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The Tsar's Last Armada Paperback – April 29, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465057926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465057924
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

It took the Russians nine months to sail their navy 18,000 miles from the Baltic Sea around the horn of Africa and to the Sea of Japan in 1905, where their Japanese enemies wiped them out in just a few hours at the Battle of Tsushima. The Japanese triumph and Russian disaster, "largely forgotten in the West," according to Constantine Pleshakov, marked a vital turning point in world history. Not only did it inaugurate a new era of naval technology, but it also announced Japan's ascent as a global force (which would culminate during the Second World War) and Russia's collapse into "the dark tsardom of Bolshevism." Pleshakov ranks the battle alongside other classic naval engagements, such as Lepanto, Trafalgar, Jutland, and Midway. Yet the bulk of The Tsar's Last Armada focuses on the Russians' long journey to doom, led by the "frightfully imposing" and "savage" admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky. Pleshakov has a good eye for little details. As the fleet approached the tropics, he reports, the humidity became so bad that the crew's "towels and underwear would not dry." The Battle of Tsushima receives full coverage at the end of the book, but Pleshakov's engaging account of what preceded it is what readers will find most memorable. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In 1905, with the Russian imperialist excursion into China teetering on the brink of collapse, Russia's vast Trans-Siberian Railroad threatened, its Pacific Fleet bottled up in Port Arthur and its eastern army besieged on the peninsula protecting the port of Vladivostock, the czar conceived a bizarre plan, deciding to assemble a new fleet and sail it more than 18,000 miles to defeat the Japanese navy and relieve his forces at Port Arthur. Though the second fleet comes to a disastrous end, the battle does not begin until page 260 (and it is all over by page 285): the story here is in the arduous journey. Passing fearful allies and belligerent neutrals as well as dealing with impossible supply lines, difficult communications and inept leadership both by the government in St. Petersburg and by his subordinates Adm. Zinovy Petrovich "Mad Dog" Rozhestvensky emerges as the tragic hero of this "epic." In the unfolding of these details, Pleshakov provides a clear view of the politics and history of the time, as well as of Rozhestvensky. In clear and convincing English from the admitted nonnative speaker Pleshakov, the book moves inexorably toward its inevitable end with the power of a giant dreadnought at full steam, affording a moving portrait of a capable leader placed in a situation where he could not possibly prevail. Against all odds, and by this point against even the reader's better judgment, the Russian fleet arrives at the Sea of Japan to do battle with the newer, faster, more powerful, better trained and freshly maintenanced Japanese fleet, and is quickly defeated.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Perhaps I should not fault him, but his editors?
S. P. White
The book is well written and does an excellent job of explaining the significance of the battle in addition to what happened.
Lehigh History Student
I would recommend this to those who enjoy naval or military history, and to those who read Russian/Soviet history.
Jon Eric Davidson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on May 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A good modern history of the battle of Tsushima has yet to be written, I would recommend KAIGUN as a great place to start for the early history of the Japanese Navy. Co-Author David Evans was my college professor, his death is a great loss to Japanese Naval historiography. I agree with reviewers who note the lack of detail and accuracy (I thought the ALEXANDER III had a few survivors?), in general terms, the author does tells us important facts about the superior Japanese shells and the flawed dispositions of the Russian squadron prior to the battle. I wonder if the Russians would have made it if they did not have a lighted hospital ship (with the Admiral's girlfriend onboard) following the squadron as it tried to slip through the straits. If the fleet had slipped through to Vladivostok intact the course of Japanese and Russian history might have changed. I sense that Admiral Rozhestvensky almost wanted a clash of fleets, despite his comprehension of the inferiority of his squadron. The book is really a command history of the Squadron and the Russian Naval Bueracracy. One is left with a good sense of the personality of Rozhestvensky (I think this makes the book worth the purchase, as I learned alot I did not know). One is left feeling sympathy for him, but the book does mention that he botched his pre-battle deployment, a deployment he had months to plan for and coordinate. This probably ruined what little chance the Russians had. But the Russians shooting was not good enough, and too few of their hits did critical damage. I always thought the focal point of any Tsushima account should be the heroic struggle of the Borodino class battleships. Their fate was a terrible one, as anyone who views pictures of the damage to the surviving ORYEL can testify.Read more ›
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. A Forczyk VINE VOICE on May 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Tsar's Last Armada is an interesting Russian-oriented account of the fateful voyage of the Russian Baltic Fleet to the Pacific Ocean in 1904-1905, where it was destroyed at the Battle of Tsushima. Not many books are written about the Russo-Japanese War and this well written book is a welcome addition to the small circle on English language books on that subject. The author, currently a Russian native now turned US professor at Mount Holyoke College, has expertly mined Russian archives and diaries for a treasure trove on information about the epic voyage. The narrative of the voyage itself revolves more around personalities, rather than military or technical details. Overall, The Tsar's Last Armada is an excellent book on the subject, but other books should be consulted to provide the Japanese perspective.
The Tsar's Last Armada consists of three main sections: covering predeployment activities, the voyage of the fleet to Asian waters and the final Battle of Tsushima. There are two significant structural weaknesses in the book: use of maps and dates. Only four large scale, poor quality maps are provided to show the route of the fleet and there are no maps to depict the tactical dispositions or movements in the Battle of Tsushima. Furthermore, the author's use of old-style Russian dates is confusing and readers must remember to add 13 days to any date given. Although the author has added a section on photographs, only a few are relevant to the cast of characters or the Russian Fleet and the reader might wonder why he bothered. Nevertheless, these technical glitches are annoying but only detract slightly from an otherwise well written book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read this book primarily as a travelogue learning more about the coasts of Western Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, Southern Asia than I had ever before known. But that is not the book's primary focus. It can be read on several levels, one of which is surely as a travelogue. But it is also a story of startling mismanagement. The Russian Admiral, who is the book's principal figure, is opposed to the mission from the start,because the Russian naval fleet is outmoded, but Nicholas II , driven by revenge, and his advisers press on with the war armada. One of the most interesting facts is that the Russian armada was actually composed of 4 armadas which by circuitous routes joined together for the final devastating defeat near
Shanghai. The book is loaded with fine detail about the sailors' and officers' lives on board and at ports of call, which were mainly coal refueling stops; with details about the Russian, British, and Japanese spy network;about the fall of Port Arthur to the Japanese; and with details about the numerous cables between St. Petersburg and the doomed fleet. A fine and rather easy read for anyone interested in this forgotten page of history.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Griffith on March 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The eponymous Armada spent the better part of a year sailing from the Baltic Sea to the shores of Korea (via the Cape of Good Hope) to confront the Imperial Japanese Navy. 'Twas all for naught. The Japanese sunk the Armada's four primary capital ships in a matter of hours and mopped up the remainder of the fleet in quick succession. This excellent book tells that story from the Russian point of view. Led by a ferociously competant admiral, the coal-fueled Russian task force accomplished an incredible logistical feat only to have their mission end in disaster at the bottom of the Tsushima Straits. The author (a Russian) admits that he didn't use Japanese sources because of the language barrier. But, that being said, he still could have included a bit more information on the composition of Togo's fleet. However, the book is especially strong in detailing St. Petersberg's Vietnamesque micromanagement of the campaign. Overall, this is a wonderful, poignant book about a doomed fleet and the man who led it.
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