Before his death at the hands of an assassin, V.K. Plehve, the Russian Minister of the Interior, had been heard to say:...


THE SHORT VICTORIOUS WAR: The Russo-Japanese Conflict of 1904-5

Before his death at the hands of an assassin, V.K. Plehve, the Russian Minister of the Interior, had been heard to say: ""What this country needs is a short victorious war to stem the tide of revolution."" In the event, the Russo-Japanese war was brief but, for Russia, utterly disastrous. Far from damming the revolutionary tide, the war accelerated political unrest and ferment at every level of society. Walder's account of the fighting in Manchuria and of the prolonged assault on Port Arthur is in every way superior to Denis and Peggy Warner's tabloid rendering in The Tide at Sunrise (p. 101). Though Walder doesn't neglect the diplomatic background or the somber repercussions on Russia's internal affairs, this is principally a military history. Again and again, on land and sea, the dismaying ineptitude of the Russian command is revealed. While the Japanese, under Admiral Togo, circle Port Arthur the Russian Pacific Fleet lies like a somnolent whale unable to move. The various Russians in charge at the scene -- Kuropatkin, Alexieff, Stoessel, et al. -- are consistently caught off-guard. Either through inertia, overconfidence or cowardice they fail repeatedly to launch any initiative of their own. Trapped in the harbor the great Russian fleet is first neutralized then sunk -- all by men whom the St. Petersburg press liked to describe as ""yellow monkeys."" Walder utilizes military reports as well as dispatches from English, French and German observers to reconstruct actual battles and the confusion and lethargy which prevailed among Russia's top military officers. By the time it is all over there is little doubt that Russia on the eve of revolution has become immobilized by a vast and creaking military machine and a moribund government. A consistently absorbing account of a small war that captured the attention of ali Europe and revealed, to those who were willing to see, the bankruptcy of the Tsarist government.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 1974


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1974

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