- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers; UK ed. edition (13 March 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007225539
- ISBN-13: 978-0697048400
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 118 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Warsaw 1920: Lenin'S Failed Conquest of Europe Paperback – 24 Mar 2014
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‘The book I have most enjoyed this year…has the quality and excitement of the very best historical novel…marvellous.’ John Bayley, TLS (Book of the Year)
‘Zamoyski writes with thrilling immediacy and dramatic effect about a conflict of huge import that has been overlooked by almost everyone but the Poles themselves.’ Andrew Holgate, Sunday Times (Book of the Year)
'The mark of a great military historian is not only to do the battlefield descriptions and explain the tactics, but to give the political context and bring the characters of the commanders to life. Zamoyski manages it all in this concise and thrilling account of a forgotten war.' Daily Telegraph
'Zamoyski shows himself to be a master…across the battlefields [he] proves to be a sure-footed guide with a rare capacity for casting light into dark corners, to pierce the fog of war and to make what at first seems incomprehensible easy to understand …Zamoyski's battle pictures, indeed, are reminiscent of Tolstoy.' Spectator
'Elegant and fascinating … the bulk of the book is given over to a deft and gripping battle narrative …"Warsaw 1920" is battle history of the best kind.The international setting and the political context are gracefully sketched in, and Zamoyski integrates the voices of contemporaries to create a symphonic, three-dimensional chronicle.' Sunday Times
'A thorough, beautifully written account of one of the great turning-points in Europe's history … Zamoyski … writes with the dash of a Polish cavalry officer.' Independent
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Zamoyski gives a rollicking good rendition of the movement and clashes of armies. Sadly the paperback version has rather poor photographs and the many maps urgently need to be in at least 3 colors. But otherwise, this is a fine primer into the crucial conflict that gets absolutely too little coverage. I'm gonna pass this book on and pick up Norman Davies take on it.
Was there ever a war where fortunes swung as dramatically as this one, between two such bitter and historic enemies? A pre-emptive attack by Pilsudski brought the Polish forces deep into Russian territory. Only months later they were fighting a desperate defence of Warsaw itself, hundreds of kilometers away. In the end, the truce agreed by the exhausted protagonists simply deferred the big issues in this region where conflict has been endemic for centuries. Less than 20 years later, brutal conflict broke out again, leaving devastation in its wake on a scale the world had never seen before.
By this time Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. Allied intervention in the civil war in Russia made it apparent for Lenin that West intended to stifle Bolshevik revolution. Under the circumstances for Bolsheviks only hope for ensuring survival was to export revolution. To make this possible they established Third International/ Comintern. Wracked by civil strife ,political dissension, mounting unemployment Germany looked a tempting prospect. Road to Berlin lay through Poland. Above facts form background of this book.
Russians mustered overwhelming strength along the Western Front to the north of Pripet marshes. Lenin increased the number of divisions from 5 to 20. The operation was to be supported by armies of South Western Front from Ukraine. Plan of campaign was worked out by Chief of Operations Branch of Red Army General Staff Boris M. Shaposhnikov.Author shows how Poles successfully resisted the onslaught of Russian colossus.
But firstly he provides quantitative/ qualitative features of the forces of the two adversaries. Russian 'Tachanka' impressed me a lot. This weapon was a combination of mobility and firepower. It was a machine gun mounted on a horse-drawn buggy having a crew of three. One man driving the horses and the other two manned the machine guns.It galloped towards the enemy infantry . After coming to a close range it veered around and let loose withering fire before galloping away. Author then gives a topographical analysis of zone of operations which he says resembled a triangle. Front was nearly thousand kilometres long and the wedge bisected the triangle into two halves. This was a great expanse of bogs, rivers , forests called Pripet marshes. What that meant was armies advancing from west to east or reverse would be channeled along either of the two corridors.Either of the adversary armies if advanced too far would find their flanks exposed.
Another striking thing Poles developed techniques for monitoring communications of her foes. Russian ciphers were pierced.By the beginning of 1920s she was listening every radio station in Western Russia. Russian radio security procedures were also loose which made the task easier. Poles knew Red Army massing troops along her eastern border.This made Pilsudski initiate hostilities, for he realised Russia had to knocked out quickly otherwise Poland would be swamped.
Polish army lunged into Ukraine seized Kiev but could not hold out for long. Soon dislodged by forces of Marshal Semion Budionny 's South Western Front. Simultaneously Marshal Tukhachevsky Western Front began its relentless advance which took Bolsheviks to the gates of Warsaw. Disintegration of the Polish state appeared imminent.
Front near Warsaw ran diagonally from northwest to southeast . As Tukhachevski's forces forged ahead , it came to be separated by Red Army units of South Western Front . Two fronts were loosely connected by a weak centre. Pilsudski reasoned the weak centre could be easily brushed aside by launching a strong counter offensive. Wedge can be driven between the two fronts besides turning Tukhachevski's southern flank.Further by exploiting the thrust Poles can fall behind the rear of Russian armies consequently unhinging Tukhachevski 's dispositions facing Warsaw. The manoeuvre was successfully executed which led what some historians call the 'Miracle at Vistula'. Strike resembled what Alexander executed at Arbela in 331 BC. Here it should be remembered the Macedonian pinned down the Persian right, broke through weak left centre and enveloped Persian right wing and fell upon its rear.
Russian Polish conflict was extraordinary in many ways. Unlike the positional warfare in the marshy and muddy terrain of Flanders in Great War; mobility, surprise , manoeuvre formed the hall marks of this campaign. Cavalry proved decisive. Poles while retreating made no attempt to entrench. Their commanders realised its futility. Front was wide and forces available to hold were small. Entrenchments could always be turned by superior Russian cavalry.
Russian repulse at the gates of Warsaw had far -reaching consequences upon the destiny of Poland. Later Soviet dictator took a terrible revenge when he connived with Hitler in partioning the country again. Flower of Polish officer corps was liquidated by NKVD troops in Katyn forest in Byelorussia. Poland has not regained and will never regain her old borders.She had to settle for much disliked Curzon line. Such are the eternal laws of History: For victors the fruits ,the losers the spoils.
Finally, tenor of the book is virulently anti Russian. Author has made some caustic comments and has vehemently berated Bolsheviks. Russian apologists may find this offending. Nevertheless he has done a good job by bringing into limelight a conflict which faded away from human memory . A clash which had profound impact on the course of World History.