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Sovetskaya Voyennaya Moshch': Ot Stalina Do Gorbacheva (Soviet Military Power: From Stalin to Gorbachev)

Cookie Sewell

Sovetskaya Voyennaya Moshch': Ot Stalina Do Gorbacheva (Soviet Military Power: From Stalin to Gorbachev); A.V. Minayev, editor; published by Military Parade Publishing House, Moscow; 624 pp, 550 illustrations; price $39.95 plus $12 shipping and handling (via East View Publications); ISBN 5-7734-0012-X

Advantages: Great single source book coverage of all major Soviet postwar weapons systems, budgetary data, and concepts for Soviet defense

Disadvantages: All in Russian – less than a dozen words in English in the entire book!

Rating: Highly Recommended (with the major reservation that you better read Russian)

The Russians have shown themselves capable of amazing feats in recent years, and this book – which was a complete surprise when it was announced late last year – is one of them. Its exact audience is hard to gauge, but it  would appear from the very handsome production effort (high quality paper, excellent color photos, and sharp graphics) that it was NOT intended for  western audiences, and hence its complete lack of interest in any dual text presentations of even photo captions. The best guess – given the low first  printing count of only 4,000 copies – is that it is either an "I Love Me" book for who's who in the former Soviet Military Industrial Complex (VPK in Russian) or a very large, sharp needle to place in the ribs of the current national leadership as to what they are capable of in the way of military advances.

Either way, it is a spectacular book with a great deal of information on how the VPK operated in its heyday and what it was capable of producing. A wide variety of subjects are addressed, and many of the "back room boys" who did the work are identified and given their just due for what they produced.  The book also cites the "whens", "wheres", and "hows" of what was produced. While some of the stories are well known and documented, others are newly printed and cover a variety of fascinating developments. While most of the information provided is on weapons and military systems which made it into production, some of the great also-rans are also included.

The book is broken into ten sections – each written by a different author, so styles and information vary widely between sections. The topical areas covered are:

– Sources of Soviet Military Power

– The Cold War as a Primary Motivator for Armaments

– Planning and Financing of the Military Production of the USSR

– Nuclear Weapons

– Missile and Space Weapons

– Military Aviation

– Naval Armaments

– Armament of the Ground Forces

– Radio-Electronic Equipment

– USSR and USA: Strategic Counteraction

The section on ground armaments is probably of greatest interest to most readers who don't wear some shade of blue, and is fairly detailed. Written by Major General (Retired) V.V. Panov, an artillery and missile weapons designer, it covers tanks, armored fighting vehicles, rocket and missile systems, helicopters, artillery, technical intelligence means (IMINT and SIGINT), radar, SAMs, automated C3 equipment, and small arms and infantry gear. The illustrations, while good, are not enough to recommend this book for the casual reader, however.

Overall, this is a very good book but one which can unfortunately only be enjoyed by a very narrow portion of the readership spectrum. It would be thought that Military Parade – as they have with their magazine – would  publish this in English as well; that they have chosen not to speaks volumes about its target audience.

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