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Rats and Resentment: The Demobilization of the Red Army in Postwar Leningrad, 1945-1950

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert DaleORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This article reassesses the myth of the heroic homecoming and successful reintegration of Red Army veterans returning to Leningrad after 1945. Soviet propaganda created an official version of demobilization, which presented veterans as exemplary citizens who returned to civilian life with relative ease. This myth created the impression that ordinary Leningraders welcomed home returning veterans as heroes. Throughout the twentieth century the demobilization of mass conscript armies generated tensions and difficulties. Across Europe the experience of demobilization in the wake of industrialized warfare created resentment, disaffection and anger. In contrast to official myths, Leningrad’s veterans were little different from their counterparts elsewhere. Reports based on veterans’ letters intercepted by the military censor reveal that many ex-servicemen were deeply resentful of the reception they received in postwar Leningrad. The frustrations of demobilization were blamed on ‘rear-line rats’, a term of derision for officials believed to have shirked front-line service in favour of safer administrative jobs. These problems were not imagined by disaffected veterans. Other documents confirm that corruption and bureaucracy were widespread problems. Despite these simmering resentments, the myth of a successful demobilization has remained remarkably durable and continues to be accepted by historians and the general population.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dale R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Contemporary History

Year: 2010

Volume: 45

Issue: 1

Pages: 113-133

Print publication date: 01/01/2010

Date deposited: 05/10/2015

ISSN (print): 0022-0094

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7250

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0022009409348964


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