Kaloyan Matev, Red Wind Over the Balkans, (Helion and Company 2019, paperback 2023)
The fighting in southeastern Europe towards the end of World War II is often overlooked in favour of the northern fronts in the east and west on the road to Berlin. However, you could argue that without that southern front, the northern campaigns would have been much more difficult. This book by Kaloyan Matev covers one small part of that theatre, concentrating on the invasion of Bulgaria, the subsequent drive towards Belgrade, and the ultimate liberation of Yugoslavia.
This is a heavy book, both in size and style. Weighing in at 661 pages, Red Wind Over the Balkans is a detailed narrative, with many accompanying photographs, of the Soviet invasions of Bulgaria and Yugoslavia south of the Danube. Matev lists units, equipment, and losses among other useful facts, and his book is a veritable goldmine of information – if you want to know which Soviet unit was where and what equipment they used, then this book is for you. It also covers the German, Bulgarian, and Yugoslav partisan forces that were involved in the campaigns.
The frequent tables of data that you are presented with means this is not the easiest book to read, and some editing to relocate those into appendices would have helped, as would grouping the photographs and some more judicious editing to help readers follow the narrative – knowing what ammunition the Soviet Air Force used during the operations was interesting but not necessarily relevant to the flow of the story. However, if you want to know just about anything relating to the operations in the southeastern theatre in late 1944, then this book is a must for your reference library – you even get to read about the Bulgarian Army’s combat contributions, which does not happen often, in English anyway. As a wargamer, I found many excellent ideas for scenarios to game; as a modeller, I am now building a Soviet force with mainly Valentine tanks to cross the Danube; and as an avid reader of World War II on the Eastern Front, I enjoyed reading this. You cannot ask for much more than that.
Reviewed by Dom Sore