Sunday 16 October 2011

Chuikov at Stalingrad: heroe or villain?

As some of you may know, since July I'm  playing an spectacular IIWW Stalingrad skirmish campaign with a group of club mates. A key source of personal information for the battle has been  Beevor's well-known and popular Stalingrad book which recreates the Soviet commanders as almost sadistic, forcing troops to make frontal attacks at the German machine guns, sometimes with their bare hands, as not enough rifles were available all the time... and "backed" by detachments of the NKVD who shot in the spot those who refuse to committ these suicidal attack.

The first minutes of the film Enemy at the Gates recreate this wide extended image of the way the Red Army conducted the battle

In this context, Beevor (and other historians) present General Chuikov under a very dark light describing him as "one of the most ruthless generals" and his ordered counter-attacks as "appallingly wasteful", among other less than appreciative remarks.

Commenting these aspects to my game mates, one of the players commented that a recently published book (2007) called "Stalingrad-How the Red Army Triumphed"  retells the story, using new documents and battle veterans diaries and recollections;  and more important, the book come to refute many of the descriptions included in Beevor's work.

Although I was initially skeptic, I finally bought a second-hand ediciton in the Amazon market place at a very good price and have started reading it this weekend. Already half-way through it, I have to admit that it's far-far more engaging that I initially expected and that the sheer volume of documentation supporting the narrative has really open some important cracks in my former views of the battle.

I'll write later on a more detailed review, but already some of the battle's myths  (Paulov House, the attack on Central Station or the Grain Elevator fight) have already fallen into pieces... and among them, a complete new view of  General Chuikov's  real face and motivation behind the way he conducted the despoerate fight to save Stalingrad is arising.

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