Dominic Lieven: Towards the Flame Empire War and the End of Tsarist Russia

Ers do not necessarily cooperate even when their species faces extinction Such remarks abound in what Lieven calls his God s eye analysis of long term structural forces like eopolitics and The Cowboy Takes a Bride (The Bridal Bid globalization forces he says no Russian monarch let alone one with the weaknesses of Nicholas II could have controlled His other levels of analysis he calls the intermediate taking in the institutions and systems that determined who made decisions in Tsarist Russia and the worm s narrative the story of what the decision makers thought and said This worm s narrative is deepened by Lieven s years of work in Russian diplomatic and military archives Two decision makers struck me Petr Durnovo 1845 1915 was the minister of Internal Affairs who played a key role in crushing the 1905 revolution In 1914 he was a leader in the upper house of the State Council a positionained after an amusing disgraceFor all his current eminence Durnovo had never entirely shed the shady reputation he had acuired from a decade s service as head of Russia s police forces Secret policemen seldom have the cleanest of hands though by the standards of his twentieth century successors Durnovo was a lamb His career as director of the Police Department had come to a spectacular end when he used his agents to purloin letters of his mistress from the home of a foreign diplomat a competitor for her affections The story reached Alexander III who was enraged Gogol could have written a fine comedy about the tsar s decision to boot his miscreant police chief into the Senate the body responsible for upholding the rule of law in the Russian EmpireThough at first Michaels Discovery (The Devaneys glance a Gogolianrotesue and aren t we all Durnovo wrote for Nicholas II a famous memorandum on the conseuences for Russia of a long European war that Lieven calls a brilliant work one whose clarity insight and accuracy of prediction are unrivaled by any other document written from within the ruling elite in these years His predictions Exhaustion financial chaos the delegitimization and demise of tsarism leading to anarchy followed by some version of extreme revolutionary socialism And Durnovo predicted this would happen even if Russia wonNikolai Maklakov 1871 1918 was another Minister of Internal Affairs and reactionary secret police type who had a fine sense of tsarism s fragility and the dangers of war Lieven s last image of Maklakov is haunting When General Serge Dobrorolsky visited Maklakov on July 29 to collect his signature on the orders for mobilization he found the minister in his office which contained so many icons that it appeared like a chapel than a Shotgun Wedding (Silhouette Yours Truly, government bureau Maklakov spoke to Dobrorolsky about howreatly the revolutionaries would welcome war adding that in Russia war cannot be popular with the mass of the people and revolutionary ideas are dearer to the masses than a victory over Germany But one cannot escape one s fate Maklakov was one of the first Tsarist officials the Bolsheviks put against a wall. Very different regimeDominic Lieven is a Senior Research Fellow of Trinity CollegeCambridge University and a Fellow of the British Academy His book Russia Against Napoleon Penguin won the Wolfson Prize for History and the Prize of the Fondation Napoleon for the best foreign work on the Napoleonic era.

