The Soviet Army was ill-prepared for its ally’s treacherous onslaught in 1941. Its officer corps decimated by Stalin’s purges and its men less well-trained than the Germans, the Red Army was poorly led, hampered by the power of the political officers and only partly mobilized. But, in spite of the huge German victories and the speed of the Nazi attack, the Soviets proved fantastically capable of rolling with the punches. The vast territory of the Soviet Union and huge population were significant, as was substantial assistance from the West—the United States and Britain in particular—which was in evidence when the German columns got to within a few miles short of Moscow and were held and then forced back.
The tide turned thanks to help from outside and the efforts of the Soviet soldiers, who proved hardy and durable. And just like its soldiers, Russian infantry equipment was rugged and effective. While Soviet infantrymen may not have had the flexibility or tactical nous of the Germans, they did not lack cunning: deception, camouflage skills and endurance made Russian snipers, as an example, more than the equal of the Germans.
Most of the views of the Soviet soldier and campaign are influenced by self-serving German postwar accounts designed to excuse their loss by suggesting that Adolf Hitler’s meddling and Soviet numbers were the main reasons for victory: this denigrates the Russian infantryman whose toughness and ingenuity helped destroy the Third Reich in spite of the faults of its own regime.
Fully illustrated with over 150 contemporary photographs and illustrations, Soviet Infantryman on the Eastern Front in the Casemate Illustrated series provides an insight into the Soviets’ main theater of operations in World War II.
Life in the field