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Differences in studying the Eastern Front as opposed to other theaters

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by Gerard, Dec 17, 2009.

  1. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    As someone who likes reading about the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War I am often struck by the differences in it and the other theaters of war in terms of information available and discussions that start on the subject.

    Even on this forum you will see threads on the Western Front about specific Units at a certain time, for example perhaps about a British/US Unit defending a particular village or Sapper's account of Kettenturn bridge. However when you look at the Eastern Front sub-forum you are more likelly to see threads from a much broader/Strategic view. This is not a criticism of either, merely that there appears to be a difference. I know that for years we were dependent on the German viewpoint and that any material was subject to bias, by either side. We now have greater access to Soviet Archival material, which does help. Does anyone else notice this?
     
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  2. L J

    L J Senior Member

    there were authors who were giving the Siviet point of view (Ericson),but the problem was -and is ? - that they were -and are ?- giving the official Soviet history,which is in most cases-IMVHO -only propaganda and unreliable.The last years,Russian archives are opened (partially) and we are getting more information .
    For the German point of view :it was also biased for more than 30 years :it was :we could have won,but that stupid Hitler .Even now,there are few German historiand who dare give an objective history of the war in the East:that that stupid Hitler was maybe not that stupid and that there were other causes for the German defeat (a suspicion of sympathy for the Third Reich is not far away) .
    An other problem is that a lot of authors are to lazy to do some home work and are parroting wat their predecessors have written . The result:a repetition of old myths (the Germans defeated in 1941 by the winter,Kursk:the greatest tank battle of history ,Stalingrad:the turning point of the war in the East ........) and these myths will never die .
    Cheers and Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
     
  3. Mussolini

    Mussolini Gaming Guru

    I think its also in part due to the wealth of information easily accesable on the Western Front. The Western Front was also much smaller, so did not involve nearly as many units as the Eastern Front, and it also went on for a much shorter time. It was also the 'home front' for the British, while the Eastern Front was 'far away' and involved a communist country. Post WW2, of course, the threat of going to war with that Communist Country was very real, and while studies on Units on the Western Front was being conducted, such access to information about the Eastern Front was not. So, lots of little factors, plus the Russians withholding lots of information. German sources are well documentation (they liked being organized) but things from the Russian stand point are much murkier, especially with all their propaganda (esp. in recent years).
     
  4. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    I think it's a mixture of access to files and the language barrier. I can go to Kew anytime and pull any file on any British/Commonwealth unit in any theatre of war. I have the language to do it in Germany, but with incomplete and scattered archives, what would I find, and what would be missing? I wouldn't know where to start with the Soviet archives, and the language would be an issue for me there, and I am sure most members of this forum.
     
  5. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    I do not agree that everything coming from the East just HAS to be communist propaganda. Right now I'm reading Yeremenko's Stalingrad memoir and poor old Khrushchev must be all black and blue because I'm stumbling on him every second page :) but I've read other descritions of Western leaders and generals that are rather close to hagiography. Reading the Military Historical Journal it's not all propaganda, quite the opposite there is a lot of debate and criticism with not very many icons respected. I managed to download a lot from redarmystudies.net before it folded. There are a number of interesting veteran memoirs in I Remember.
     
  6. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Points well made Za, and Paul. What I find though in relation to the Great Patriotic War (trying to make reference to what the Soviets called it as much as the germans!) is that posts tend to be along the lines of "Barbarossa" or "The Red Army and its rise from the Ashes" or even "Kursk and Prokhorovka" whereas if you browse the North-West Europe forum you tend to see more along the lines of "Canadians at Ouilly-le-tesson, Normandy" or "Joe's Bridge, or someone elses". Both types of posts are absolutely fine but there is a difference.

    I Suppose its because it was a much bigger war and people dont have as much access to Eastern Front resources as they do for the West.

    Long may the dsicussions continue, no matter what form they take though. Thats the important thing!
     
  7. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Junior Member

    I too think that not all is propaganda especially when reading memoirs of everyday soldiers, officers, partisans etc. Reading one of a commissar though....:D

    As pointed out by another, the language barrier has been and still remains very problematic in trying to decipher or simply explain certain situations or scenarios.

    Lets also not forget that the war in the east was a little bit longer and a bit larger in scale so there might always be a case of "don't worry about that house and concentrate on the apartment complex" With such a large front, numbers of men involved and sheer vastness of the land, some things might simply have been over looked for the sake of the "larger picture"....
     
  8. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    I Suppose its because it was a much bigger war and people dont have as much access to Eastern Front resources as they do for the West.

