Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire (The Greater War) Hardcover – 11 Sep 2014
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In this vivid reinterpretation of the Russian Empire's World War I, Joshua Sanborn provocatively and effectively reframes it as a war of decolonization and state collapse. Written in crisp and entertaining prose, this thought-provoking book is the most interesting and readable book published on Russia's World War I in recent times. (Eric Lohr, American University, Washington)
This magnificent book is full of insights, with a robust challenge to received wisdom. Sanborn's talent as a writer makes the catastrophic story of imperial state failure a joy to read. (Alan Kramer, Trinity College Dublin)
He is a well-informed and admirably plain Historian. He clearly realises the interest his subject holds beyond the acadamey. (Andre Van Loon, Military History Monthly.)
If the Eastern Front remains the "forgotten front", readers will have only themselves to blame, as Joshua Sanborn gives us a fresh, insightful look at the East in these crucial years. (Michael S. Neiberg, author of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of War in 1914)
An outstanding contribution to the spate of books marking the centenary of the Great War. (P.E. Heineman, CHOICE)
Sanborn's book is thus at once an everyday life history of the Russian Front, a gripping narrative of the key battles in which the Russian Empire participated, and a sophisticated conceptual argument about the stages of decolonization during the First World War. (The Russian Review)
a wonderful book. It takes the reader to the heart of the experience of Russian participants in the Great War in an original and unprecedented way ... In terms of depth of description, sensitivity to the subject matter, elegance of expression, and originality of approach, Joshua A. Sanborn has few rivals. His breadth of vision not only encompasses crucial but often overlooked episodes ... he also shows their importance to the story. (Christopher Read, American Historical Review)
About the Author
Joshua A. Sanborn is the author of two previous books: Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War, and Mass Politics, 1905-1925 and, with co-author Annette Timm, Gender, Sex, and the Shaping of Modern Europe: A History from the French Revolution to the Present Day. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and two children.
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Top Customer Reviews
However the reality, what is inside, is a very long way from anything like that. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that this is probably the best short book, and perhaps even the best book of any length, in relation to the war on the Eastern Front that I have come across of late. It is certainly one of the most informative.
The author is a talented writer. He argues his thesis about decolonisation and so on, but the manner in which he does so in no way detracts from the accessibility and readability of the book, both of which are excellent.
So in conclusion: do not judge this book by its cover (or at least what it says on the cover), for it simply does not do justice to, and is a poor reflection of, what is inside. A superb work.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Stresses and strains produced during the war built up and resulted in the social explosions of 1917 and 1918. Among these were defeats at the hands of Germany, large numbers of prisoners (3 million Russians taken prisoner, and they took 2 million Germans and Austrians), poor leadership, martial law behind the front and in occupied areas that can only be described as brutal, inflation, widespread disgust at the Imperial family, quite heavy casualties, malnutrition (and starvation), and political ineptness at the center. The book is quite good at discussing all of these, although some are mentioned in passing. The book also integrates all this with the ebb and flow of war, although not in great detail.
Among other interesting detail is that Sanborn says a number of new social groups came into being. These include POWs (both sides took large numbers of prisoners and in camps these created a kind of society, plus POWs forced to work in industry or agriculture created new relationships with the enemy), refugees (on a very large scale), forced labor, camaraderie in military units and military medical personnel. One chapter looks at the medical personnel, well worth the read, as I have not seen it covered in detail anywhere else.
Sanborn describes in some detail areas of near chaos and other important issues. Russian occupation of Austrian Galicia for example was characterized by the Russian assumption that Ukrainians were simply another variety of Russian, and the occupation attempted to force the population to speak Russian, to convert to Russian Orthodoxy (many were Uniate, essentially still Orthodox but agreeing with the Pope in Rome). Russian insensitivity created huge issues. The sections through the book that discuss chaos in areas are depressing--lynching of people with German names, extensive pogroms against Jews, quite large populations forced to migrate (that is, Russians forcing populations to migrate deeper into Russia), robbery, rape and murder rather widespread and gangs of deserters turning to crime. The society was in some ways disintegrating, which is the book's point.
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