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Demobilized Veterans in Late Stalinist Leningrad

Soldiers to Civilians

Dr Robert Dale (Newcastle University, UK)



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Bloomsbury Academic
22 October 2015
European history; Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000; Social & cultural history; Military veterans
This book investigates the demobilization and post-war readjustment of Red Army veterans in Leningrad and its environs after the Great Patriotic War. Over 300,000 soldiers were stood down in this war-ravaged region between July 1945 and 1948. They found the transition to civilian life more challenging than many could ever have imagined. For civilian Leningraders, reintegrating the rapid influx of former soldiers represented an enormous political, economic, social and cultural challenge. In this book, Robert Dale reveals how these former soldiers became civilians in a society devastated and traumatized by total warfare.

Dale discusses how, and how successfully, veterans became ordinary citizens. Based on extensive original research in local and national archives, oral history interviews and the examination of various newspaper collections, Demobilized Veterans in Late Stalinist Leningrad peels back the myths woven around demobilization, to reveal a darker history repressed by society and concealed from historiography. While propaganda celebrated this disarmament as a smooth process which reunited veterans with their families, reintegrated them into the workforce and facilitated upward social mobility, the reality was rarely straightforward. Many veterans were caught up in the scramble for work, housing, healthcare and state hand-outs. Others drifted to the social margins, criminality or became the victims of post-war political repression.

Demobilized Veterans in Late Stalinist Leningrad tells the story of both the failure of local representatives to support returning Soviet soldiers, and the remarkable resilience and creativity of veterans in solving the problems created by their return to society. It is a vital study for all scholars and students of post-war Soviet history and the impact of war in the modern era.
By:   Dr Robert Dale (Newcastle University UK)
Imprint:   Bloomsbury Academic
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 156mm,  Spine: 20mm
Weight:   581g
ISBN:   9781472590770
ISBN 10:   1472590775
Pages:   288
Publication Date:   22 October 2015
Audience:   College/higher education ,  A / AS level ,  Further / Higher Education
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Introduction 1. The Troops Come Home 2. 'Homes for Heroes': Veterans and the Postwar Housing Crisis 3. 'As in battle - as in labour': The Remobilization of Demobilized Veterans 4. Healing the Wounds: Health, Disability and Trauma 5. Disorderly Demobilization: Crime, Violence and Social Disorder 6. Demobilizing the Mind: Veterans, Politics and Memory Conclusion Glossary Bibliography Index

Robert Dale is Lecturer in Russian History at Newcastle University, UK.

Reviews for Demobilized Veterans in Late Stalinist Leningrad: Soldiers to Civilians

One of the great virtues of this book is its comparative angle. Dale has read widely in the international history of veterans, and often comments on how the Soviet experience fits into wider transnational patterns. The other virtue is Dale's unwillingness to write in one of the mushrooming sub-genres. Instead he combines social and cultural history, memory studies, and the history of medicine ... [A]nybody interested in the history of warfare and welfare in the twentieth century will benefit from reading this book. Journal of Social History Dale's scrutiny of the issue of demobilization has a remarkable freshness. Although the arguments he advances in Demobilized Veterans in Late Stalinist Leningrad will be familiar to most scholars of the Soviet Union, the book is original in its ability to illuminate Soviet soldiers' embodied and intimate experience of homecoming. Dale masterfully brings to life individual experiences and expertly connects them to the larger tensions, conflicts and visions of model citizenship in late Stalinist society ... [This] is useful reading for any scholar interested in the comparative history of post-war transition. European History Quarterly ... [T]he research is excellent, and Dale competently uses local details and stories to illustrate this larger picture. American Historical Review As someone who has studied the Blockade of Leningrad and the Soviet experience of World War II for a decade, I welcome this kind of book, because what happened next? is quite important for Russian/Soviet area studies and beyond. His data and narrative help fill in the picture, and scholars should have Dale's contribution in their libraries or on their shelves as a good reference source, and his book or its chapters individually could serve as material for undergraduate courses on Russian history. The Russian Review Robert Dale's book is a valuable addition to the re-examination of Soviet demobilization after WWII and its broader importance to Soviet society's difficult and, perhaps, unfinished transition from war to peace ... Dale successfully interrogates a central claim of Soviet post-war propaganda, long accepted by many historians, that veterans enjoyed significant upward mobility in employment, to reveal that for many veterans the quality and speed of this employment and, generally, of the mobility itself was low and debilitatingly slow. Dale thus looks behind the impressive statistics of veteran employment used as proof of their successful reintegration to question this criterion of success and, importantly, tell a human story in a closed society beyond the numbers. Slavic Review Interesting and accessible. Robert Dale calmly leads us through the arguments and uses personal stories to illuminate them effectively.The Great Patriotic War did not end in 1945 -- at least not for the demobilized veterans. Soviet society had been torn apart. Turning soldiers back into civilians proved a formidable task. Robert Dale takes us through the painful process of reintegration, focussing on the extraordinary experiences of Leningraders. There could be no happy ending but, for surprising reasons, Dale also shows us how disaster was kept at bay. Joanna Bourke, Professor of History, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK Dale's case study of Leningrad's and Leningraders' experience of demobilization after World War II serves as a case study of the larger experience of Soviet demobilization, but with atypical, site-specific exceptions. Using not only local and national archives and newspapers, but also incorporating memoirs and first-hand oral testimony, Dale shows how local factors played an important part in shaping soldiers' postwar transitions. This is an important study of late Stalinism, which reveals a protracted period of social transition, pervaded throughout with the tensions, divisions and conflicts created by veterans' demobilization. The author makes useful comparisons between late Stalinist Leningrad and Britain, America, and Germany after both the First and Second World Wars, which gives a global context to Soviet demobilization and the veterans' quest to reintegrate into normal Soviet society. Roger R Reese, Professor of History, Texas A&M University, USA Focusing on returning soldiers' postwar struggles to obtain adequate housing, necessary medical care, and rewarding work in a city that was itself ravaged by war, Demobilized Veterans in Late Stalinist Leningrad offers a fascinating picture of individuals and Soviet society in transition from war to peace. In Leningrad, where veterans had to compete with survivors of the blockade for scarce resources, the homecoming rarely resembled the official myth of returning heroes embraced by grateful civilians. Yet Dale's study emphasizes the veterans' remarkably successful reintegration into civilian life. Although soldiers returning to Leningrad faced exceptional material hardships, the city offered an important emotional advantage: Veterans joined a community of civilian survivors who understood the horrors of modern warfare. Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, Professor of History, West Chester University, USA

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