidently, the pamphlet's editor (107-8).

A small but very important chapter brings the "authors" section to a close: "Living Voices of the War: Stenographs of Conversations with Participants in Events and the Specifics of their Historiographical Analysis" (131-40). As mentioned earlier, the collection's authors succeeded, to a greater extent than other researchers, in comprehending the originality and complexities of this source. Nor did the format proposed for conducting the interviews arouse objection: from clarifying the circumstances of the time and place in which the interviews were conducted to their analysis of the interviewees' "speech patterns" (136-37).

The collection's authors apply their own principles to the interviews with varying degrees of professionalism. In my opinion, the transcripts of conversations with party workers at various levels are striking, particularly those of Nikolai Gubarev, lecturer from the Stalino regional committee and Dmitrii Popov, first secretary of the Smolensk regional committee (177-90, 191-218). Both respondents discuss the beginning of the war, the evacuations, popular opinion, and attempts to organize resistance. Along with the "conventional" rhetoric for party workers, the interviews provide details on the distinctly anti-Soviet mood among workers and especially collective farmers, on the chaos in Stalino and Smolensk respectively, and as German forces approached, on desertion. These interviews also reveal the psychology of party representatives in the Stalin era, the generation that rose up the party ladder on the wave of the Great Terror.

Unlike Hellbeck, the authors of the academic collection understand the peculiarities of political workers' reports. The publisher of the conversation with Nikolai Gubarev writes: "In front of us is the war through the eyes of a propagandist--with all the inherent specificities of reflection and conceptualization of reality ... invested in demonstrating the effectiveness of party propaganda, Gubarev by all means emphasizes mass enthusiasm, stoked by the speeches of the country's leaders and local party functionaries. As a result, Gubarev's report requires verification with the help of other sources" (177-78).

One of the most extensive and revealing accounts was prepared by the head of the archive of the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Konstantin Drozdov (235-77). The section is titled "How Many Heroes Were There? Soldiers of the Division of I. V. Panfilov in the Battles of 1941 outside Moscow." The story of the 28 Panfilovites is perhaps the most famous example of mass heroism exhibited by Red Army soldiers not only in the battle for Moscow but for the entire Great Patriotic War. During perestroika, however, materials were published proving that journalists invented the famous battle's history, with the chief editor of Krasnaia zvezda, David Ortenberg, and the newspaper's correspondent Aleksandr Krivitskii playing a key role (241).

This invented myth took exceptionally deep root in public opinion. From time to time attempts are made, if not to reanimate it in its original form, then to find replacements, making the trauma of false memory less painful. This is the crux of what Konstantin Drozdov writes about, appealing "not to throw the baby out with the bathwater," regretting the common denial "not only of the facts of a specific battle, but ultimately of the courage and self-sacrifice displayed by the soldiers of the Panfilov division on the outskirts of Moscow" (241). Drozdov investigated this history, primarily using interviews conducted with soldiers and commanders of Panfilov's division. In essence, Drozdov's findings indicate that about 200 soldiers took part in the famous battle at the Dubosekovo Crossing, including the renowned 28 from Krivitskii's essay. The Panfilovites demonstrated mass heroism in the following days as well. The fictional story of the 28, however, overshadowed other, actual feats: that of the 17 soldiers led by Lieutenant Ugriumov and Political Commissar Georgiev who stopped the German tanks at the village of Mykanino, or the 11 engineers who accomplished an analogous feat outside Strokovo.

