The Damned and the Dead

The Eastern Front through the Eyes of the Soviet and Russian Novelists

Frank Ellis

The confrontation between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army on the Eastern Front of World War II was defined by incalculable suffering, destruction, casualties, and heroism. While many historians have chronicled the epic nature of that arena of war, it has largely been left to Russian novelists to fully express the intense human dimensions of that conflict. Frank Ellis's groundbreaking study provides the first comprehensive survey of that impressive body of literature.

Canvassing a wide spectrum of works by Soviet and post-Soviet writers, many of whom were war veterans themselves, Ellis uncovers themes both common to war literature in general and distinctive to the Soviet experience. He recalls the earliest works in this genre by Emmanuil Kazakevich, Grigorii Baklanov, and IUrii Bondarev; presents a long overdue assessment of Vasil' Bykov's work, which focuses on the partisan war in Bykov's native Belorussia; and brings into sharp focus the powerful Stalingrad novels of Vasilii Grossman, Konstantin Simonov, Viktor Nekrasov, and Bondarev. He also provides keen insights into the heroic portraits of Stalin in the fiction of Ivan Stadniuk and Vladimir Bogomolov and examines three important war novels published during the 1990s: Viktor Astaf'ev's The Damned and the Dead, Georgii Vladimov's The General and His Army, and Vladimir But's Heads-Tails.

The Damned and the Dead provides multifaceted and uniquely Russian perspectives of why Soviet citizens resisted the German invasion and will be of interest to historians of World War II's eastern front.

—Army History

“A rich resource and a timely contribution to an underappreciated topic. . . . Ellis’s book paves the way for future scholarship on the Soviet experience of the Second World War.

—Russian Review
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One of the many threads running throughout Ellis's study is the dilemma of the Red Army soldier condemned to serve a regime that was utterly paranoid regarding the allegiances of its own armies, so much so that Soviet soldiers often felt as threatened by the Soviet government as they did by the German armies. Many of these novels reinforce the now well-known fact that Stalin devoted considerable resources to ferreting out soldiers whose actions (or inactions) suggested disloyalty to his repressive regime. A few of them—such as Grossman's Life and Fate—became battlegrounds in their own right, pitting Soviet writers against Soviet censors in a struggle over the public memory of the war.

Russia's memories of World War II are forever tied to the suffering of its people. Ellis's rich and revealing work shows us why.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series