The Eastern Front: 1914-1920, Michael S. Neiberg & David Jordan, Amber Books, 2021, pp. 224, ISBN: 9781838861308
When the match for war was lit in 1914, Russia alongside her allies France and Britain, quickly began mobilising their armies. For Russia, war possessed an opportunity to increase national unity. However, despite having a stronger army, in August 1914, a Russian Army were defeated at the Battle of Tannenberg. Russia soon found itself facing a disadvantaged front that stretched from the ‘Baltic Sea in the West and Moscow in the East, a distance of 1,200 kilometres, and Saint Petersburg in the North and the Black Sea in the South, a distance of more than 1,600 kilometres’, much larger than the fronts faced by this in the West. By 1920, the course of Russia’s history had changed dramatically. The war had been difficult to sustain, the country had erupted into civil war and the three-hundred year of Romanov Dynasty had been replaced by the Bolsheviks and their leader Vladimir Lenin.
‘The Eastern Front: 1914-1920’, which is part of a six-volume World War I series, is an Anglo-American venture between Michael S. Neiberg, a Professor of History in the Department of National Security Studies at the US Army War College and David Jordan, a Senior Lecturer at King’s College, London and part of the Joint Services Command and Staff College. This book aims to cover the vast subject of the conflict between the Central Powers and Russia between 1914-1920. The telling of each battle is not a comprehensive study, indeed there are many key battles and factors missed out, but instead the text gives a condensed background to war on the Eastern Front including Russia’s defeat at the Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes in 1914, the Battle of Lodz and the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive in 1915, Russia’s short-lived success in 1916 during the Brusilov Offensive and Romania’s entry into war. It also gives some background on Russia’s internal breakdown including the first and second Russian revolutions and outbreak of civil war in 1917 and the following Russo-Polish War in 1920.
While Neiberg & Jordan set out to cover complex and often-neglected subject of war on the Eastern Front during the First World War, the text failed to give any new insight or further understanding for those who may be more familiar with this period in Russia’s history. There are over 300 images, some of which did not appear to link to the text/page they were included on, as well as accompanying fact boxes, maps and some interesting, previously unpublished primary sources scattered throughout such as Tsar Nicholas II’s Abdication statement and two of Lenin’s Ten Theses from April 1917. Overall, ‘The Eastern Front: 1914-1920’ gives an accessible, clear and brief overview of the Eastern front and the impact of the war in Russia but sadly lacks depth and insight. It therefore would be useful as a reference guide for those who are more knowledgeable on the subject but it could be an ideal starting point for those looking to get a brief understanding of this period or for those new to the subject of the war on the Eastern Front.