Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Russian Army 1914-18 (Men-at-Arms)
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on January 3, 2002
What a difference both a knowledgeable author and a talented illustrator make together! Though the sum total of efforts since about 1990 have been quite satisfactory, some of the earlier works, and unfortunately some more recent, have suffered from insufficient knowledge of the subject, even though the illustrations were well done, the items were misidentified in them.
All in all, starting from a base of personal ignorance of the Russian military system of about one and an awareness of the conduct of the war about five, I now have an overall seven which is passing but no honors! But in time, if I go on this book will have set me on the right path to knowledge. Now if I had only spent my career reading Russian instead of Spanish and French.:-)
Just some of the revelations in this work are the appalling lack of a modern tactical system even in the face of the slaughter in the Russo Japanese War, the huge lack of an industrial base and the consequent paucity of heavy artillery, and lack of modern mobile mechanized transports, necessitating the transfer of the Armored Car Squadrons of the British Royal Naval Air Service and those of the Belgians to the east after the Western Front became impassible for such units.
But the real drag on the Russian Army was the archaic social structure in which high rank was an entitlement of birth, rather than the result of merit, and the lack of opportunity for both peasants and workers to rise, or for the middle class to lead and serve usefully. None of this could be fixed by developing an arms industry nor by simply importing modern technology without a support base to maintain it. Even then they misused their field communications and sent all their orders in the clear so that the German SIGINT troops listened in and the outnumbered German Army was able to win the battle of Tannenberg.
The Russian government had been so paranoid, xenophobic, and fearful of their neighbors that they laid the national railway system in broad guage so that all freight trains had to be unloaded at the border with Germany and Finland and the goods and materials carried across and reloaded and all passenger cars had to be lifted by hydraulics or mechanicals and wider trucks and running gear put under them.
Even in the face of all this the Russian Army held on and even ran successful offensives in the south against Austria Hungary and Romania but the people were fed up, the Russian Navy mutinied and the Czarate fell to the Kerensky regime which in turn fell to the Bolsheviks. And we all know what happened then.
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VINE VOICEon February 15, 2002
This Osprey Men-at-Arms title makes an attempt to fill the long-neglected gap in First World War history covering the Tsarist Army. While many books evoke the image of a huge faceless Russian steamroller, few provide much details on exactly what this army looked like. This title makes modest progress in that regard and as such, deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in the First World War.
The Russian Army begins with an introduction covering Russia's strategic position and a chronology of the major events on the Eastern Front in 1914-1918. A 4 ½ page section covers the organization of the army, particularly infantry, cavalry, Cossack and artillery units. An interesting 3-page section covers elite units such as the Guards Corps, the St. George's Battalions, the "Death" Battalions and the "Savage" Division. A brief section also discusses non-Russian units. A rather dull 7-page section then covers uniforms and personal equipment. Tactics and weapons are discussed in the last 7 pages. As usual, the eight pages of color plates in the center of this thin volume are excellent. The same cannot be said for the photographs, which are rather bland posed shots.
Overall, this volume is decent but not great. There are nuggets of useful information, such as the belated Russian effort to form a heavy artillery corps - known by the Russian acronym TAON - in 1917. Since massed artillery was a Soviet specialty in the Second World War, it is interesting to see antecedents in the Tsarist army. The fact that the paucity of infantry training facilities caused the Tsarist army to station reserve battalions in the major urban areas like St Petersburg and that these under-utilized conscripts provided the fodder for Revolution in 1917 is also interesting. However, the sections on doctrine and tactics are far too short even for a volume this size (the chronology would have been a good place to make cuts). There is no real effort to address the pre-war doctrine and the author should have consulted Bruce W. Menning's excellent Bayonets before Bullets: the Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914. The impact of the disastrous defeat in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War and the impetus for post-war reform is almost totally ignored. Once the war began, the author ignores the enforced doctrinal shift from maneuver warfare to positional warfare; how did the Russian army adapt to trench warfare? Nor are the big campaigns discussed much, except for the successful Brusilov offensive. Instead, the reader is presented with a fairly vapid account of the Tsarist army that scarcely touches upon the impact of early disasters like Tannenberg or the gradual rot from revolutionary ideology. Nor is there even an order of battle provided for any phase of the war or mention of casualties. One might think that the fact that Tsarist Russia mobilized about 12 million men and that 1.7 million died in the war would be far more interesting to readers than giving virtually useless information on cavalry breeches stripes or tunic piping and lace. The author introduces interesting information on the organization of the Guards units for example, and then says very little else about them. Certainly the biggest sin of this volume is its failure to address the disintegration of the Tsarist army in 1917, except in passing. Since this volume is a stand-alone coverage of the subject, unlike others in the Men-at-Arms series, these omissions will not be rectified in other following volumes.
