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On the Precipice
Stalin, the Red Army Leadership and the Road to Stalingrad, 1931-1942
Exhaustive knowledge of Soviet life, politics and censorship, including the phraseology in which Communist statesmen were allowed to narrate their biographical events, gave Peter Mezhiritskiy sharp tools for the analysis of Zhukov's memoirs.
The reader will learn about the abundance of awkward events that strangely and fortuitously occurred in good time for Stalin's rise to power, about the hidden connection between the purges, the Munich appeasement and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, and about the real reason why it took so long to liquidate Paulus' Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Mezhiritskiy presents a clear picture of the purges which promoted incompetent and poorly educated commanders to higher levels of command, leaving the Soviet Union poorly prepared for a war against the Wehrmacht military machine, and offers alternative explanations for many prewar and wartime events.
The second part of the book is dedicated to the course of the Great Patriotic War, much of which is still little known to the vast majority of Western readers. While not fully justifying Zhukov's actions, Mezhiritskiy also reveals the main reason for the bloody strategy chosen by Zhukov and the General Staff in the defensive period of the War. In general, he shares and argues Marshal Vasilevsky's conviction that if there had been no purges, the war would not have occurred.
On the Precipice became widely known to the Russian-reading public on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the last ten years its quotations have been used as an essential argument in almost all the debates about the World War II.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
The strongest point of the book being discussed here is that Mezhiritsky combines the skills of a professional historian, the patience of an archivist, and the passion of someone for whom the years 1941-1945 are part of his life. The author of captivating fiction, he knows how to make his writing accessible to professionals and the lay public alike. He often interrupts the exposition by digressions, asides, and personal recollections, so that the reader becomes a participant in the unfolding tragedy. This is indeed an academic book with a human face. * Anatoly Liberman, Professor of Germanic and Slavic at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus *