The Russian Way of War

The Russian Way of War

Monday, February 28, 2022

The grinding pace of the war in Ukraine has surprised most observers, who expected the Russian forces to quickly overwhelm their defending counterparts. Analysts are already examining why the Russian military has been far less coordinated and far less effective than expected. Whenever and however the conflict finally ends, a more in-depth study is sure to follow.

Such analysis will have a precedent from the last large-scale combat operations that tore across these areas of Eastern Europe: the Soviet General Staff series.

This series in the AUSA Book Program is a collection of internal studies of Red Army operations against Nazi Germany in World War II. The Soviet General Staff commissioned these after-action reports, which were classified for decades, as teaching tools for new generations of Soviet commanders.

In the spirit of openness, there was a brief period in the early post-Cold War era where Western scholars were able to access these materials. Dr. Richard Harrison—a Russian studies expert who was stationed at the American embassy in Moscow in the 1990s and later taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point—translated and edited these studies into the book series.

The series begins with The Battle of Moscow, 1941-1942, where the Soviets blunted the final push of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa, followed by Rollback which details their first counteroffensive in the winter of 1942-43.

Operations in and around Ukraine are then covered in The Battle of Kursk and The Battle of the Dnepr, while Operation Bagration details the Soviet push through the lands that comprise modern Belarus.

The books then cover the Soviets press into central Europe with The Iasi-Kishinev Operation and The Budapest Operation before concluding with Prelude to Berlin and The Berlin Operation.

Editor Harrison noted, “these works were a how-to-do primer on how to prepare an operation, break through the enemy’s tactical defensive zone, and exploit the success.”

And because they were originally classified, they could present a more accurate assessment of the Red Army’s performance. “This was the General Staff's concession to reality, as one could not instruct a generation of officers to conduct major offensive operations on the basis of those materials available to the general public,” Harrison said.

Those looking to analyze contemporary Russian logistics, intelligence, communications, and command and control could certainly benefit from the insider views of large-scale combat operations found in these books.

To order titles from the Soviet General Staff series, please visit