The Stuff of Soldiers
A History of the Red Army in World War II through Objects
Battlegrounds: Cornell Studies in Military History
Published by: Cornell University Press
344 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 40 b&w halftones
- ISBN: 9781501739798
- Published: October 2019
The Stuff of Soldiers uses everyday objects to tell the story of the Great Patriotic War as never before. Brandon Schechter attends to a diverse array of things—from spoons to tanks—to show how a wide array of citizens became soldiers, and how the provisioning of material goods separated soldiers from civilians.
Through a fascinating examination of leaflets, proclamations, newspapers, manuals, letters to and from the front, diaries, and interviews, The Stuff of Soldiers reveals how the use of everyday items made it possible to wage war. The dazzling range of documents showcases ethnic diversity, women's particular problems at the front, and vivid descriptions of violence and looting.
Each chapter features a series of related objects: weapons, uniforms, rations, and even the knick-knacks in a soldier's rucksack. These objects narrate the experience of people at war, illuminating the changes taking place in Soviet society over the course of the most destructive conflict in recorded history. Schechter argues that spoons, shovels, belts, and watches held as much meaning to the waging of war as guns and tanks. In The Stuff of Soldiers, he describes the transformative potential of material things to create a modern culture, citizen, and soldier during World War II.
Prelude: Outgunned and Outmanned
List of Archival Sources and Their Abbreviations
Terms and Abbreviations
Introduction: Government Issue
1. The Soldier's Body: A Little Cog in a Giant War Machine
2. A Personal Banner: Life in Red Army Uniform
3. The State's Pot and the Soldier's Spoon: Rations in the Red Army
4. Cities of Earth, Cities of Rubble: The Spade and Red Army Landscaping
5. "A Weapon Is Your Honor and Conscience": Killing in the Red Army
6. The Thing-Bag: A Public-Private Place
7. Trophies of War: Red Army Soldiers Confront an Alien World of Goods
Conclusion: Subjects and Objects
"With this original approach—in itself an amazing achievement given the immense literature in this historical field—Brandon Schechteruses the material culture of the Red Army to trace the makeover of Soviet life and politics brought about by the war."~Foreign Affairs