Journal article

Not an Ordinary Man: Ivan Nikitich Kononov and the Problem of Frontline Defection from the Red Army, 1941-1945

Mark Edele



The question of Red Army soldiers crossing the lines to the Germans during the German-Soviet war of 1941-45 has long obsessed historians. Some have treated all Soviet prisoners of war as deserters to the enemy, while others have tried to minimize the phenomenon. This paper explores newly available evidence from German and Soviet sources in an empirical exploration of the reasons, the extent, and the problems of the process of switching allegiance at the frontline.


Awarded by Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant

Awarded by ARC Future Fellowship

Funding Acknowledgements

This essay draws together material from several chapters of my forthcoming book Stalin's Defectors: How Red Army Soldiers Became Hitler's Collaborators (Oxford, 2017). Research and writing was made possible in part by a University of Western Australia, Research Development Award (2010), an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (DP130101215, 2013-2015), an ARC Future Fellowship (FT140101100, 2015-19), and sabbatical leave from the School of Humanities at the University of Western Australia in the first half of 2015. I would like to thank Iva Glisic, Daria Rudakova, Vanessa Sofoulis, and Benjamin Haas who helped gather materials; Jurgen Forster for showing me the ropes in the German military archive in Freiburg; the archivists of that same archive, in particular Nina Janz, for their suggestions of where to look; Tanya Chebotarev, the Curator of the Bakhmeteff Archive, for her invaluable help during my stays in New York; and USHMM's librarians, Vincent Slatt and Megan Lewis, for their support during my research in Washington. Brandon Schechter, Igor Petrov, Oleg Beyda and Benjamin Tromly generously shared unpublished materials. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the University of Western Australia Russian History Research Group Seminar (May 2015), at Birkbeck College, University of London (April 2015), at the AAEH conference at the University of Newcastle (July 2015), at the Australian National University History Seminar (August 2016) and the History Seminar of the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy (September 2016). For comments and suggestions I would like to thank Iva Glisic, Tijana Vujosevic, Brandon Schechter, Roger Markwick, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Olga Kucherenko, Oleg Beyda, Elena Govor, as well as my brilliant Honours students of 2015, in particular Georgia Oman and Amy Pracilio.