At its birth, the Red Army was envisaged as the ‘people’s militia’, a volunteer force with commanders selected by workers’ committees. Between 1939 and 1945, it grew to become one of history’s most formidable fighting machines, capable eventually of driving back Operation Barbarossa, the largest invasion force ever assembled, and playing a decisive role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
During the decades that followed, its main function was to sustain Soviet control over the satellite states of Eastern Europe, exemplified by its repression of popular uprisings in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). By the 1980s, however, it was in terminal decline, unable to deal effectively with new threats as its forces were reduced in number amid the collapse of the Soviet regime.
In our cover story, timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the USSR, Graham Goodlad traces the rise and fall of the Red Army (later known as the Soviet Army), and analyses the five key battles that shaped a communist superpower.
Also in this issue, you will find two more features linked to the Second World War: Robert Kershaw questions the patriotic British idea of the ‘miracle of Dunkirk’; while David Price records the valour of 627 Squadron, unsung heroes of the RAF.
Elsewhere, Patrick Mercer recalls the birth of the Irish Free State, and peers into the labyrinth of spies, assassins, and undercover agents that played a role in its creation.
And finally, William E Welsh tells the story of the Battle of Brunkeberg, the epic victory of 1471 that proved crucial in Sweden’s struggle against Danish domination.