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on August 9, 2015
A large part of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, was based on a Bolshevik promise to end the Russian involvement in the First World War. This Bolshevik political opposition to the war was extremely poplar with Russian public and also popular with the common soldiers in the Imperial Russian Army. When these young soldiers returned home from the German war front, they tended to join the Bolshevik Party in large numbers because the Bolsheviks were the only political party in Russia which promised to end Russian involvement in the war. As a consequence, when the Bolshevik overturned the Kerensky government in October of 1917, many of these young soldiers formed the rank and file of that October 1917 revolution. Pictures of the October Bolshevik Revolution clearly show Imperial soldiers, still in their uniforms, as Bolshevik supporters carrying out the October 1917 revolution.

This book provides an important visual reference for anyone reading about the Russian Revolution. Reference books should provide clarity to the main subject. That clarity should take the form of a nearly visual image in the reader's mind thanks to the reference book. The better the reference book, the sharper the visual image that formed in the reader's mind. This particular book provides a visual image that is very sharp and extremely vivid, because of the immense amount of detail in the book.
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on April 7, 2014
OSPREY AGAIN HITS A DOUBLE TO THE WALL WITH ITS MEN AT ARMS EDITION OF THE RUSSIAN ARMY. IF THERE IS ONE THING YOU'LL FIND OUT IS THE UNIFORMING AND OUTFITTING OF THE RUSSIAN SOLDIER WAS COMPLICATED AT BEST. SO MANY SPECIAL UNITS WITH SPECIAL INSIGNIA OR EQUIPMENT; NEVER MIND THE IRREGULAR UNITS THAT DRESSED IN NATIVE COSTUME, WITH TSARIST INSIGNIA. THE COSSACKS BY THEMSELVES ARE ENOUGH FOR AN ENTIRE SERIES OF VOLUMES. STILL THIS IS A GREAT LITTLE PRIMER FOR THE MODELER OR THE UNINITIATED, AND IS STILL HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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on October 11, 2011
I purchased this book with the hope that it could be used as a painting guide for my artwork and military miniatures. My interest is in the common Russian soldier in the field - infantry, artillery and cavalry. Unfortunately, typical of most Osprey publications, a lot of the plates are devoted to officers, as well as small, obscure and even bizarre units. Missing from both the plates and the accompanying narrative is an account of the evolution of uniforms, arms and equipment from 1914-1917. I cannot even find what markings were used to distinguish NCO's, let alone colors for things like canteens and shoulder badges. I would have also appreciated some information about what life was like in the ranks, for example, food, shelter, discipline, promotion, etc. That said, this book does offer a good starting point for anyone who shares my interest in the common Russian soldier in the late imperial era.
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on August 13, 2007
This text was extremely helpful to me on a subject that is little covered in English. Osprey is usually not that comprehensive but this book although condensed hit the salient points of the Russian army in the field in the First World War. I like the introduction and strategic overview, insightful and well written. The chronology of events with dates given to the major actions on the eastern front of the First World War was excellent, they also explored Russian military tactics and doctrines, easy to use research tool and quick reference. Although brief the author went into non-Russian units used at the front, vehicles and aircraft, even equipment and uniforms The photographs were excellent, I love the detailed color plates featuring many different uniforms, helmets and other varied headgear as well as the equipment used by the common soldier. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a student of military history and has an interest of the eastern front in the First World War.
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on October 23, 2009
The information is above-average in this book, giving a good background and description of the Russian Army during WWI, including major battles and significant events. The illustrations are top-notch and give good depictions of the uniforms and equipment used. I highly reccomend this installment, along with the "Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905" book. They are both great references for Russian Army history, and I feel that there is a lack of emphasis on Russia's military before WW2.
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on May 6, 2014
The Russian Army is a good review of Tsar Nicholas II's troops during WW I and the Russian Revolution before the final takeover of the country.
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on October 22, 2015
Very interesting; a real discovery about WW 1 Russian military situation.
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on April 9, 2016
Great detail for a time in history often forgotten.
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