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This is a poor history book
on 12 September 2011
This, on the face of it, is a worthy addition to studies of the turmoil that was the early years of the USSR. It isn't a subject often approached from a purely military viewpoint and Osprey deserves credit for commissioning it as part of their generally useful 'Essential Histories' series. However;
This is not a good history book. The author, a professor of history, we are told, must have been exposed to the idea of an impartial view while writing the work that won him his doctorate, yet for some reason he has let all of this go and instead written a paean to the White Army.
The Whites' campaigns are analysed in detail, their leaders' careers are examined and their triumphs charted, yet at no point does similar treatment get applied to their Red opponents. Red atrocities are mentioned at tedious length, yet at no point does the at least equal White taste for rapine and slaughter get a mention (General Shkuro's 'White Wolves', rapists-in-ordinary to Deniken's army, are nothing worse than 'savage opponents' to Nestor Makhno here). The book is lavishly illustrated with White propaganda pictures, some of them produced by emigres twenty years after the event.
The wars of the fringes that made up good sections of the Civil War narrative get very poor treatment. The Russo-Polish war of 1919-20 which merits a book in itself gets shoehorned into less than two pages, the Finnish Civil War gets scarcely more and the organisation, order of battle and equipment of the combatants mysteriously gets no consideration at all.
To make matters worse, there is no further reading list, a first for the Essential Histories series. There is not, in fact, even a skeleton bibliography for this book, so any further attempts at fact checking must be supplied by the readers themselves. As an aside, I reccomend W.Bruce Lincoln's 'Red Victory' or Evan Mawdsley's 'The Russian Civil War', both better by far than this, analytical histories with at least a nod to impartiality in them.
To summarise: polemic, not military history. There are better things to spend your money on.