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Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires 1908-1918 Paperback – March 14, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"A first-class work of history ... an impressively clear and highly original account of the complex events in the Russian and Ottoman empires" - Financial Times

"Shattering Empires is a pioneering study that brilliantly illuminates the entangled crises of the Ottoman and Russian states. In this timely and well-written book, Reynolds skilfully shows how the confrontation between these two states contributed to the collapse of both empires and to the birth of a new kind of politics in the Middle East and the Caucasus." Robert D. Crews, Stanford University

"Michael Reynolds has written an important and original book. He relates a complex story with remarkable clarity and admirable rigor. His balanced and nuanced account is based on wide research and is a major addition to the literature on Russian and Ottoman history, and to the history of the First World War." Peter Holquist, University of Pennsylvania

"Michael Reynolds combines a deep understanding of Russia and Turkey to produce an outstanding book that illuminates both historical and contemporary questions." Stephen Rosen, Harvard University

"Shattering Empires is a fine book ... it makes a valuable contribution not only to the history of Russian-Ottoman relations but also to our understanding of the intersection of nationalism and geopolitics in the age of imperial downfall." -Times Literary Supplement

"This fine, provocative book asks important questions: about the alleged anachronistic nature of empires; about nationalism as a driving force to explain the modern historical narrative; about the quest for security and its costs and consequences. It deserves a wide and serious reading.". -Journal of Military History

"This very well-written study is an invaluable addition to literature on WWI, borderland studies, and analyses of the Armenian question. Highly recommended." -Choice

"...original, fresh, and insightful..." -Paul W. Werth, The Journal of Modern History

Book Description

The fall of the Ottoman and Russian empires irrevocably changed the landscape of the Middle East and Eurasia. Drawing on extensive archival research, Shattering Empires overturns accounts that attribute their demise to conflicting nationalisms, proposing instead the significance of geopolitical competition and the emergence of a new global inter-state order.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (March 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521149169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521149167
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By jack greene on July 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Shattering Empires is primarily a political study of the relations between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire in the run up to World War I and a story of the war in the Caucasus region, ending after the war, in 1922. It is part of what is known to many Turks as the "Ten-Tear War" starting in the 1912 Balkans War and running through to when the Greeks are thrown out of Anatolia. Reynolds makes good use of mostly Turkish but also Russian archives and works in several languages.
One will gain a lot of insight into the relations between Azeri, Iranian, Armenian, Assyrian, and all the other ethnic and religious groups that were heavily intermixed in that region of the world. Because of the war it was a region that became less intermixed. It is also a subject that has received very littler coverage in English. It also helps educate one on why that part of the world is the way it is today.
The military section during the war is of interest to me as there is little between when the Imperial Russian armies were advancing in 1916 towards the Anatolian Plain and the Russian Revolution and its impact in 1918-19. This book is helpful in that, but its main focus is on the political events and less so the military events.
It has a very balanced and accurate account of the Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Azeri and other ethnic and religious groups that suffered or succeeded in the conflict between the largely Sunni Turk and Orthodox Russian Empires. It should be commended for that. A telling line in discussing the fate of the Armenians and Assyrians is, ". . . the effective eradication of the presence in Anatolia of two peoples who had been rooted there for millennia.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Uncle M on September 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was once in an art gallery in Kiev and saw a painting of dead Russian soldiers after a battle with the Turks. It could have been painted by Vereshchagin, not sure. For some reason the painting always stayed with me and has kept me on the lookout for books about Russo-Turkish conflict. Seeing this book available for the Kindle I simply had to read it.

This book gives a brief history of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877, but that is not the time frame of this book. Rather, Shattering Empires focuses on approximately 1900-1918. Especially the build-up to World War I and the aftermath of the conflict. As the title suggests: it is the imminent break-up of the Ottoman Empire and the revolution of Imperial Russia.

Some things that stood out to me while reading this book:

* How the European concept of the state, especially when coupled with the idea of ethnic identity, led to mass deportations of entire populations. This was also covered in Peter King's book The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus. However I don't feel that Mr. King did anywhere near the quality job that Michael Reynolds does in explaining the complex inter-dynamics of the various peoples of eastern Anatolia and the Caucusus.

* Mr. Reynolds does a great job of documenting how the dominant powers of the time, i.e. Imperial Russia, France, Britain, etc. assumed it was a forgone conclusion that they would get some part of the Ottoman Empire. This is of course backed up by meticulous source referencing on the part of the author, which was very impressive to say the least.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Lindner on August 20, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Shattering Empires fills an important void for students of World War One and Central Asian history. Far too often traditional books on World War One gloss over the eastern front and give the Ottoman Empire little coverage beyond Gallipoli. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is nothing more than a footnote. To the victors go the spoils and the allied victors have allowed historians to focus almost exclusively on the western and Italian fronts, where the allies stopped German imperialism. But in Shattering Empires author Michael Reynolds provides a vast treasure of information. The Ottoman and Russian empires had been rivals for centuries and the events of 1914 offered them yet another opportunity to settle old scores. Unfortunately for the Ottomans, they opted to ally themselves with Germany on account of Germany's seemingly lack of interest in Ottoman boundaries and territory.

Reynolds acknowledges the Ottoman performance against the entente powers was disastrous save for Gallipoli, and even that was not a resounding successful campaign, and the Russians until 1917 had dominated the Ottomans, but there was a resiliency about the Turks that allowed them to snatch conquest from the jaws of defeat only to suffer through being on the losing side. The Ottomans and Germans negotiated the complex treaty of Brest-Litovsk but when negotiations broke down, military activities resumed to further beat the Russians into submission. The Ottomans, being a regional instead of an international power, focused efforts on the Caucasus, only to find their so-called allies, the Germans, attempting to thwart Ottoman ambitions, even to the point of cooperating with the defeated Bolshviks.
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