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Anted to neglect was the alliance with France and its investment in the development of Russia s infrastructure Russia was not fully prepared to declare war on Austria Hungary over the Balkan states but proved eually unable to reign in their mutually incompatible nationalist expansionism Ironically Germany was often the voice of mediation and instrumental in reigning in the Vienna hawks whenever they pushed for war against Serbia lest it stirred Habsburg Slavs into revolt and separation Most importantly no motive was strong enough for Russia to actively seek war By july 1914 however the Tsar and his advisers were tired of backing down in the face of Austrian challenges towards Belgrade and honoured their commitment to France Lieven is clear and elegant breathing life in the individual decision makers who merit a whole chapter which takes up a fifth of the book Lined up they can all be ranked by the degree of their Pan Slavism and their familiarity with European diplomacy As a Life Changing Smiles general rule experienceained through postings in European capitals tempered jingoism with realism He profits from previously unmined Russian arches some closed again at present to challenge convential views on the Russian role in the last decade of peace which were often than not Innocent Sins (Harlequin Presents, glanced at through the published memoirs of White exiles In the first sentence of the preface he drops a bombshell right away presenting the fate of Ukraine as pivotal to the outbreak of WWI alltough he doesn t return to this line of thought until the very end where he combines it with the proposition that Germany could ve won the war by settlement if it had been able to hang onto the annexations of Brest Litovsk to counterbalance the might of the United States This in itself is worth another book It s also a pity that the war and revolution can t be discussed with the same clarity and depth as the outbreak period Empire War and the end of Tsarist Russia only covers the first third of its subtitle I wish for a sturdily boxed trilogy that runs op to 1920 I conceived and wrote this book partly while contemplating the world from my home halfway up a mountain in Japan from the AfterwardAfter reading The Russian Empire and Its Rivals and Russia Against Napoleon I came to anticipate in any Lieven work judiciouslyeneralized aphorisms on power and decline In The End of Tsarist Russia I wasn t disappointed As he begins narration of the July 1914 crisis Lieven laments that the Russian and Austrian elites lacked sufficient awareness of many common traits and problems and not least a common vulnerability to nationalism though he shrugs even had the two empires come to see their shared interests and threats this might well not have been enough to avert the mutually suicidal spiral into war revolution unfettered irredentism and Only a Whisper genocide into that chaos in which the common people do not know who to obey to paraphrase Pushkin A cynic might argue Lieven sums up that empires are tigers and tig. Ity Russianreatness reuired decisive action Russia's rulers thought they were acting to secure their future but in fact after millions of deaths and two revolutions they were consigning their entire class to death or exile and their country to a uniuely terrible enerations long experiment under

Well researched analysis of the reasons and events leading the First World War from the perspective of Russia The author went through a lot of the documents in Russian archives which were not previously available He presents his results in a clear and concise manner He considers the influence of public opinion on the actions of the overnments which was uite interestingHowever his conclusions are hardly controversial according to this book only Germany could have stopped the war in July 2014 But it has chosen not to do it R Just a bit too much detail for me so I Brooklyn's Song got bored with it Can t say it wasn t well researched but this worm s eye account of intragovernmental and diplomatic minutia was endlessly dull I kept waiting for the narrative to kick in but this was just a 300 page Wikipedia article Alltough some damn foolish thing in the Balkan would indeed bring about a European war the role of the two Great Powers situated on the east side of the continent in its origins have received less attention in the English language historiography than those of Great Britain its French ally and its infamous main opponent the German Empire Dominic Lieven handles the Russian origins of the Great War withusto Between the defeat of the tsarist forces in the Russo Japanese war of 1905 and the assassination in Sarajevo Russia was closely involved in every pan European war scare to an almost annual rythm if one adds the two Morrocan crises 190611 and the tension with Great Britain over spheres of influence in Persia settled provisionally in 1907 The annexation of Bosnia by the Habsburg empire following a de facto occupation since 1878 comes close to being a turning point in Russian Great Power politics not a weight usually attributed The Balkan Wars of 1912 1913 are understood in terms of the uestionable Serbian and Bulgarian allegiance to Russia Throughout themes of tension run through the minds of Russian diplomats ministers and enerals Pan Slavism towards the rapidly shaping Balkan nations was popular with the press and the middle classes but difficult to translate into foreign policy without the responsibility of war Closely related was a form of Russian nationalism that seeked to orientate the towards Europe and its liberal modernism to restore the country to the strength it possessed prior to the confrontation in the Far East The defeat had been a clear signal that tsarist autocracy and semi serfdom were no longer a reliable basis for an economically secure Russia In terms of the industrial demands of modern warfare this was undoubtedly true Diametrically opposed was a desire to focus on the development of Russia s empire in Asia exploiting the economic resources of the Siberian landmass without crossing the sphere of influence that Japan was carving out in Northern China Regaining strength by minding one s own business often also seemed like a ood ideaThis divergence was never solved The only element in foreign policy that nobody The Russian decision to mobilize in July 1914 may have been the single most catastrophic choice of the modern era Some articulate thoughtful figures around the Tsar understood Russia's fragility and yet they were shouted down by those who were convinced that despite Germany's patent military superior.

Dominic Lieven is Professor of Russian studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science a Fellow of the British Academy and of Trinity College Cambridge