In not so distant 2008 Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Ministry of Defence to prepare for publication the twelve volumes of the treatise titled The 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. The mission is accomplished – the 12th volume has come out recently. It is a really overarching project and this time the authors have tried to come up with something new. Unlike the fundamental works that had been issued in the Soviet Union, the authors carefully avoided the risk of pertinent descriptions of dispositions and military activities overshadowing the political, economic, diplomatic, social, spiritual and everyday life aspects of such a complex phenomenon as the Great Patriotic War.
Practically all the best specialists of the country were convened to take part in the work. Around 200 experts in various fields (military and civilian historians, economists, political scholars and lawyers) from different research institutes of Academy of Sciences and public organizations, military and civilian educational institutions (the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, the Academy of Military Science the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, the Academy of Military Science the Academy of Federal Security Service of Russian Federation, the General staff college of the Russian Federation´s armed forces, the Military University of the Ministry of Defense of Russian Federation, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the Lomonosov Moscow State University, The Combined Arms Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, the Saint Petersburg State University), state and agency-level archives, military-industrial complex and veterans organizations took part in the effort.
The very list of organizations involved in the project tells about the wide range of themes. Here is the topical structure of the treatise. Volume 1 - the key events of the war. It’s kind of summary of the whole multi-volume work. It tells about the preparatory measures taken by the Soviet Union to counter the fascist aggression, as well as the description of main operations, the activities in the rear and how people lived those days. Volume 2 - the origin and the outbreak of the war. It offers the description of the pre-war period and the first three months of war. Volume 3 - the decisive battles to influence the outcome of war. It depicts the Moscow, Stalingrad and other battles fought since the autumn of 1941 up to the end of 1943. Volume 4 – the liberation of the Soviet territory in 1944. This part of the treatise is devoted to the main operations of the Rea Army to liberate the national territory. Volume 5 - the victorious finale: the concluding offensives and the war with Japan. It depicts the decisive battles of Red Army in Europe and the Far East. Volume 6 - the secret war, intelligence and counter-espionage during the Great Patriotic War. The volume narrates a story about the efforts undertaken by foreign, military and counter intelligence to achieve victory. Volume 7 - economy and armaments. It provides the description of economic base of the USSR at the time of war and offers descriptions and characteristics of the weapons systems in the inventory of the Red Army. Volume 8 - the Soviet foreign policy and diplomacy during the war. The diplomatic activities of Soviet Union. Volume 9 - the anti-Hitler coalition, the Soviet Union’s allies. The volume is devoted to the policies of the United States of America, Great Britain and other Soviet allies, as well as operations of their armed forces. Volume 10 - power, society, and war. It tells about the role of government and society in the war effort. Volume 11 - policy and strategy behind the victory, the strategic command during the war. It highlights the details on how government functions and command of armed forces were exercised in extreme conditions. Volume 12 - the outcome and lessons of the war. This volume provides ideas on what lessons Russia and its military should learn from the Great Patriotic War.
The new edition offers hundreds of the documents that have been found during the recent twenty years in the archive of President of Russian Federation, the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), the Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defence and other national and foreign archives. The used material is unique. It provides a clue to understanding the genuine reasons and the goals of criminal war unleashed by Germany against the Soviet Union. It dispels the myths about the “preventive war” Germany had to start. The documents prove that the goals pursued by the Soviet Union in the war against the fascist alliance met vital interests of its peoples, as well as the peoples of other countries. It testifies to the fact that the USSR pursued a just cause by fighting for independence, territorial integrity and its very right to exist.
The statistics adduced in the treatise show that the Great Patriotic War was the main event of the Second World War. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of effort to rout the Nazi Germany and its European allies. The work offers an insight into interaction with the anti-Hitler’s coalition allies, the role of economic and military aid provided according to the Lend-Lease. It shows that it was the people’s war. The treatise sheds light on the role of party and government organs, public organizations and the church in mobilization efforts. It explores the subject of where the resources and willpower to fight the aggressor came from and how subversive activities were conducted in the enemy’s rear. It provides a clue to understanding how high was the price of war, what immense human and material losses the country suffered.
The authors provide substantiated replies to the controversial questions. Could the Second World War and the aggression of Germany against the Soviet Union be avoided? What caused the defeats suffered by Red Army in 1941 and why the war inflicted such great losses? Why some Russians collaborated with the enemy? Is their reason for painting as an aggressive force the army that liberated (fully or partly) 11 European and two Asian countries? There are answers to many other questions acute today.
The authors don’t shy away from offering assessments. They vividly react to the attempts of falsifiers to do away with the very notion of Great Patriotic War. They offer to use the definition “Soviet-German” or “Nazi-Soviet” instead and make the Soviet Union and the Third Reich equally responsible for unleashing the war. Some try to paint the soldier-liberator as an occupant and rapist. The authors of the treatise have reviewed all available information about the Second World War. Solid facts have been separated from inventions, the previous mistakes and oversights have been rectified.
There is one more feature that makes the treatise stand out. It is linked to future. The authors directly and unambiguously try to learn lessons of practical use for Russia and the build-up of its armed forces in the XXI century. It’s up to readers to tell how successful they are. Hopefully the new treatise on the history of Russia's 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War published on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union has come into the world to start an independent, long and fruitful life.