Drozdov bases his conclusions almost exclusively on the reports of the Panfilovites themselves, predominantly commanders and political workers. Crucially, although the accounts were recorded after the story of the 28 was disseminated in print and by propaganda organs, the heroes of Krivitskii's article were posthumously awarded the title Heroes of the Soviet Union. Konstantin Drozdov dealt the final blow to the myth of the 28 Panfilovites by publishing interviews with two Panfilovites who were "posthumously" decorated, though they turned out to be alive and well--Illation Vasil'ev and Grigorii Shemiakin. Drozdov correctly notes that Vasil'ev and Shemiakin based their accounts on Krivitskii's article (what else could an account of a fictional event be based upon?) and emphasizes the phrases that the respondents borrowed from the article, word for word or close to the text. At the same time, Drozdov fails to note that the accounts of other feats that he considers real ("the 17" or "the 11") are clearly inspired by the article on the 28 and reproduce it structurally. Both of those cases deal with battles with German tanks, in one all the heroes perish, in the other one of them survives, and in either case the group is led by the political commissar. The respondents did not protest the literary invention; they were annoyed that others had not been noticed and decorated.

Drozdov accentuates yet another curious circumstance: that the fallen were included in the host of heroes. This was an entirely safe position; it was still unclear how the fate of the survivors would unfold, whether or not they would make a mistake or be taken prisoner, which at the time was equal to treason. It later became clear that "jolly" Sergeant Dobrobabin, one of the main heroes of Krivitskii's article on the 28 Panfilovites, was alive; not only had he been taken prisoner, but he had also served in the German auxiliary police in his native village. The breakdown of the myth of the 28 hero-Panfilovites began with Dobrobabin's exposure. At that point, it could hardly be replaced by stories of the 17 or 11 soldiers of the Panfilov division. To paraphrase a Russian proverb, every myth has its time.

The time may be at hand for Russian academic historiography to study the history of the Great Patriotic War in a more scientific manner. The collection reviewed here, in my opinion, is a transitional phenomenon in which historians largely understand standard practices but have still not rid themselves of the habit of glancing back at the authorities.

To summarize: as an academic introduction to first-class materials, the service of the historians whose publications are discussed in this article is undeniable, despite their interpretation of the published texts. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg. Stenographs of the conversations conducted by members of the Mints Commission provide fascinating material for not only military but also social history. The short biographical statements preceding almost every interview, and in many cases the respondents' fairly detailed accounts of their background, family, and prewar life allow us to form some impression of the "Stalin generation." This is the generation whose paths were determined by the opportunities afforded them by the Soviet government and who in turn served as its defenders and backbone.

Was the opening of the Mints Commission archive the concluding act of the "archive revolution" in Russia? Time will tell. In the near future, the time limitations on the materials stored in the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense or the Military-Medical Archive in St. Petersburg will expire, and theoretically they will be transferred to state storage. In the meantime, historians have access to a unique collection of personal testimonies on the war, stored in the archive of the Institute of Russian History. The further development of this archive will, in my opinion, allow us to clarify if not fundamentally alter many aspects of the history of Soviet society, especially during World War II.

International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II

and Its Consequences

Faculty of History

Higher School of Economics

Basmannaia 21/4, Building 3

105066 Moscow, Russian Federation

This study was funded by the Russian Academic Excellence Project "5-100."

(1) "Vriad li pravomerno nachinat' kampaniiu po sboru vospominanii uchastnikov voiny, (Reaktsiia TsK KPSS na pis'mo pisatelia K. Simonov, 1979)," Istochnik, no. 2 (2000): 45.

(2) See, e.g., "Vospominaniia veteranov Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny,"

(3) The history of the commission and its archive is described in detail in D. D. Lotareva, "Komissiia po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i ee arkhiv: Rekonstruktsiia deiatel'nosti i metodov raboty," Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 2011 g. (2014): 123-66; and in one of the books reviewed in this article: S. V. Zhuravlev et al., Vklad uchenykh-istorikov v sokhranenie istoricheskoi pamiati o Velikoi Otechestvennoi voine: Na materialakh Kotnissii po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny ANSSSR, 1941-1945 gg. (Moscow: Institut rossiiskoi istorii RAN; St. Petersburg: Tsentr gumanitarnykh initsiativ, 2015), 50-135.

