Russia's World at War
, 07 Jul 2013
Although the 1970s TV series 'The World At War' is widely acknowledged to be one of the finest examples of British historical documentary making of the twentieth century, it does have one rather obvious flaw. Because it was made at the height of the Cold War, when Europe was still divided by the Iron Curtain, the makers of the series were unable to access the Soviet Union's Second World War archives. Consequently, lacking the necessary material, the producers were only ever able to devote a rather inadequate three [out of twenty-six] episodes to the war on the Eastern Front. Twenty-four years later this prestigious Anglo-Russian production, made very much in the style of 'The World at War', is a serious attempt to address those inadequacies and provide the viewer with a high-quality documentary series which better reflects the vast scale and enormity of what the Russians still call The Great Patriotic War. Covering the Soviet Union's Stalinist period between 1924-1953 and spread over ten 52 minute episodes, this exceptional series catalogues the experiences of the Russian people before, during and after World War Two. With each episode introduced by Dr Henry Kissinger and narrated by Nigel Hawthorne this is an impressive piece of documentary making. Laced with contributions from respected Russian historians [such as Dmitri Volkogonov, the former head of the Soviet military's psychological warfare department and biographer of Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin] and containing interviews with those who worked alongside, or personally knew, Uncle Joe [including his granddaughter] the series is awash with informed opinion. Numerous interviews with Red Army veterans are combined with a wide range of contemporary photographs and film extracts which have never before been seen in the West and these are supplemented with riveting source material from the Soviet archives. Thankfully, the entire series is devoid of the kind of ham-acted, reconstructed scenes now so prevalent in dumbed-down modern 'historical' documentaries. This is an excellent series which would be appreciated by anyone interested in WWII on the Eastern Front or who wanted to learn more about life in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Essentially a history of how the long-suffering Russian people were fighting a war on two fronts - against National Socialist Germany and their own communist government - it provides an important, visual, historical record of the period courtesy of those who lived through it. As with The World At War this series can never be remade or bettered as by now, most - if not all - of the witnesses to history who are interviewed here will have passed away.
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