Monday, March 21, 2016

'The Russian Army in the Great War' by David R Stone

I've just finished reading 'The Russian Army in the Great War; The eastern front 1914-1917' by David R Stone (ISBN978-0-7006-2095-1).

My reading comes on the end of a summer making my way through Pritt Buttar's books on the eastern front amongst other things. Stone offers a good overview of the Russian Army over this period, combining political events with military to fill a huge gap in the English language literature on the subject. The text is liberally sprinkled with footnotes (all at the end of the book to avoid disturbing the reader's flow), and many of the sources are original Russian sources which in itself is refreshing. Sadly I have no capacity to judge the accuracy of those sources, but have no reason at this stage to doubt their usefulness.

Stone's final 'Conclusion' offers some useful insights into the impact of the war on the Russian Army, and the birth of the Soviet Union. Mind you I can't say I'd agree with everything he says. For example earlier in the book he comments that the Brusilov offensive failed to follow any broader strategic plan, and so was doomed in terms of its impact on the war.

"Much of the responsibility for the massive loss of Russian lives lay with Brusilov, since the brilliance of his tactical preparation was not matched by similar strategic vision." (Page 256)

However in his conclusion, referring to the German spring offensives of 1918, he comments:

Those spring offensives, empowered by troops transferred from Russia, very nearly won the war for Germany before the full weight of American power could be brought to bear alongside the British and the French." (Page 305)

I felt that he missed the point that Ludendorf's offensive suffered a similar lack of strategic vision. That said, there would be few if any other memorable moments in which I'd take issue with his conclusions and plenty of memorable moments where I gained valuable insight.

This book is a valuable addition to our English language sources on a long forgotten front of the Great War, and I thoroughly recommend it.

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