4 Greatest Books that Depict War in Russia

Wartime histories might not be everyone’s favorite genre of literature but, some people find themselves frequently returning to those inspiring stories of heroism. After all, it was those courageous people alone who made the lifestyle they all love so well today possible. In spite of the heartbreak and wickedness that often follow the story of war, there is no doubt that the topic is engrossing to read about. Since the dawn of noted history, war has served an inexhaustible, irresistible, and universally interesting subject. Of course, the reasons are obvious. It is because the human activity in which actions and emotions simply could not be more robust during the war. It is also the human activity in which the bet could not get higher. For each individual directly involved in it, it often means life or death. For states, countries, empires, even entire civilizations, war can mean survival and majesty or downfall and utter destruction.

So, it is really no surprise that even in modern’s age, books about war pervade a growth segment in the literary world and publishing industry, with more titles coming each year than any reader could possibly get through. There are dozens of new titles appear to sell fresh perspectives and unravel mesmerizing details about the deadliest discord in human history.

Books about War in Russia

Teaching history is not an easy job in Russia, especially when the archives are closed and the transparent discussions about Russia’s Soviet past are met with resentment. Even then, teaching World War II is harder because every year that Putin is in power, Russia fails to take on its role in the war head-on. This is when books on the war in Russia become relevant. Teachers and parents are united to encourage the children in Russia to pick up war-themed books which recount the war their country had gone through. They also make sure that the books focus almost exclusively on the heroic aspects of the Soviet war. To give you a better understanding, listed below are 4 greatest books that depict war in Russia. Check it out.

  1. Penalty Strike: The Memoirs of A Red Army Penal Company Commander, 1943 – 1945 by Alexander V. Pyl’cyn

It is a classic memoir, a plain recollection of events, starting from the Pyl’cyn childhood and pre-war years. He was born on the Far East of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) to the family of railroad workers. His father died in the GULAG (The Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps and Colonies of the Soviet Secret Police) and both of his brothers died in WWII, while Pyl’cyn himself volunteered for the army in the first days of the war. From the writing style, he sounds like a died-in-the-wool Soviet career soldier. The first chapter is full of little details about Soviet life that is endearing and worth the appreciation.

The book is fairly light on action but still provides an interesting insight into a relatively unknown type of unit. For example, the memoir of the Penal Battalions where they were often given dangerous assignments and sometimes treated as cannon fodder and when it came time for glory or recognition they were not given any. Military decorations were extremely crucial to the members of the battalions as they were one of the ways they could be freed from penal duty and went back to their original unit.


  1. A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army by Vasily Grossman

The book is made up mostly of Grossman’s own notes, wartime observations, letters, and interviews of those at the heart of Russia’s battle during WWII. He created the most detailed and sweeping panorama of war. Grossman did not hold back on the terrifying and horrific Maelstrom that took place, just as what he described as ‘the ruthless truth of war’, which shows the best eyewitness account of the Eastern front ever written in a single book.

There is no doubt this is a book written, not for the thrills and spills and tensions of the war, but for the immense gut-wrenching human suffering that becomes clearly evident throughout the story. Grossman covers so many catastrophic moments with compassion for humanity and always maintains a dignified stance in the face of such suffering. But, at times, he also felt like a broken man. This book is a window into a world of so much horror and so much death where he always sticks to writing with unrelenting honesty.

  1. The Battle for Stalingrad by Vasili Ivanovich Chuikov

The story recounts the Chuikov’s time as a commanding officer defending the city from the invading German army. It can be a bit of a dry read when he discusses strategy and can be difficult to visualize without constant reference to a map. However, the book’s description of Russian tactics during the battle as well as the use of shock troops in close combat for strong points throughout the city are accurate.


All in all, the book is worth a shot. It offers an insight into the inner workings of how ideology worked into the Soviet military structure, how tactics cultivated throughout the battle, and the inconveniences facing the Soviet military at the time. The story Chuikov shares of soldiers who risked their lives and fought from street to street gives an impression of the violence and desperation during the war. For historians who love to study WWII, this is definitely a great read.

  1. 800 Days on the Eastern Front: A Russian Soldier Remembers World War II by Nikolai Litvin

This book is valuable for getting one soldier’s insight into WWII from the Russian perspective. Litvin gives very scarce information on his take on of the war and the events that followed and few accounts of interactions with the regular people and the soldiers he served with. However, it still is considered a good read.

So, those are 4 greatest books that depict war in Russia. You may also read Most Recommended Russian Historical Fiction Books to Read.

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