1

Imagine I wanted to get a basic understanding what the everyday life of a Soviet soldier (especially infantry, tank units, air force) during WWII was like.

What books and other resources in English, German, and Russian contain information on this?

2

There are some good descriptions, but mainly in Russian fiction and memoirs, for example:

Vasili Grossman, Life and fate (there is an English translation),

Victor Astafiev, The Cursed and the Slain,

Also the memoirs of Lev Kopelev, and short stories of Vasil Bykov.

There is also a very high quality, realistic movie: Torpedo bombers (Торпедоносцы) (can be found on Internet).

  • 1
    I have read Grossman's Life and Fate and while it is a very good book that I absolutely recommend, the fact is that only a relatively small part of the first half is focused on soldiers (and the second part is not focused on soldiers at all), and the descriptions are scarce in favor of the narrative; it is more of a novel (even if based on Grossman's actual experiences) than a source material. I would not consider it a good fit for the OP's needs. – SJuan76 Nov 11 at 19:54
  • Well, Grossman was not a solider, and he puts his unique Jewish perspective on the war . Kopelev, also a Jew, was interpreter and propaganda officer, again not a average solider. Only Astafiev, who did serve as a front-line artillery solider , could be considered as truly relevant for this. – rs.29 Nov 12 at 18:21
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    I do not understand what "unique Jewish perspective" of the war is, and in what sense Kopelev and Grossman were Jews. They were both atheists. – Alex Nov 12 at 21:07
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If you haven't read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I would highly recommend him. While not exclusively about WWII his books discuss WWII soviet soldiers both during the war and what they faced after the war. Solzhenitsyn especially focuses on after WWII and those who didn't fit neatly back into Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn himself was a WWII soldier who followed a similar path of his novels, ending up in Stalin's Gulag system for nearly a decade after the war.

  • Gulag Archipelago
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  • In the First Circle



from the comments

Comment from FranzDrollig
I downvoted this answer because Solzhenitsyn's work IMHO is gazillion times less realistic/trustworthy than Grossman's (even though large parts of "Life and Fate" happen outside of the battlefront). It is unbelievable that anyone could take Solzhenitsyn's work at face value in 2019.

@FranzDrollig Solzhenitsyn beyond being one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century was also WWII Soviet officer. His early incomplete work "Love the Revolution!," chronicle his personal war experience. His later works of which I mention cover WWII and a soviet soldiers WWII experiences in depth. He writes of how 10 million Russians including many active duty soldiers like himself, fell afoul of Communist Party and ended up in a Stalin Gulag. He explains in great detail the daily activities of such men before, during and after the Gulag.

Solzhenitsyn himself went from a decorated active duty officer, awarded the Order of the Red Star, his second decoration, to being interred in a Gulag for a decade. As for Alexandr Sozhenisyn being a creditable source..

  • Nobel Prize in Literature (1970)
    • "for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature".
  • Templeton Prize (1983)
  • Lomonosov Gold Medal (1998)
  • State Prize of the Russian Federation (2007)
  • International Botev Prize (2008)

If you really want a treat, Read Solzhenitsyn's 1978 commencement address at Harvard where he critiques the west. It's one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century.

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    I downvoted this answer because Solzhenitsyn's work IMHO is gazillion times less realistic/trustworthy than Grossman's (even though large parts of "Life and Fate" happen outside of the battlefront). It is unbelievable that anyone could take Solzhenitsyn's work at face value in 2019. – Franz Drollig Nov 12 at 5:21
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    @FranzDrollig You are wrong on this one. Solzhenitsyn is now largely unpopular in the West (especially among leftists) but his work about GULAG and ww2 is authentic and genuine . He did serve as an artillery officer, while Grossman was merely war corespondent. – rs.29 Nov 12 at 18:25
  • @FranzDrollig responded in my answer – JMS Nov 12 at 22:00

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