8° (19.5 x 14 cm): Collation Complete – 31 pp., [1 p.], including 2 bi-colour maps within text, bound in original colour printed paper covers, stapled (Very Good, very minor points of toning to covers, neat former owner’s name in crayon to upper right corner; neat contemporary notes in pen to inside of front cover and former owner’s signature at top of first page; internally sharp and clean).
This engaging and highly attractive Slovenian Partisan publication features the translated text of the prominent Soviet military historian and theorist Major General Nikolai Talensky’s description of the Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 – February 1943). The epic altercation was the bloodiest battle in global history and the turning point of World War II, when the Soviets inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Wehrmacht. The work was printed, in 1944, in Nazi-occupied Slovenia by the Triglav Tiskarna, the most famous Slovenian Partisan press. The subject of the Battle of Stalingrad would have been of intense interest to the Slovenian Partisans, as the Soviet victory would indirectly assure the Partisan’s ultimate triumph in the liberation of Yugoslavia.
Talensky’s text is well written and highly readable, in a journalistic fashion, and grants one a very clear impression of how the five-month long Battle of Stalingrad unfolded. The account is free of hyperbole and benefits from Talensky’s privileged access to Soviet military information, as well as interviews he conducted with several of the top Stalingrad commanders.
Highlights of the work are the two beautifully produced maps of the Stalingrad theatre, printed in two colours, orange and black. The first map, which appears on page 7, ‘Obramba bitka pod Stalingradom’ [Defensive Battle at Stalingrad], depicts the events of the first three months of the battle, as the Soviet Army managed to cut-off the German force from their supply lines, encircling them in the Stalingrad area, before gradually tightening the noose on their Nazi quarry. The map employs symbols to depict the Soviet positions as they appeared on August 17, August 31, September 9, and November 19, 1942. Specifically noted are the positions of tank, mobile and infantry divisions.
The second map, located on page 21, ‘Obkoljenje nemških fišišticnih [sic] sil’ [Surrounded German Fascist Forces], shows how the Red Army closed the trap on the Nazis. It includes the lines marked ‘Položaj front ob začetku ofensive’ [Front Situation at the Beginning of the Offensive]; arrows expressing the ‘Smer udarcev RA’ [The Red Army’s Direction of Impact] and ‘Položaj čet RA’, noting both the overall situation as it appeared on both November 23 and 30, 1942. The shaded areas described as ‘Položaj front’ [Position of the Battle Front on November 30], show the closed trap, with the Nazis being pinned down within the city of Stalingrad proper, where they would fight on in vain for next two months, before surrendering.
The technical quality of the printing of the work is exceptionally high for an underground Partisan publication. This is due the fact that it was printed by the Triglav Tiskarna (Press), which was one of only two Slovenian Partisans publishing operations that possessed large, professional printing presses, as it was hidden in a ‘top secret’ location deep in the forests of south-western Slovenia.
This particular example of the work features the manuscript owner’s inscription of
“Tone Osbolt Triglav”, supposedly referring to a Partisan who was working as the Triglav Tiskarna. This is further supported by another annotation on the inside of the front cover that describes the precise press used to print the work, plus some details as to the location of the Triglav Tiskarna.
The Battle of Stalingrad & the Yugoslav Partisans
The Battle of Stalingrad (August 23, 1942 – February 2, 1943) was the pivotal event of World War II and, indirectly, the turning point of the war in Yugoslavia. Frankly, until late 1942, the Axis powers were winning in Europe, while the Allies were disorganized and unsure. Meanwhile, the Yugoslav Partisans were merely fighting for their survival, and were far from being a mortal danger to the Axis occupation of their country. After Stalingrad that all changed, as the Allies and the Partisans were resurgent, as the Axis powers progressively lost ground.
In the spring of 1941, shortly after Germany spearheaded the invasion and capitulation of Yugoslavia, it turned its attention to the Soviet Union. Hitler ripped apart the Molotov Ribbentrop non-aggression pact that had been signed between Berlin and Moscow in August 1939, and planned for the Wehrmacht to invade Russia in a rapid campaign, aiming to duplicate Blitzkrieg, but on a larger scale. The Nazis wanted to annex the plains of western Russian and the Ukraine, populating it with Germans, while enslaving the indigenous peoples. Germany also desperately needed Ukraine’s vast crops of wheat, plus the great oil supplies of the Caucuses to sustain its overall war effort. It was believed that failure to seize these resources would ultimately result in Germany’s defeat.
The Wehrmacht launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, making steady progress towards Moscow. However, they failed to take Leningrad (which they surrounded and besieged, but never conquered), and spectacularly failed to conquer the Soviet capital at the Battle of Moscow (October 2, 1941 – January 7, 1942). The vast expanse of Russia and indefatigable nature of the Red Amy, which kept fighting ceaselessly, even after loosing millions of men, revealed the limitations of Blitzkrieg.
