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The Journal of Military History 67.4 (2003) 1319-1320

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The Battle for Leningrad, 1941-1944. By David M. Glantz. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002. ISBN 0-7006-1208-4. Maps. Photographs. Appendixes. Notes. Selected bibliography. Index. Pp. xxiii, 660. $39.95.

Having already established himself as the world's top scholar of the Soviet-German War through his numerous books over the past twenty years, retired U.S. Army Colonel David Glantz has now written the definitive military history of the battle for Leningrad. The book provides an extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive summary of the defense of Leningrad against a coordinated German and Finnish offensive in 1941 through the expulsion of both enemy forces from the Leningrad region in 1944. (The inclusion of forty-four pages of the Soviet and German order of battle in two appendixes helps the reader understand the battle's complex chain of command.)

Three themes are most prominent in this lengthy work, the first of which is the enormous carnage that the prolonged conflict produced. Using a recent Russian study based on Soviet military archival materials, Glantz calculates that there were close to four million Soviet military casualties in and around Leningrad. Secondly, he emphasizes that it was Soviet defenses along approaches to the city in August and September 1941 that stopped the Wehrmacht for the first time anywhere in Europe and then forced Germany into a partial retreat by the end of autumn. The book's most important contribution is to highlight the numerous attempts by the Red Army to lift the siege in 1942 and 1943. Even though they failed, the offensives "marginally facilitated" other crucial Red Army victories. Gone is any suspicion that [End Page 1319] Stalin was unconcerned about Leningrad's fate during the 900-day siege. One wishes, however, that the author had tackled the more analytical question of whether Stalin could have afforded to devote even more resources to lifting the siege in late 1941 or in 1943.

Glantz's forte is objective description of which units of what size attacked where and how many casualties and how much material damage resulted. He affords some glimpses into rivalries among top commanders and political leaders on both sides, but questions of morale and popular mentality are largely outside his focus. Glantz cannot be faulted for neglecting the role of the formidable Soviet secret police (NKVD) divisions as their records remain mostly classified, but his failure to mention even briefly the important role of lend-lease aid in the war's outcome (and its indirect effect on the Leningrad area) is curious.

The author did not work in Russian archives; however, he made excellent use of Soviet and post-Soviet publications that were based on archives as well as German war records in the U.S. National Archives. A book that he cited frequently and referred to as "the Leningrad war diary" (by A. V. Burov) is actually a postwar compilation of eye-witness observations, newspaper statements, and archival material.

On a few occasions the book has something of a Soviet tone, which is an understandable hazard of relying on numerous Soviet accounts. For example, the author describes a 1944 Soviet offensive that "liberated 5,000 square kilometers of the northern Leningrad region and the city of Vyborg" (p. 458). Since almost all of this territory, including Viipuri/Vyborg, was Finnish prior to the Soviet invasion in 1939, it would be more correct to refer to its "re-annexation."

Criticisms notwithstanding, Glantz's magisterial study is the most authoritative account we have of the Leningrad battle. Very few historians have the military and language training to undertake such a project. Several scholars are currently researching aspects of the siege of Leningrad pertaining to gender, public health, memory, politics, and popular mood. All are deeply indebted to Colonel Glantz.

Richard Bidlack
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia



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pp. 1319-1320
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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