Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 127

BOOK REVIEWS the Eastern Front since Norman Stone’s (no relation) The Eastern Front, published in 1975. The Russian Army benefits from work done in the Russian archives, as well as the deeper understandings of Russian civil and military society, possible only after the Cold War. Stone’s main argument is an important one—despite staggering defeats, setbacks, and waning public support, the Russian Empire collapsed from the inside. The Russian Imperial Army remained in the field and, surprisingly, effective until 1917, when political disintegration in Saint Petersburg and elsewhere destroyed it. Stone also provides vital context and corrections for several common mischaracterizations about the Russian, as well as Austro-Hungarian and German, experiences of the Great War. On the rare occasion that most people think about World War I’s Eastern Front, the Russian losses at Tannenberg, and finally, the peace treaty at BrestLitovsk, all paint a simple narrative of failure. While the Russians certainly struggled to counter the material and tactical superiority of the German army, they did have successes—usually against the Austrians and the Ottomans. The 1914 loss at Tannenberg was counterbalanced by major Russian victories in Austrian Galicia, including the capture of Lviv, Austria-Hungary’s fourth largest city. Even after the devastating effects of the Great Retreat in 1915, the Russian army conducted major offensives in every year of the war, including a 1916 offensive led by Aleksei Brusilov—this was one of the most effective tactical performances of any army during the war. Russia clearly lost in World War I, but Stone