Norman Stone

Country on the Move

Dreams of a Great Small Nation: The Mutinous Army that Threatened a Revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe

By

Public Affairs 395pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

‘Fourth Army has actually been captured’, ran a telegram to Austrian headquarters in June 1916. An enterprising Russian general, Aleksei Brusilov, had worked out how the trench war could be won, using methods that were not adopted on the Western Front until two years later. His victory, however, was over an Austrian army that seemed to be full of weaknesses. It was made up mainly of Slav troops – largely Czechs and Ruthenes (the term used at the time for Ukrainians) – and they were said simply not to have fought. It was not as simple as that. The new method involved a short, hurricane bombardment that, in the dry Eastern European summer, levelled trenches and threw up clouds of dust. The Russian attackers were carefully concealed and told to move ahead fast, bypassing strong points. Between 266,000 and 400,000 bewildered soldiers from the Austrian army were marched off to prisoner-of-war camps. Was this defeat evidence of great disaffection on the part of the Habsburg army’s Slav troops, as Allied propaganda had it, or was it just the kind of collapse that stupid generals more or less invited?

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,