Academic journal article Military Review

STALIN'S GUERRILLAS: Soviet Partisans in World War II

Academic journal article Military Review

STALIN'S GUERRILLAS: Soviet Partisans in World War II

Article excerpt

STALIN'S GUERRILLAS: Soviet Partisans in World War II. Kenneth Slepyan, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2006,409 pages, $34.95.

In World War II, resistance movements were almost as common as mechanized maneuvers. One of the largest, best-organized resistance movements was in the Soviet areas occupied by German invaders from 1941 to 1944. In Stalin's Guerrillas, Kenneth Slepyan uses memoirs and Soviet documents to analyze this movement as a political and social entity within the larger Soviet society.

Slepyan argues that we cannot view the Soviet partisans separately from their parent society, although paradoxically their very existence made them a challenge to that society. Of necessity, the partisans operated in an atmosphere of freedom and decentralized decision-making that was alien to Stalinist Russia. Thus, the central government sought to control the movement politically and militarily and dismissed any independent spirit as "partisan nonsense."

For their part, many partisan leaders pretended to fit Soviet norms of political orthodoxy and culture in order to conceal their independent lifestyles and decision-making. To cite but one example, several partisan bands actually dedicated to rescuing as many Jews as possible from German persecution portrayed themselves as "typical" Marxist irregular fighters. …

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