THE EASTERN FRONT: 1914-1917 by Norman Stone


Email this review


An elegant study of an aspect of WW I--the Russian campaign against the Germans and Austro-Hungarians--which has generally been relegated by military historians to a series of overworked postscripts. Stone proceeds to dispatch the cliches one by one. His two most important arguments: the shortage of shells blamed by the Russians for their defeats by the Germans was essentially a problem of army command and supply structures, not a ""crippling material weakness"" on the part of the Russian economy; and, indeed, the Russian economy itself was suffering a crisis of growth, not decline. Russian output of key materiel expanded during the war, and its large, modern industries were not themselves to blame for the economic chaos which, to Stone's regret, produced the November revolution of 1917. The book presents intricate but lucid mappings of the factions within the Tsarist government and army--power slipped to far-flung commanders, away from the St. Petersburg administrators, who in any case were largely devoted to obsolete ""fortress"" concepts. Stone sees Russian military entropy in the context of the general problem of WW I: Nineteenth century progress could provide mass armies with food and railroads; but, past the rail terminals, communications and mobility were still primitive, especially for the Russian side. Against this background, the German commander Ludendorff in particular is derided for puffing his tactical gains into brilliant strategic breakthroughs. The background of diplomacy and Franco-British control over Tsarist decision-making is not explored, but as a military analysis the book is penetrating and thoroughly enjoyable.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1976
ISBN: 0140267255
Publisher: Scribners