Some sources claim that Beevor is revisionist and anti-Soviet propagandist. What is the basis for this criticism? How credible is Beevor? What bias/influence should readers of Beevor's work keep in mind?

He was condemned for 'lies, slander and blasphemy' against the Red Army by the Russian ambassador at the time, Grigory Karasin,1 and was frequently described as 'the chief slanderer of the Red Army' by Kremlin supporting media. Wikipedia:Beevor


In August 2015, Russia's Yekaterinburg region considered banning Beevor's books, accusing him of Nazi sympathies, citing his lack of Russian sources when writing about Russia, and claiming he had promoted false stereotypes introduced by Nazi Germany during World War II.[18][19][20] Beevor responded by calling the banning "a government trying to impose its own version of history", comparing it to other "attempts to dictate a truth", such as denial of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. [Ibid]


For the antecedents of the question, see comment string on another question. This question is an attempt to change the venue of the discussion from a comments string (where it is inappropriate) to a H:SE question (where it is more appropriate). Please understand the context before VtC

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Beevor#Criticism (but several of the online references don't seem to be working)
    – yannis
    Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 13:43
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    Could you please reword this question and expand on what exactly you are asking? It is already garnering votes for closing, and I'm definitely leaning towards doing so. BTW - You should NEVER send site visitors elsewhere to get an understanding of what you are asking. Paraphrase the information in your link at the very least. Commented Dec 10, 2012 at 22:46
  • For now, I've upvoted noth answers. Anixx provided some bona fide criticism of Beevor's sourcework (I agree that "oral history" is a very tricky business). On the other hand, spiceyokkoko's general point is sadly vertu true as well. Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 0:16
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    @StevenDrennon: Now that Anixx has given a long answer, is it better? Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 0:42
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    You guys need to keep in mind that SE is about providing clear and concise answers. It is NOT a forum for discussion or debate, and it is NOT a forum for OPINION. This question is overflowing with all of these things which are clearly stated as being outside of our guidelines. I am going to block this question from further comments. I am not trying to be "heavy-handed", I'm just trying to enforce the rules. If you don't understand which rules, then please consult the FAQ. If anyone would care to dispute my assertion or discuss this further, bring it up on the Meta site. Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 14:58

2 Answers 2


The view of Beevor as a propagandist rather than a historian is based on the following points:

  • Use of unreliable sources

  • Use of anecdotal evidence

  • Use of slanderous language

Use of unreliable sources

In his book "Battle of Berlin" Beevor gives the following claim:

Berliners remember that, because all the windows had been blown in, you could hear the screams every night. Estimates from the two main Berlin hospitals ranged from 95,000 to 130,000 rape victims. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in Berlin, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide. The death rate was thought to be much higher among the 1.4 million who had suffered in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. Altogether at least 2 million German women are thought to have been raped, and a substantial minority, if not a majority, appear to have suffered multiple rape.

While giving no references to the "Berliners" who remembered screams and any connection between the screams and rapes, regarding the numbers Beevor gives the following footnote:

p. 410 rape estimates, Dr Gerhard Reichling, and Charité and Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, quoted Sander and Johr, pp. 54, 59

In fact, it is a reference to a book by German feminists Helke Sander and Barbara Johr "Befreier und Befreite: Krieg, Vergewaltigung, Kinder". The Beevor's reference hints that the estimates are by the hospitals and only quoted by Johr abnd Sander, which is untrue. The reference is thus a forgery.

In their book Sander and Johr define rape as any kind of sex with a person in power, including sex for food, prostitution, sex for getting job etc. This definition of rape is certainly not mainstream and does not reflect any country's criminal code. But Beevor does not warn the reader about the fact that Johr and Sander use a very specific definition of "rape".

The book includes an estimate of the rapes victims based on data from Berlin's clinic Kaiserin Auguste Victoria. From 01.09.1945 to 31.12.1946 this clinic registered 9 cases of rape by Russians (according the words of the women, as the clinic did not verify the validity of the claims):

Kaiserin Auguste Victoria birth statistics page

In total there were 32 cases of kids born whose father was Russian. Sander and Johr assume that all children born to Russian fathers were a result of rape, excluding the possibility of voluntary relationships (how a German Aryan woman can voluntarily engage with those subhumans?).

Taking this data they postulate that of all 23124 kids born in Berlin 5% (1156) had Russian father (i.e. were result of rape).

Further they postulate that 90% raped (i.e. 90% of all women engaged with Russians) conducted abortion. This way they multiply 1156 by 10 to arrive at 11560 "raped".

By assuming that pregnancy followed a rape in 20% cases (based in the data from Charité) they miltiply the figure by 5 to arrive at 57800. They then assume that all women from 14 to 18 and older than 45 were raped in the same proportion (oh yes, Russians do not differ between a young woman and a 80-year-old hag) so to arrive at the figure of 110000 raped, derived from 9 reported rape cases.

The second part of the Beevor's claim, that each 1 in 10 raped women died "mostly of suicide" as well as "2 million raped German women" Sander and Johr attribute to Gerhard Reichsling. Being named a "doctor" the reader may think that he was an employee of a mentioned clinic. This is not true, he was just a statistician. Sander and Johr say that he made the calulation for them privately.

Neither the methods, nor the data used in this calculation were ever published by Reichsling. It is thus impossible to verify the data because Reichsling is dead. Yet Beevor references him.

Use of anecdotal evidence

The rest of evidence which Beevor uses to support his claims and drive conclusions is just picked stories narrated by Germans or Russians, sometimes, third-hand accounts.

