In This Review

Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War
Moscow 1941: A City and Its People at War
By Rodric Braithwaite
Knopf, 2006, 416 pp

Judged by the seven million who fought it, the critical battle for Moscow, from September 1941 to April 1942, was the grandest ever, twice the scale of the battle for Berlin and nearly so that of the Battle of Stalingrad. Although never memorialized as much as the battles of Stalingrad, Leningrad, and Kursk, perhaps because it carried too many reminders of Stalin's blunders, it may have been the war's critical moment, laying bare as it did the falsity of the Wehrmacht's invincibility. Braithwaite, once the British ambassador to Mikhail Gorbachev's Soviet Union, does much more than recount the story of the city's defense and re-create the texture of life in those months, although he does that superbly. In a mix of sweeping historical reconstruction, compelling personal vignettes of everyone from soldiers to film stars, career studies of key military figures, and a detailed running account of Stalin's wrong-headed and willful but ultimately decisive leadership, he gives the reader a vivid sense of the confusion, loss, brutality, awakened patriotism, incredible sacrifice, and eventual military mastery that marked the critical year after Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.