DREAMS OF A GREAT SMALL NATION by Kevin J. McNamara
Kirkus Star

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
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The first English-language account of a small army that actually took control of Siberia in 1918.

While developing his story, McNamara, an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and associate dean at Drexel University, explains the birth of the Czecho-Slovak nation and the tireless work of three exiles: Tomáš Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, and Milan Štefánik. The first—and most important—point the author makes is that, while sharing a similar language and the oppression of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, the Slovaks of Hungary and the Czechs of Austria were never one people, as evidenced by their split in 1993. In fervent hopes that the war would take long enough to cause the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, Masaryk traveled all over Europe seeking support for the establishment of a new country. His decision to go to Russia to organize a družina of Czecho-Slovak troops created the army that would ensure the birth of the country, Czechoslovakia, that would call him president. Originally only about 350 former prisoners of war, the army eventually grew to a well-disciplined, cohesive group of more than 200,000. The story is extraordinary, and McNamara follows the frustrations of the men who became foils for the Russians, the Germans, and the Allies. Originally scheduled for transport on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostok for transfer to ships and passage to the Western front, the Russians wanted them in Murmansk while the Allies needed them to establish a second front in the war. McNamara, an impressive storyteller armed with a treasure of documents only recently available, ably narrates the remarkable feats of these men who fought every inch of the way, “who found themselves described in some quarters as the first counterrevolutionaries of a new ear.” Though newspapers across the globe followed the trek, actual assistance was in short supply.

A fantastic addition to the shelves of World War I histories.

Pub Date: March 29th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61039-484-0
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2016




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