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The End of Tsarist Russia
Cover of The End of Tsarist Russia
The End of Tsarist Russia
The March to World War I and Revolution
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An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
Winner of the the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
Finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize
An Amazon Best Book of the Month (History)


One of the world's leading scholars offers a fresh interpretation of the linked origins of World War I and the Russian Revolution

"Lieven has a double gift: first, for harvesting details to convey the essence of an era and, second, for finding new, startling, and clarifying elements in familiar stories. This is history with a heartbeat, and it could not be more engrossing."—Foreign Affairs

World War I and the Russian Revolution together shaped the twentieth century in profound ways. In The End of Tsarist Russia, acclaimed scholar Dominic Lieven connects for the first time the two events, providing both a history of the First World War's origins from a Russian perspective and an international history of why the revolution happened.

Based on exhaustive work in seven Russian archives as well as many non-Russian sources, Dominic Lieven's work is about far more than just Russia. By placing the crisis of empire at its core, Lieven links World War I to the sweep of twentieth-century global history. He shows how contemporary hot issues such as the struggle for Ukraine were already crucial elements in the run-up to 1914.

By incorporating into his book new approaches and comparisons, Lieven tells the story of war and revolution in a way that is truly original and thought-provoking.
From the Hardcover edition.
An Economist Best Book of the Year
A Financial Times Best Book of the Year
Winner of the the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
Finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize
An Amazon Best Book of the Month (History)


One of the world's leading scholars offers a fresh interpretation of the linked origins of World War I and the Russian Revolution

"Lieven has a double gift: first, for harvesting details to convey the essence of an era and, second, for finding new, startling, and clarifying elements in familiar stories. This is history with a heartbeat, and it could not be more engrossing."—Foreign Affairs

World War I and the Russian Revolution together shaped the twentieth century in profound ways. In The End of Tsarist Russia, acclaimed scholar Dominic Lieven connects for the first time the two events, providing both a history of the First World War's origins from a Russian perspective and an international history of why the revolution happened.

Based on exhaustive work in seven Russian archives as well as many non-Russian sources, Dominic Lieven's work is about far more than just Russia. By placing the crisis of empire at its core, Lieven links World War I to the sweep of twentieth-century global history. He shows how contemporary hot issues such as the struggle for Ukraine were already crucial elements in the run-up to 1914.

By incorporating into his book new approaches and comparisons, Lieven tells the story of war and revolution in a way that is truly original and thought-provoking.
From the Hardcover edition.
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    INTRODUCTION

    As much as anything, World War I turned on the fate of Ukraine.* To an English-speaking audience, this statement will seem final confirmation that most professors are crazy. No Allied soldier believed he was risking his life over Ukraine. Few of them had heard of the place. The same was true of German soldiers in 1914. In connection with the war's centenary, a flood of books will be published in English. Very few will mention Ukraine. Most of these books will be about the experiences of British, Dominion, and American soldiers and civilians during the war. Many others will debate the impact of the war on the society and culture of the English-speaking world. Ukraine's fate had nothing to do with any of this.

    Nevertheless, my statement is not as far-fetched as it seems. Without Ukraine's population, industry, and agriculture, early-twentieth-century Russia would have ceased to be a great power. If Russia ceased to be a great power, then there was every probability that Germany would dominate Europe. The Russian Revolution of 1917 temporarily shattered the Russian state, economy, and empire. Russia did for a time cease to be a great power. A key element in this was the emergence of an independent Ukraine. In March 1918, the Germans and the Russians signed a peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk that ended World War I on the eastern front. In this treaty, Russia was forced to recognize Ukraine as an independent country in principle and a German satellite in practice. Had the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk survived, Germany would have won World War I. To win the war, Germany did not need outright victory on the western front. A draw in the west combined with the eclipse of the Russian Empire and German domination of east-central Europe would have sufficed to ensure Berlin's hegemony over the Continent. Instead, Allied victory on the western front resulted in the collapse of German hopes for empire in the east. As part of the armistice that ended World War I, Germany had to renounce the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and abandon its conquests in eastern Europe. Soviet Russia moved back into the vacuum, reconquering Ukraine and re-creating the basis for a Russian Empire, albeit in communist form.