In one of the greatest historical blunders of military strategy, Germany then turned its sights to mounting a south-eastward thrust towards taking the Caspian oil fields, in a massive operation called Case Blue. The Wehrmacht repeated the mistakes they made with Barbarossa, failing to secure their supply lines, while arrogantly underestimating the Red Army.
Before reaching the Caucuses, the German army had to take the large industrial city of Stalingrad, which lay on the west bank of the mighty the Volga River. While the Nazis initially took the city, as shown on the maps with the present work, the Soviets realized a massive pincer movement, cutting the invader’s weak supply lines and encircling the main German army, which was trapped in Stalingrad. This resulted in a five-month battle that was the most destructive and deadly in world history- resulting in over 1.2 million casualties! The house-to-house fighting in the ruined city, often conducted in sub-zero temperatures, was horrendous, even by the standards of the most seasoned soldiers. The besieged German force was finally defeated, surrendering at the beginning of February 1943.
From that point onwards, the Soviets continually rolled the German lines back westwards. The Eastern Front absorbed so much German manpower and resources that it severely weakened their war effort elsewhere, allowing the Allies to make series gains in Africa and Italy, and later in France. The Soviets would keep pressing westwards until they besieged Berlin in April 1945, securing the Nazis’ final defeat.
Turning to Yugoslavia, the Soviet victory at Stalingrad was a source of immense jubilation and pride for the Partisans. They were delighted that it was their Communist brethren were the ones who struck what would prove to be the fatal wound to the Third Reich. On a practical note, the on-going events in Russia and the Ukraine caused the Germans to redeploy massive resources eastwards that would otherwise go to Yugoslavia. While the Wehrmacht and their affiliates continued to outnumber and outgun the Partisans, they were no longer capable of flooding Yugoslavia with endless resources.
Through 1943, Marshall Tito evaded several well-conceived and large-scale German operations to destroy his main army and to hunt him down. The collapse of Fascist Italy, which was complete by September 1943, created a power vacuum that allowed the Partisans to go the offensive for the first time. While the Germans punched back hard, they were unable to blunt the insurgency’s momentum. By early 1944, the Partisans held large swaths of countryside in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, and in the autumn of that year, Belgrade was taken by a combined Soviet-Partisan campaign. It was then only a matter of time before the Nazi presence in Yugoslavia was eradicated, which would occur in early May 1945.
Naturally, the Battle of Stalingrad was the external event that interested Partisans troops and their civilian supporters more than any other. The present pamphlet, written by such an esteemed figure as General Talensky, would have been read with intense interest.
Nikolai Alexandrovich Talensky: Legendary Soviet Military Historian & Theorist
Nikolai Alexandrovich Talensky [Николай Александрович Таленский], often spelled ‘Talenski’ (1901 -1967) was one of the greatest Soviet military historians and theorists, and is famous the West for his writings on nuclear weapons. He joined the Red Army in 1919, serving with distinction in the Civil War. In 1927, he graduated from the Frunze officer’s academy, where he had so impressed his professors that he was immediately offered a full teaching position. He was soon thereafter appointed as the Chief of the Military History Division of the General Staff of the Red Army. Talensky’s masterful analysis of German military strategy and tactics rendered his insight to be of immense practical use to Soviet field commanders during World War II.
In 1943, as a reward for his invaluable service to the Red Army, Talensky was made the Editor-in-Chief of Krasnaya Zvezda [Red Star], the official newspaper of the Soviet Defence Ministry. He was also promoted to the rank of Major General. While Talensky was a loyal and adept propagandist of the regime, he was an exceptionally knowledgeable and skilled writer, and so was often able to fashion convincing arguments by marshalling facts, as opposed to purveying the disingenuous spin favoured by many of his colleagues. During this period he also earned his Ph.D. in Military Sciences.
After the war, Talensky left Krasnaya Zvezda to be a professor and writer full time. He turned his attention to highly scholarly publications, and sat on the editorial boards for virtually all of the important Soviet military sciences publications. During the 1950s and early ‘60s, as the Cold War flared, Talensky gained international prominence as one of the leading theorists regarding the possible deployment of nuclear weapons. Even today, his writings on this subject are must-read texts in the field. By the time of his death, in 1967, Talensky had authored 20 books and innumerable articles, leaving behind an estimable legacy.
A Note on Rarity
The present work is rare. We note 6 examples in Slovenian libraries, as well as an example at the Croatian National Library in Zagreb; we cannot trace any examples outside of the Former Yugoslavia.
References: Dušan Moravec, Gradivo za bibliografijo slovenskega osvobodilnega tiska (Ljubljana, April 1945), p. 692; COBISS [Slovenian Integrated Libraries Catalogue]: 1109363; Nacionalna i sveučilišna knjižnica u Zagrebu [National and University Library in Zagreb]: NSK 000786581; OCLC: 449744326. Not in Bibliografia.