The human face of Russia at war

Colin Turbett with a copy of his new book.

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Book review

A richly illustrated history of life in the Soviet Union during the Second World War has been published by Arran author Colin Turbett.

The book Red Star at War: Victory at all Costs features a more human face of war – the individuals and their families who made up the Soviet war machine and previously unpublished photographs offer a poignant, fascinating and unique insight into that period of history.

Focusing on the Second World War and accompanied by first-hand accounts, Red Star at War presents a visual insight to life in the Soviet Union.

Russia’s losses during the Second World War were beyond imagination and touched the lives of an entire population caught between a brutal and murderous invader and  a ruthless leadership at home. Soviet victory over the Nazis, which effectively won the war, was the end result of effort and sacrifice by the ordinary millions who were totally committed to saving their ‘motherland’.

The humanity of the ordinary Soviet citizen in uniform is often forgotten because of later Cold War narratives propagated East and West for differing ideological reasons. This book seeks to redress these imbalances. In its pages the tragedy of war and loss are captured in the faces of those who lived through some of the most momentous years in human history. Many of the pictures show the women who fought alongside men in the front line– a unique feature among the belligerent nations.

Red Star at War is centred on photographs taken before, during and after the Second World War, which illustrate the human face of the immense Soviet war effort. These show soldiers, sailors, airmen (men and women) not in battle, but in photographs taken for their families and friends, and the messages that often went with these images. A number were taken in the knowledge that they might be the last image of a loved one as death was almost a certainty for many. The photographs and captions are backed up by text that provides both context and baseline – drawn from writings of the period as well as more recent historical accounts and research.

A keen motorcyclist and social historian, Colin , who lives in Shiskine, is the author of Motorcycles and Motorcycling in the USSR 1939-1990 (Veloce) and Playing with the Boys – Olga Kevelos Motorcycle Sportswoman. During his career as a social worker and frontline manager he had a number of academic papers published alongside two books: Rural Social Work Practice in Scotland (Venture Press 2010) and Doing Radical Social Work (Palgrave Macmillan 2014). He has long held an interest in the history of the Soviet Union and its people. This is his First book for Pen and Sword.

Colin has lived on Arran for more than 30 years, including more than 20 working in social dervices, where he became manager of the island’s small social work team. He has always been active in community life and has stood on a socialist ticket for parliament on several occasions. He remains involved in volunteering locally and in mainland Ayrshire – from footpath maintenance to supporting vulnerable children through the Children’s Panel system.

Red Star at War: Victory at all Costs is published by Pen & Sword History in hardback with an RRP of £19.99.


Colin Turbett with a copy of his new book. NO_B34red01

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