    This underlines a basic point about World War I: contrary to the near-universal assumption in the English-speaking world, the war was first and foremost an eastern European conflict. Its immediate origins lay in the murder of the Austrian heir at Sarajevo in southeastern Europe. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, led to a confrontation between Austria and Russia, eastern Europe's two great empires. France and Britain were drawn into what started as a conflict in eastern Europe above all because of fears for their own security: the victory of the Austro-German alliance over Russia would tilt the European balance of power decisively toward Berlin and Vienna. It is true that victory in World War I was achieved on the western front by the efforts of the French, British, and American armies. But the peace of 1918 was mostly lost in eastern Europe. The great irony of World War I was that a conflict which began more than anything else as a struggle between the Germanic powers and Russia to dominate east-central Europe ended in the defeat of both sides. The dissolution of the Austrian Empire into a number of small states incapable of defending themselves left a geopolitical hole in east-central Europe. Worse still, the Versailles order was constructed on the basis of both Germany's and Russia's defeat and without concern for their interests or viewpoints. Because Germany and Russia were potentially the most powerful states in Europe, the Versailles...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 25, 2015
    Using Russian and Soviet archives only recently opened to Western historians, Lieven (Russia Against Napoleon) constructs a Russian history of the years leading up to WWI and the Russian Revolution, arguing that, contrary to Western European sensibilities, WWI was primarily a conflict between two looming Eastern hegemons: Russia and Germany. Moving from broader geopolitical analysis and historical trends all the way down to a “worm’s-eye view” of history that focuses on the actions of a small cadre of influential decision makers in July and August 1914, Lieven charts Russia’s burgeoning “Second World” imperialism—a rise inevitably complicated by modernity and mass politics. Already humiliated by losing the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) and weakened by the 1905 revolution, Russia was ill-prepared for the demands of the 20th century. Lieven has a gift for illuminating the intricacies and complexities of tsarist Russia, but in doing so, he assumes a familiarity with Russian history likely beyond the casual reader, and his dry prose does little to support or engage novices. Nonetheless, Lieven’s uniquely Russian take on these decisive years stands as a significant work of scholarship. Maps & illus. Agent: Natasha Fairweather, United Agents (U.K.).

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 1, 2015
    Fresh research at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow (since closed) yields an insightful new look at Russia's pivotal role in the making of World War I. In this massive yet palatable work of research, scholar Lieven (Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, 2010, etc.), a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the British Academy, concentrates on Russian foreign policy as it maneuvered through shifting currents of "modern empire" and nationalism in the years leading up to Russia's entry in the war. The author emphasizes how the notion of imperialism was as pertinent within Europe as outside of it, namely in Austria's regard of Serbia as existing within its own orbit. Similarly, Russia was casting envious glances at Constantinople and the straits as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. Moreover, the fate of Ukraine-its population, industry, and agriculture-would tip the balance of European power as decisively then as it has today. Lieven engagingly sets out his history on two levels: the "God's-eye view," encompassing the big themes of geopolitics and balance of power; and the "worm's-eye view," which depicts how a handful of male leaders made the crucial decisions within a two-week period in July 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that would affect millions of people. Factors that fed international tensions included Germany's paranoia regarding Russia and the sense of an inevitable war between "the Teuton and the Slav," the role of the press as it "rattled and bedeviled policy makers," the lack of trust in Czar Nicholas II, and the rise of ethnic nationalism. The Russian empire's internal makeup was enormously complicated, and Lieven painstakingly walks readers through the important precursors-e.g., the revolution of 1905 and the Anglo-Russian entente of 1907-while introducing the key decision-makers. A Russian scholar opens up new, even startling historical connections.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2015

    "As much as anything, World War I turned on the fate of Ukraine." With this audacious statement, Lieven (history, Trinity Univ., Russia Against Napoleon; Towards the Flame) begins an intriguing and well-written history of World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Based predominately on materials from seven Russian archives, Lieven's key premise is that the Great War was "the source and origin of most of the catastrophes that subsequently afflicted twentieth century Russia." He succeeds in supporting this statement and also reinforces other premises, such as the theory that World Wars I and II were both, essentially, eastern European wars. This results in a fascinating reappraisal of the place of Russia and the former Soviet Union in both conflicts. VERDICT Lieven's writing is clear and concise without being overly pedantic, which results in an engrossing read for anyone, academic or layman, with an interest in World War I, Russian history, eastern Europe, or the Russian Revolution. [See Prepub Alert, 2/23/15.]--John Sandstrom, New Mexico State Univ. Lib., Las Cruces

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The End of Tsarist Russia
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The March to World War I and Revolution
Dominic Lieven
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