Tatiana L. Dubinskaya’s autobiographical novel of life in the Russian army marked the first major work published by a female World War I soldier in the Soviet Union. Often compared to All Quiet on the Western Front, Dubinskaya’s stark and unsparing story presents a rare look at women in combat and one of the few works of fiction set on the eastern front.
Zinaida, a Russian schoolgirl, runs away from home to join the army. Sent to the front, she endures the horrors of trench warfare and the hardships of military life. Undercurrents of revolutionary thinking filter into the ranks as morale begins to crumble. Zinaida must come to grips with the havoc unleashed by the czar’s overthrow and the new socialist government’s attempts to impose revolutionary reforms on the army. Destabilization and desertion follow, and her regiment joins the chaotic mass retreat of the Russian army in the summer of 1917.
In addition to Dubinskaya’s original novel, this edition includes selections from her 1936 autobiographical work, Machine Gunner, which she rewrote to satisfy Stalinist censors.
Tatiana L. Dubinskaya (1902–90) served in the Russian army until 1917, then became a soldier and a nurse for the Red Army during the Russian Civil War (1917–22). After the civil war, she worked as a typist for the Red Army in Moscow and later became a writer. The Communist Party sent her to Tajikistan in 1931, and on her return to Moscow, she became active with the Union of Soviet Writers, earning a reputation as a Communist Party informant. Lawrence M. Kaplan is a military historian and the author of Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune and the editor of Pershing’s Tankers: Personal Accounts of the AEF Tank Corps in World War I, among other books.