There were more than 600 of these exchanges, and in a significant collaboration between Britain and Russia two eminent scholars have produced a fascinating and detailed narrative of the war’s decision-making that embeds the leaders’ correspondence and memoirs into other archival material.But in what Reynolds and Pechatnov rightly call the “battle for history”, the Kremlin’s raw publication of the letters was accompanied by no background explanations. This is what their impressive book now provides...
The editors have included the redrafting carried out by the three leaders, both the deletions and the additions. They remind the reader that the letters were not like regular pieces of correspondence but were composed for political and strategic purposes... There is not a great deal new in the correspondence. What is new is the excellent scene-setting for each major communication, showing what was at stake, how the letters were composed and how they were interpreted by the three recipients.
Reynolds and Pechatnov not only analyse the political and military contexts of the correspondence, but offer fresh and valuable insights into the way that Stalin drafted and edited his messages.
Altogether, 682 letters were exchanged between the Big Three political leaders between Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941 and Roosevelt’s untimely death in April 1945. Two eminent historians, David Reynolds in Cambridge and Vladimir Pechatnov in Moscow, have had the brilliant idea of publishing the bulk of this correspondence (excluding only routine bureaucratic items) with a detailed running commentary. They modestly call this just an “edition”, but it is much, much more than that. In reality, this is by far the best study ever written of policymaking between the three Great Powers during those crucial years.