(4) M. Gor'kii et al., eds., Istoriia fabrik i zavodov, a series of workers' memoirs--12 of the planned 30 volumes appeared in print before the project was abandoned; Gor'kii et al., eds., htoriia grazbdanskoi voiny v SSSR, 5 vols. (Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo "Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny," 1935-60); Istoriia Vsesoiuznoi kommunisticheskoi partii (bol'shevikov): Kratkii ktirs (Moscow: Gospolitizdat, 1938).

(5) V. V. Tikhonov, " '... Zabit' poslednii gvozd' v kryshku politicheskogo groba Isaaka Mintsa i ego prikhvostnei': Razgrom 'gruppy' istorika I. I. Mintsa v gody ideologicheskikh kampanii 'pozdnego stalinizma,' "

(6) I. I. Mints, "Lenin i razvitie sovetskoi istoricheskoi nauki," Voprosy istorii, no. 1 (1949).

(7) The existence of the Mints Commissions archive and the value of the materials contained within it were well known to specialists. See A. A. Kurnosov, "Vospominaniia--interv'iu v fonde Komissii po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny Akademii nauk SSSR (organizatsiia i metodika sobiramia)," Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1973g. (1974): 118-32; B. V. Levshin, "Deiatel'nost' Komissii po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny: 1941-1945 gg.," Istoriia i istoriki: Istoriograficheskii ezhegodnik, 1974 (1976): 316-17; E. P. Mikhailova, "O deiatel'nosti Komissii po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny sovetskogo naroda protiv fashistskikh zakhvatchikov v period 1941-1945 gg.," in Voprosy istoriogmfii v vysshei shkole: Vsesoiuznaia konferentsiia prepodavatelei istoriografii SSSR i vseobshchei istorii universitetov ipedagogicheskikh institiHov, Smolensk, 31 ianvaria-3 fevralia 1973 g. (Smolensk: Smolenskii gosudarstvennyi pedagogicheskii institut imeni Karla Marksa, 1975), 352-59; N. S. Arkhangorodskaia and A. A. Kurnosov, "O sozdanii Komissii po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny AN SSSR i ee arkhiva (K 40-letiiu so dnia obrazovaniia)," Arkheogtuficheskii ezhegodnik za 1981 g. (1982): 219-29; Kurnosov, "Vstrecha sotrudnikov Komissii po istorii Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny AN SSSR," Arkheograficheskii ezhegodnik za 1984g. (1986): 174-81.

(8) A. M. Samsonov, Stalingradskaia bitva, 4th exp. ed. (Moscow: Nauka, 1989).

(9) For the Harvard project, see Alex Inkeles and Raymond A. Bauer, The Soviet Citizen: Daily Life in a Totalitarian Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1959), 3-64. Digitized materials of the project as well as information about its history are available on the Harvard University Library website,

(10) Jochen Hellbeck, ed., Die Stalingrad-Protokolle: Sowjetische Augenzeugen berichten aus der Schlacht, transcripts from the Russian trans. Christiane Korner and Annelore Nitschke (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2012), published In English as Stalingrad: The City That Defeated the Third Reich, trans. Christopher Tauchen and Dominic Bonfiglio (New York: PublicAfFairs, 2015), and in Russian as Stalingradskaia hitva: Svidetel'stva uchastnikov i ochevidtsev, trans. Hellbeck and K. Levinson, afterword I. Kalinin (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015). Page numbers refer to the English edition.

(11) A. V. Marchukov, Geroi-pokryshkintsy o sebe i svoem komandire: Pravda iz proshlogo, 1941-1945 (Moscow: Tsentrpoligraf, 2014).

(12) Zhuravlev et al., Vkladnchenykh-istorikov.

(13) Zhuravlev et al., Vklad uchenykh-istorikov, 134. Curiously, Jochen Hellbeck contests the thesis of one of the few authors who has produced a social history of the Red Army during World War II (Catherine Merridale, Ivan's War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 [New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006]). Merridale states that Soviet soldiers experienced two different wars: one real, on the battlefield; the other created by propaganda. Hellbeck also complains that Merridale "discarded most of [the veterans'] testimony on the grounds that it parroted official views" (Stalingrad, 18). The authors of the Academic Collection rightly adhere to similar views as Merridale.