    Lets also not forget that the war in the east was a little bit longer and a bit larger in scale

    Ger, if you read for instance Erickson's twosome Road to Stalingrad / Road to Berlin you'll find extensive reference to what this and that Front was doing, and more remarkable events concerning this or that army. The author simply does not go down to Division level. The canvas is too large for tiny detail, and in any case a RKKA division was nuch smaller than it's German counterparts, amounting in practice to regiments in size. Also the burn-out rate was so severe that making detailed divisional histories is a somewhat pointless exercise.

    I forgot to mention above another excellent source of past and current online military or political texts here . The military history tab is here, with military thought here. May the online translation gods smile on you :)

    Some examples:

    Mannerheim and the system of Finnish permanent fortification on the Karelian isthmus
    In the book the results of investigating the foreign and domestic sources on the history of the creation of the belt of Finnish permanent work on the Karelian isthmus and on the assault of these strengthenings are presented. The conclusions of the authors are reinforced by the recollections of participants in the Soviet-Finnish war 1939-1940 yr., and also by the materials of expeditions for the study of directly objects themselves in the localities, which were carried out over a number of years by the members of St. Petersburg historico- regional-study association “Karelia”, by scouting forces and other researchers.

    Rybalko (!!) The Way of the 3rd Guards Tank Army
    In the book are represented the history of forming and target run during the years of the Second World War of the 3rd guard tank army - one of the first tank armies, formed to the Soviet Union. The analysis of the combat operations, in which the army participated, makes possible for the reader to trace the stages of the forming of contemporary views on the command of tank troops. The book includes the information about the technical equipment, the methods of the instruction of personnel, plans and conclusions of commands, based on the archive documents.

    ROA division. Materials for the history of the liberation movement of the peoples of Russia
    The labor Of [v]. [P]. [Artemev] “1-[aya] division [ROA]” is the first detailed description of the epic of 1-[oy] division. Taking into account the fact that the majority of the series and commissioned personnel of 1-[oy] division remained among the living fell into the hands of Soviet military units and, subsequently, it was given out into the special of camp MVD, it is extremely difficult, if we do not say it is not possible, to at present restore all precise facts of incidents in the recent days of existence of 1-[oy] division. On the basis evidence several, located z of emigration, officers of 1[oy] of the division [ROA], and also of some archive documents, publishing house considers that the labor Of [v]. [P]. [Artemev] is one of the most actual and complete descriptions of the events of that time.


    I suppose we can dismiss the propaganda accusations as, well..., propaganda :p
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Is their a lack of accurate information on the Eastern Front battles?

    This area isn't something I have ever been interested in if I'm honest but I can't help wonder if the Russians restricted information or were economical with it long after the war (Maybe still today), possibly even changed the facts and the German files were destroyed by the Russians.

    Watching the BBC's excellent docu earlier this year on Stalin I noticed the Russians were denying Katyn (Sp) and with holding information about it until recently.

    It makes me wonder if books have to written on assumption or hearsay?

    Regards
    Andy
     
  10. L J

    L J Senior Member

    I do not agree that everything coming from the East just HAS to be communist propaganda. Right now I'm reading Yeremenko's Stalingrad memoir and poor old Khrushchev must be all black and blue because I'm stumbling on him every second page :) but I've read other descritions of Western leaders and generals that are rather close to hagiography. Reading the Military Historical Journal it's not all propaganda, quite the opposite there is a lot of debate and criticism with not very many icons respected. I managed to download a lot from redarmystudies.net before it folded. There are a number of interesting veteran memoirs in I Remember.
    I did write :the OFFICIAL Soviet history:when Ericson and Ziemke were publishing (during the Cold War !),the only Soviet sources they had,was the official Soviet history;and that was :the Soviet Union won,because of the superior Red Army,and the Western aid was neglectable.
    Till 1945 the Soviet victory was due to the genius of Stalin;afterwards the role of Zhukov was publicised,after the disgrace of Zhukov,it was Kroetchev,and then Breznjev .I do not criticise Ericson or Ziemke,they used the sources that were available .
    On German side,the only source was Halder (the others beying dead or in prison) and the least onecan say of Halderis that he was biased .
     
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Ger,
    To go to your point about the difference in the sub-forums, ie the broader sweep of Eastern front as opposed to the specifics of Western front ... is this not really down to the fact that so many of us have a personal interest in the latter? Granted I myself may have a slightly different perspective than most here.

    Many of us post because we have an interest in a Regiment, an action in which a relative took part or died, or even a town or PoW camp which was liberated; this is really not the case IRO Eastern front. Unless you get more Russians and Germans asking questions / posting info here, I believe the difference will remain.

