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

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 Book Cover 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
Kevin J McNamara
Military History
PublicAffairs
2016
Kindle
418

This is an excellent book about one of the most fascinating episodes in 20th century history: the travails of the Czech Legion in Russia.

The backstory is rather complicated, but ultimately it reminded me more than anything of Xenophon's Anabasis--a small, disciplined army far from home forced to hack its way through the wrack and ruin of a disintegrating empire to reach safety. While I've long been familiar with the general story about the Czech legion, this author does a great job of pulling together accounts from letters, diaries, etc. to paint a first-hand picture of what it was like. It is difficult to imagine the extremely complicated situation that the Czechs found themselves in, in the chaos of 1918 Siberia, where Reds, Whites, Americans, French, Japanese, German and Hungarian POWs all fought for control over the Trans-Siberian railroad, and the Czechs were constantly subject to threats, false promises, and misplaced hopes as their fortunes shifted with those of the overall progress of WWI. But despite it all, the Czechs came out on top...

A large part of the book--probably about a third--deals with various diplomatic machinations regarding Czech independence which this reader found to be fairly tedious, but which certainly represents an important part of the story. It was primarily the success of the Czech Legion which inspired US and European leaders to support Czech independence, and thus the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire, after WWI.

  • Rating
5

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