(14) In the instructions for conducting interviews, the recommendation was to first collect the accounts of a regiments commander and the chief of staff, then especially distinguished heroes, soldiers, commanders, political workers, etc. (Zhuravlevet al., Vklad uchenykh-istorikov, 74).

(15) Estimated by me, using Nauchnyi arkhiv Instituia istorii RAN (NA IRI RAN) f. 2, razd. 3, op. 5, "Materialy po oborone Stalingrada."

(16) See, e.g., Michael Sontheimer, "Als die Erde Feuer atmete: Wie erlebten sowjetische Soldaten die Schlacht um Stalingrad? Wurden sie wirklich mit Waffengewalt zum Kampf an der Front gezwungen? Ein deutscher Historiker wertete jetzt Hunderte Interviews mit Rotarmisten aus," Der Spiegel, 22 October 2012, 48-52; Hans Mommsen, "Stalingrad-Protokolle--Zeugen eines Weltverbrechens: Der amerikanische Historiker Jochen Hellbeck hat unveroffentlichte Augenzeugenberichte sowjetischer Soldaten gefunden und ins Deutsche ubersetzt. Sie korrigieren das Bild der russischen Kriegsfuhrung," Die Welt, 11 December 2012.

(17) Hellbeck is absolutely correct to point out the similarities between the sniper movement and the campaigns of the 1930s (Stalingrad, 357).

(18) Ibid., 23-24, 32; G. F. Krivosheev et al., Velikaia Otechestvennaia Voina bezgrifa sekretnosti: Kniga poter ' (Moscow: Veche, 2009), 109, 114, 346.

(19) Samsonov, Stalingradskaia bitva.

(20) "Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta," 8 February 1943, 2050214&tab=navDetailDocument.

(21) NA IRI RAN f. 2, razd. 3, op. 5, d. 2a, 1. 42 ob.

(22) Ibid., d. 16, 1. 5.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Ibid., d. 9, 11. 41, 43.

(25) "Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta," 14 February 1943, Document.

(26) "Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta," 1 April 1943,


(27) See, e.g., the detailed description of the increase in party members in the First Guards Stalingrad Storm Aviation Division thanks to the activities of Deputy Director of the Political Department Major Efim Morozov, for which he was decorated with the Order of the Patriotic War, first and second degrees: "Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta," 14 July 1944, http://; and "Frontovoi prikaz," no. 91,

(28) July 1945, See, e.g., N. Nikulin, Vospominaniia o voine, 2nd ed. (St. Petersburg: Gosudarstvennyi Ermitazh, 2008), 94-95. In the memoirs of Lev Razumovskii, written in the 1960s without any expectation of publication, there is a detailed scene of the fighters of his platoon, having just arrived at the front, joining the Komsomol. The regiments Komsomol organizer, having established that only a quarter of the platoons soldiers were Komsomol members, ordered: "Close ranks! Komsomol members, remain in place. Everyone else, single march to the last hut to enroll in the Komsomol--forward march!" Razumovskii, after the newly initiated returned with their brand-new Komsomol cards, asked the Komsomol organizer: "How is that possible? According to the regulations the Komsomol only accepts the best, the most conscientious," and received an exhaustive answer: "We've got a different approach in the army! Get it? Tomorrow, everyone's going into battle as a Komsomol member! Those are the regulations! Understood?" (L. Razumovskii, Nas irremia uchib ... [St. Petersburg: Zhurnal Zvezda, 2016], 326-27). Nikulin fought on the Leningrad front, Razumovskii on the Karelian front, but it seems unlikely that admission practices into the Party or Komsomol were fundamentally different on other fronts.

(29) "Frontovoi prikaz," no. 1, 13 January 1943, =navDetailDocument.