    Regards,
    D
     
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    OK I got a topic we can zoom in on.
    In that Battle of Budapest book I have, there is mentioned the attacks on the approaches to Budapest where Hungarian Paras fought rather well against the Soviets.
    Let's post maps, look up units & individuals involved.
    I'm having my dinner at the mo so i'll leave it to you lot to start it off.
     
  13. Sloniksp

    Sloniksp Junior Member

    Ger, if you read for instance Erickson's twosome Road to Stalingrad / Road to Berlin you'll find extensive reference to what this and that Front was doing, and more remarkable events concerning this or that army. The author simply does not go down to Division level. The canvas is too large for tiny detail, and in any case a RKKA division was nuch smaller than it's German counterparts, amounting in practice to regiments in size.

    Precisely the point which I tried to make.... Once again you somehow worded it better than me!:mad: :D

    Is their a lack of accurate information on the Eastern Front battles?

    This area isn't something I have ever been interested in if I'm honest but I can't help wonder if the Russians restricted information or were economical with it long after the war (Maybe still today), possibly even changed the facts and the German files were destroyed by the Russians.


    Yes much was the case during the cold war... Now, however, with the Soviet Archives being opened up....;)

    As for German files being destroyed.. Maybe some (from my memory, most were destroyed by the Germans themselves) but many have also been found in the newly opened archives. Just think of it, its like a newly opened treasure chest of information much of which also debunks a lot of myths created in the West...
     
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers but that could possibly mean history on that front is about or in the process of being re-written ?
     
  15. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Ger, if you read for instance Erickson's twosome Road to Stalingrad / Road to Berlin you'll find extensive reference to what this and that Front was doing, and more remarkable events concerning this or that army. The author simply does not go down to Division level. The canvas is too large for tiny detail, and in any case a RKKA division was nuch smaller than it's German counterparts, amounting in practice to regiments in size. Also the burn-out rate was so severe that making detailed divisional histories is a somewhat pointless exercise.

    I forgot to mention above another excellent source of past and current online military or political texts here . The military history tab is here, with military thought here. May the online translation gods smile on you :)

    Some examples:

    Mannerheim and the system of Finnish permanent fortification on the Karelian isthmus
    In the book the results of investigating the foreign and domestic sources on the history of the creation of the belt of Finnish permanent work on the Karelian isthmus and on the assault of these strengthenings are presented. The conclusions of the authors are reinforced by the recollections of participants in the Soviet-Finnish war 1939-1940 yr., and also by the materials of expeditions for the study of directly objects themselves in the localities, which were carried out over a number of years by the members of St. Petersburg historico- regional-study association “Karelia”, by scouting forces and other researchers.

    Rybalko (!!) The Way of the 3rd Guards Tank Army
    In the book are represented the history of forming and target run during the years of the Second World War of the 3rd guard tank army - one of the first tank armies, formed to the Soviet Union. The analysis of the combat operations, in which the army participated, makes possible for the reader to trace the stages of the forming of contemporary views on the command of tank troops. The book includes the information about the technical equipment, the methods of the instruction of personnel, plans and conclusions of commands, based on the archive documents.

    ROA division. Materials for the history of the liberation movement of the peoples of Russia
    The labor Of [v]. [P]. [Artemev] “1-[aya] division [ROA]” is the first detailed description of the epic of 1-[oy] division. Taking into account the fact that the majority of the series and commissioned personnel of 1-[oy] division remained among the living fell into the hands of Soviet military units and, subsequently, it was given out into the special of camp MVD, it is extremely difficult, if we do not say it is not possible, to at present restore all precise facts of incidents in the recent days of existence of 1-[oy] division. On the basis evidence several, located z of emigration, officers of 1[oy] of the division [ROA], and also of some archive documents, publishing house considers that the labor Of [v]. [P]. [Artemev] is one of the most actual and complete descriptions of the events of that time.


    I suppose we can dismiss the propaganda accusations as, well..., propaganda :p
    Thanks for those links mate!!! :D
     
  16. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Ger,
    To go to your point about the difference in the sub-forums, ie the broader sweep of Eastern front as opposed to the specifics of Western front ... is this not really down to the fact that so many of us have a personal interest in the latter? Granted I myself may have a slightly different perspective than most here.

    Many of us post because we have an interest in a Regiment, an action in which a relative took part or died, or even a town or PoW camp which was liberated; this is really not the case IRO Eastern front. Unless you get more Russians and Germans asking questions / posting info here, I believe the difference will remain.

    Regards,
    D
    I would agree with you Diane on this and also on Za's point about there being very few regimental and divisional diaries which would negate the discussion of individual actions.

    Owen, I'll try and kick things off about that battle if I can find info on it.
     
  17. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Tom. just started a thread on 'em!!
     

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