An example, a reference to an anonymous female diarist:

‘All in all,’ wrote the anonymous diarist on 4 May, ‘we are slowly beginning to look upon the whole business of rape with a certain humour, albeit of the grimmer kind.’ They noted that the Ivans went for fatter women first of all, which provided a certain schadenfreude.

Of course, Ivans, as subhumans have no sense of beauty.

The anonymous diarist even heard from one woman in the water-pump queue that when Red Army soldiers were dragging her from the cellar, a man who lived in the same block had said to her, ‘Go along, for God’s sake! You’re getting us all into trouble

These quotes are provided with references to a famous researcher:

p. 318 ‘We didn’t have time…’, anonymous interview, 5 November 1999

p. 327 ‘That? Well, it certainly…’, Anonymous, p. 49

p. 410 ‘All in all’, Anonymous, p. 102

p. 411 ‘You’ve turned into shameless bitches’, Anonymous, p. 202

p. 412 ‘Go along, for God’s sake!…’, Anonymous, p. 66

Another exerpts from the book:

A daughter, mother and grandmother who were all raped together just outside Berlin consoled themselves with the idea that the man of the house had died during the war. He would have been killed trying to prevent it, they told themselves.

Besides this, the book is full of details which have no historical relevance such as descriptions of the "out-of-body" experiences of the victims:

Other women, both young and adult, simply tried to blank out the experience. ‘I must repress a lot in order, to some extent, to be able to live,’ one woman acknowledged, when refusing to talk about the subject. Those who did not resist and managed to detach themselves from what was happening appear to have suffered much less. Some described it in terms of an ‘out-of-body’ experience. ‘That feeling,’ wrote one, ‘has kept the experience from dominating the rest of my life.’

Use of slanderous language

Beevor does little to restrain himself in wording and language, sometimes attempting to attribute hate speech to unnamed witnesses. In many cases he makes collective accusations against Red Army soldiers:

The pattern, with soldiers flashing torches in the faces of women huddled in the bunkers to select their victims, appears to have been common to all the Soviet armies involved in the Berlin operation.

And, of course, these sub-humans all were alcoholics:

Most of the programme of stripping laboratories and factories was marked by chaos and disaster. Red Army soldiers who discovered methyl alcohol drank it and shared it with their comrades.

Apparently this statement is based on one instance of methanol poitioning described by Vasily Grossman, but the wording implies that all the soldiers did so.

After all the blame for the atrocities possibly should lay on the German authorities who failed to destroy alcohol in time so to prevent those savages to take it:

The worst mistake of the German military authorities had been their refusal to destroy alcohol stocks in the path of the Red Army’s advance. This decision was based on the idea that a drunken enemy could not fight. Tragically for the female population, however, it was exactly what Red Army soldiers seemed to need to give them courage to rape as well as to celebrate the end of such a terrible war.

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    Thanks for the answer, this is quite interesting. I don't quite buy into the sladerous language angle (it's bad stuff that we're dealing with, so some strong language is not absolutely out of place, in my opinion) but the decosntruction of the 100,000 and 10,000 figures is quite convincing and instructive. However: are these the only arguments Beevor marshals? Perhaps there are sounder ones, which you haven't tackled? For instance, the wikipedia entry I referred to mentioned his use of Soviet archives? Anything on this angle? Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 0:19
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    Anixx: Your examples are all from Berlin and dealing with rape: Are his sources more reliable in Stalingrad or when dealing with the more military sections of the book?
    – Canageek
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 0:23
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    @Felix Goldberg, regarding slanderous language, for example his claim that all Soviet soldiers drank methanol is based on one third-hand account by Vasiliy Grossman about once happened methanol poisoning. To take it in perspective: in the US South Pole base in 2000 was a methanol poisoning resulted in a death. Now imagine a book which would state thad all US polar employees are drunkards who drinks methanol once discovered.
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 1:26
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    @Canageek historians point out that he took the scene of nattle in grain store from Vitaly Chuykov memoirs (who heared the story from Andrey Hussainov), but grossly perverted it and did not attribute the original source. It is also pointed out his libel on the 10th infantry division of NKVD who participated in that battle and lost nearly all of their people. Public opinion in Russsia is that if he lived in Russia the veterans could sue him in a court for slander.
    – Anixx
    Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 1:32
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    @Anixx: Where did he claim that ALL Soviet soldiers drank methanonl? The word ALL was not in your quote. Its addition changes the whole meaning. The only slanderous language I've seen on this page came from you when you called spiceyokooko a neo-Nazi for pointing out Stalin's crimes. Commented Dec 11, 2012 at 9:49

That he correctly portrayed Stalin (and his political enforcers) as someone who saw his own people as a resource to be used and wasted as he saw fit. He cared little for his own people and everything for his own image.

In terms of human genocide he's right up there with the very worst of the 20th century alongside Mao and Hitler.

It's no coincidence that the loss of Russian life was almost as much as the German and allied losses put together.

No surprise then that the Russians don't think particularly highly of anyone who might criticise him.

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    So, do you say that the historian is right because he has based his research on the stalinophobe preconceptions? I have communist ideals and do not share this approach. Equalizing communism with fascism is a classical burgeose propaganda. I also do not understand what this it means that "Russians do not think particularly high of his critics". Do you say that anyone who defends the Red Army from slender has a wrong nationality and, therefore, Red Army does not deserve a lower? Is it all you wanted to say? I recognize this "scientific" approach. This science is called a "Goebbels propaganda".
    – Val
    Commented Aug 5, 2013 at 13:00
  • "Equalizing communism with fascism..." is incorrect, true. The former has a vastly higher body count.
    – Meir
    Commented Dec 29, 2023 at 15:17

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