The Social Psychology of the War
The literature on the Great Patriotic War, as the Armageddon of the eastern front during World War II is known in Russia, is so large that it has generated a historiography of historiography. Hundreds, even thousands of books are devoted to military operations, to command staff proceedings, to the reasons for the early defeats and the subsequent victories, and to the study of defense industry and the organization of support in the rear. The history of the war, based on precise reports of the production of tanks and planes, comparative body counts, inventories of cities taken and lost, and assessments of strategic trumps and mistakes--all of this is, of course, a necessary part of history. It is, however, military history of a limited perspective. War has an additional face, the social dimension, which epic deeds at the front and labor heroism in the rear do not describe. The social history of the Great Patriotic War is often overlooked, it seems, because war is perceived as an interruption of normal life, or at least as a deviation from an imaginary norm. But conflict, tragedy, and disaster are part of Russian life, if not of life itself. More important, the wartime experience was the foundation for the outlook of many in the postwar generation, and the source of their expectations.
The social history of the war is still weakly represented in scholarship although it is abundantly recorded in letters from the front, diaries, soldiers' memoirs, in the documentary publications of Ales Adamovich, Daniil Granin, and Svetlana Aleksievich; 1 in the letters, interviews, and documentary films collected by Konstantin Simonov; and in the wartime prose of soldier-authors Viktor Nekrasov, Viktor