The Unknown War was a landmark television series, detailing the drama of the Eastern European front during World War II. Academy Award Winner Burt Lancaster hosts the 20 part series. Film footage from Soviet archives comprises a major portion of the series, supplemented by film from both the United States and British archives. Burt Lancaster spent three weeks in eight cities in Russia, for location filming.
Because the series was written from the Russian perspective, it ignores or glosses-over Stalin's pre-war purges of his senior officer corps, the pre-war famines that decimated the peasant class, the non-aggression pact with Germany, the Soviet invasion of Poland and the Soviet invasion of Finland. It often praises the valor of the Soviet soldiers, without ever mentioning that deserters and even those who failed to advance with sufficient speed were summarily shot.