Book report: Stalin’s Folly

Back in the day I used to spend a big chunk of my disposable income on books, especially from Amazon.com. Eventually my back room was taken over by books and I was broke. I ameliorated the first problem by selling the books that people were interested in on Amazon.com’s used book section and selling the rest of them to a local used book store. I still have three overloaded bookcases, but that’s way down from what I had before.

The income problem had an even better solution. Turns out there’s a place just down the street that will let you take any of their books for free. They have several locations and if the book I’m looking for is at another location they’ll bring it to my local location just by asking. They’ll even take the book back when I’m done reading so it doesn’t clutter my house up. Most amazing of all is that if the book I want isn’t at any of their locations they’ll usually buy a copy of it and let me read it when it comes in as long as I give it back. It’s called a library!

Ha ha. At any rate the story is true. I have pretty much quit buying books and just get them from the library which is just down the street within walking distance.

My latest library conquest is a book called Stalin’s Folly, about the first 10 days of World War II’s Eastern Front.

I learned two main things from it:

  1. Despite their non-aggression treaty Stalin was planning to attack Hitler but Hitler beat him to the punch and caught the USSR in an awkward transitional stage between an offensive military setup and a defensive military setup.
  2. Stalin appeared to be expecting to be removed from office in a military coup but after all the purges he had done over the previous years everybody was afraid to move against him (or else was so beaten down it didn’t occur to move against him).

The complaints are also two:

  1. Not enough maps. There are place names galore all through the book and the two maps given are at too big of a scale to allow the reader to picture what the author is talking about. Maybe it’s written for a Russian/Belarusian/Ukraininan audience that would know all the places without having to refer to a map, but Russia’s a big place and a lot of the locations are pretty small so I would think that even Russians would not be familiar with a lot of the locations.
  2. Awkward English. In particular they keep referring to the Soviet armored units as ‘Panzer’ units, a name that in normal English usage refers only to German armored units. Armored units of other countries are normally just called armored units. So when he refers to the 3rd Panzer Division for example, I think he’s talking about a German unit which doesn’t make sense in the context and causes some confusion until I realize the commander has a Russian name and it’s actually a Soviet unit. I figure that’s probably a fault of the translator rather than the author. There’s no translator listed on the Amazon page and I returned the book to the library without checking to see if there was a translator, so maybe the book was written in English. The author is Russian, but maybe he was targeting the book at an English-speaking audience and wrote it in English or wrote it in Russian and translated it himself.
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