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The catastrophe of the First World War, and the destruction, revolution, and enduring hostilities it wrought, make the issue of its origins a perennial puzzle.
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The catastrophe of the First World War, and the destruction, revolution, and enduring hostilities it wrought, make the issue of its origins a perennial puzzle. It was Russian statesmen who unleashed the war through conscious policy decisions based on imperial ambitions in the Near East. Unlike their civilian counterparts in Berlin, who would have preferred to localize the Austro-Serbian conflict, Russian leaders desired a more general war so long as British participation was assured.

Russian plans for seizing Turkish territory gained focus, yet no real preparations resulted, and the diplomatic exchanges did not lead to action.

*The Russian Origins of the First World War* - Marginal REVOLUTION

Effused with trendy expressions, the book makes grandiose claims based on position papers composed during wartime, the same genre that Russian policymakers had been crafting for at least two centuries. Caricatures of key players are repetitive and counterfactual analysis bolsters the main points. Nevertheless, the book succeeds in encouraging interest in Russia and the Great War.

General mobilization was consequently a bellicose act directed at both German states. Yet time was a prized commodity and the Russian leadership had no reason to postpone the inevitable.

Russian entry into World War I

Citation: Lucien J. H-Russia, H-Net Reviews. February, Add a Comment.


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  • Frary on McMeekin, 'The Russian Origins of the First World War'.

Michigan State University Department of History. Chapter five provides the strongest support for McMeekin's assertion that Russian motives were a driving force behind both the start of and the conduct of World War I.

History Of The Russian Cossacks Until World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

He makes a strong argument that Britain and France conducted operations to seize the Straits out of a fear that the Russians might conclude a separate peace. Archival sources, meanwhile, demonstrate that Russia feared it lacked forces to successfully seize the Straits on its own, and therefore convinced its allies to do so on her behalf. Remarkably, the British Gallipoli operation proceeded without any significant or timely Russian military support. It is here where Russian commanders failed to match the excellence of Russian diplomats.

The Russian Origins of the First World War

Chapters six, seven and eight examine Russia's wartime policies and actions in the "Armenian" provinces of the Ottoman Empire and in Persian Azerbaijan. While, in some ways, these chapters divert the reader's focus from the core argument about the Straits, they nevertheless provide some of the best material for a world history focus on Russia's role in shaping the modern Middle East. Chapters six and eight in particular add new insight into the Armenian tragedy, effectively asserting that Russia manipulated the rising of Armenians against the Turks to prepare the ground for its own future dominance of the region.

The final chapter describes the continued effectiveness of Russian commanders and armies in the east, even asserting that the "war with Turkey was popular in no small part because it was going so well" In a rare stumble, McMeekin fails to provide source references for his assertion that Russia's economy "was thriving in " But he makes a good case that Russian commanders and troops in the east remained both motivated and capable as they planned amphibious landings to seize the Bosphorus in June These landings, approved by both the old regime and the Provisional Government, obviously never happened.

Instead, the Provisional Government launched the disastrous offensive on the Galician front in the summer of In summary, McMeekin delivers a valuable service in addressing the "historical amnesia" about Russian motivations and intentions in WWI. His positions, with the one exception noted, are meticulously documented with a variety of interlocking archival sources.