Academic journal article Military Review

The End of Tsarist Russia

Academic journal article Military Review

The End of Tsarist Russia

Article excerpt

THE END OF TSARIST RUSSIA The March to World War I and Revolution Dominic Lieven, Viking, New York, 2015, 428 pages

Rare are the historical works that provide new perspectives on iconic events in world history. The End of Tsarist Russia by Dominic Lieven is one of those works. His book details the strategic imperatives, decisions, and personalities that led tsarist Russia to war and its ultimate demise. He does not settle for a dramatic retelling of the heady days of Revolution in Petrograd, or the final years of the First World War. In fact, those events are covered in the shortest and last chapter of the book. Instead, Lieven studies the geopolitical situation in the years preceding the Armageddon that swept through Europe and the world a little over a hundred years ago. In so doing, he illuminates dangerous parallels with today.

The first myth that Lieven debunks is that of tsarist Russia as an exceptional or irrational actor on the world stage before World War I. On the contrary, Lieven argues that the strategic calculus of Russia resembled that of the other empires of the time. Russia's desires to control the straits of Dardanelle were similar to British designs on the Suez Canal or U.S. control over the Panama Canal. Furthermore, he underlines the imperial dilemma faced by all great powers in the early twentieth century: that a state's greatness depended on its size. However, the greater a state's size, the more vulnerable it was to political disunity. This threatened all empires in an age of rising ethnic nationalism.

Lieven then explains the particular security dynamics of tsarist Russia. …

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