(30) For Spitskii, see "Predstavlenie na nagrazhdenie," 27 February 1943, http://podvignaroda. ru/?#id=50108325&tab=navDetailDocument. For Molchanov, see "Ukaz Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta," 26 October 1943, 2059108&tab=navDetailDocument.

(31) Roger R Reese, Why Stalin's Soldiers Fought: The Red Army's Military Effectiveness in World War II (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011), 200.

(32) A sergeant who fought on the Stalingrad Front, the mortar operator Vladimir Gel'fand, wrote in his diary on 13 October 1942: "Yesterday they accepted me as a candidate for membership in the VKP(b). "The political instructor is a nice guy. He treated me well, supported me during the admission. In my combat qualifications, he wrote that I killed 90 German soldiers and a vehicle with enemy soldiers" (Dnevnik 1941-1946, ed. O. V. Budnitskii and T. L. Voronina [Moscow: Rosspen, 2015], 120). Judging by the Stalingrad interviews, political instructors as a whole were "nice people" and generously recorded enemy combatant kills in recommendations for applicants to the VKP(b).

(33) V. S. Khristoforov, "Voina trebuet vse novykh zhertv: Chrezvychainye mery 1942," in Velikaia Otechestvennaia Voina: 1942 god, ed. T. V. Volokitina et al. (Moscow: Glavnoe arkhivnoe upravlenie goroda Moskvy, 2012), 192; Stalingradskaia epopeia: Dokumenty, rassekrechennye FSB Rossii. Vospominaniia fel 'dmarshala Pauliusa. Dnevniki i pis'ma soldat RKKA i Vermakhta. Agenturnye doneseniia. Protokoly doprosov. Dokludnye zapiski osobykh otdelov frontov i armii (Moscow: Zvonnitsa-MG, 2012), 222-24. See also Khristoforov, Stalingrad: Organy NKVD nakanune v dni srazheniia (Moscow: Moskovskie uchebniki, 2008), 88-89.

(34) That reports are incomplete and dau on some armies have not been received is directly stated, for example, in a memorandum on the work of the "special forces" of the Don Front by NKVD Deputy People's Commissar V. S. Abakumov (Stalingrad epopeia, 407-9). As this article was being written, General Khristoforov was removed from his post because he enraged President V. V. Putin by violating the ban on high-ranking government officials being elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN). It was his misfortune to be selected as a corresponding member of RAN. We will soon see what his successors policies will be like and whether at least some publications will continue to appear from the FSB archive.

(35) Russkii arkhiv: Velikaia Otechestvennaia, vol. 13 (2-2): Prikazy narodnogo komissara oborony SSSR, 22 June 1941-1942 (Moscow: TERRA, 1997), 278.

(36) Hellbeck, Stalingrad, 52. During his second conversation with historians, which took place in February or March 1943, Chuikov likewise notes, among others, the "purely geographical factor" as one of the reasons for tenacity: "you could look at the Volga and see it was damn difficult to get back across" (quoted in ibid., 288).

(37) Vasilii Grossman, Gody voiny, 354, 355. Grossman spoke with Front Commander A. I. Eremenko on the extraordinary level of violence he exhibited toward his own troops in Stalingrad: "I was terribly cruel here: 'shoot on sight'" (352).

(38) Ibid., 355.

(39) Ibid., 356.

(40) Ibid., 376.

(41) V. G. Zaitsev, Geroi Sovetskogo Soiuza V G. Zaitsev: Rasskaz snaipera, ed. E. N. Gerasimov (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel'stvo Narodnogo komissariata oborony, 1943). This explanation of the text is given: "Stenograph recording of the conversations with Hero of the Soviet Union Komsomol member Vasilii Zaitsev by the Commission for the History of the Great Patriotic War."
COPYRIGHT 2018 Slavica Publishers, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Budnitskii, Oleg
Date:Jan 1, 2018
Previous Article:The Art of Revision: How Vera Inber Scripted the Siege and Her Self during World War II.
Next Article:Approaching Russian History from European Seas.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |