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Warsaw 1920: Lenin's Failed Conquest of Europe Hardcover – February 4, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


‘A thorough, beautifully written account of one of the great turning-points in Europe’s hisory. Adam Zamoyski knows Polish, Russian and European archives as few others do, and writes with the dash of a Polish cavalry officer.’ Independent

‘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

‘Battle history of the best kind. The international setting and the political context are gracefully sketched in and…[the] account of the two armies is highly textured and enlivened by evocative portraits of the most important personalities.’ Sunday Times

‘Zamoyski, as a prolific popular historian, has pretty much single-handedly raised the historical profile of Poland in the West.’ The Times

‘There is no doubt that Warsaw 1920 was a significant event that deserves more attention than it has received from historians. In a brief but compelling book Zamoyski tells the story concisely and clearly, and with his customary colourful detail.’ History Today

Praise for ‘Rites of Peace’:

‘Deeply researched, elegantly written, gleaming with the political and sexual depravity of the Congress that decided the fate of Europe, Zamoyski's “Rites of Peace” is outstanding – a delicious, triumphant feast of a book.’ Daily Maily

About the Author

Adam Zamoyski was born in New York, was educated at Oxford, and lives in London. A full-time writer, he has written biographies of ‘Chopin’ (Collins 1979), ‘Paderewski’, and ‘The Last King of Poland’,‘1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow’, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and ‘Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna’. He is married to the painter Emma Sergeant.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (February 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007225520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007225521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald J. Keck on March 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent, brief history of the Soviet-Polish War of 1920. Let me repeat. This is a military history. Its primary concern is with the composition of armies, military leadership, strategic objectives, battlefield tactics, weapons, etc. T. Kunikov's review notwithstanding, it is not a book about the grand political objectives of the Soviet regime or a treatise on the Communist threat to western civilization (although these are taken for granted by the author).

Kunikov's review is typical of the kind of knee-jerk reaction so many Marxist apologists experience whenever they perceive the slightest criticism of Soviet (or Chinese or Cuban) Communism.

As I have said, this is essentially a book of military history which makes only occasional, oblique references to the motives and objectives of the Soviet (and Polish) leaders. The Soviet leaders' desire to spread their revolution to Germany and Western Europe is alluded to in the book's subtitle, "Lenin's Failed Invasion of the West," which, if I know anything about the publishing business, was probably dreamed up by an editor eager to give the book more pizzazz. Subsequently, it is referred to in one short paragraph on page 2, which consists almost entirely of two quotations form Lenin himself; in one sentence on page 6 about the Bolshevik's general belief in the necessity of overthrowing the "established world order;" a phrase on page 7 about "ensuring the survival of Communism in Russia" by exporting revolution to Germany; and another indefinite remark on page 9 about the Communists' expectations of the "immanent triumph of revolution throughout the world." That's it.
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Format: Hardcover
In this timely and important book the reader is reminded about an obscure war that had great ramifications. Coming as it did between the World Wars the Soviet-Polish war of 1919-1921 has been largely forgotten in history. But many leading historians of European history have long recognized that it was pivotal in stemming the Soviet advance into Europe and in saving the Versailles peace conference and a reconstructed Poland (White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920 and "The Miracle on the Vistula" andDevelopment of Class Structure in Eastern Europe: Poland and Her Southern Neighbors). This book is primarily a military history of this conflict and the book is accompanied by a large number of very helpful maps.

The first section of the book examines the two armies that faced eachother, the Russian Red Army which at the time was a creature of Trotsky, complete with commissars and some professional officers. It also included the Cavalry army of Semion Budionny. The Polish army was far less homogenous. It had been built from nothing by the Polish national leader Josef Pilsudski who had helped single handedly to revive Poland as a state. It included Ukrainian allies and Polish units that had fought for all sides during the First World War. For this reason the Polish army suffered terribly during the first half of 1920, watching there state, which had stretched to Kiev, shrink to almost nothing.
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Format: Hardcover
While other more scholarly books apparently exist out there this is the first book I've read in relation to the little known conflict between Poland and Soviet Russia as they both jostled for position rattling sabres that were more cardboard cutout than steel. But as this book shows it doesn't matter if the war you are in is sidebar stuff to world affairs, when it's your country and your life on the line then it's centre court stuff.

Starting with a bit of background this brief book was a perfect primer for me and the concise nature of the thing was one of it's appeals. Diving straight into the combat sections the author has managed to convey the brutal nature of the fighting between these age old foes and the utter despair and desperation commanders and troops on both sides went through. One wonders as they flip the pages with reckless abandon just how long a certain Polish unit can possibly hold on in the face of Russian assaults and just how far a Russian cavalry unit can possibly push both itself, it's horses and supply lines before an inevitable bloody nose is delivered. Once the scene is set the lively pace just doesn't let up even when rear echelon matters are being discussed such is the impetus implied throughout.

This book succeeds in my view because it takes a little known aspect of history and makes it both interesting from an historical and a military point of view. I devoured it in a single domestic flight.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Poland's history is tinged in blood. For a long period the country had been battle ground for warring powers. Thrice in her tragic past Poland was partitioned among big powers. New Polish state emerged thanks to Allied powers during the end of Great War. Soon it incurred the wrath of powerful neighbours. Poland and Russia always at daggers drawn.Supreme Command of Allied powers fixed Poland's eastern frontier along river Bug which came to be called Curzon line. This did not satisfy Poland's strong man Josef Pilsudski. He sought to re establish country's frontier of 1772: the line of Dvina - Dneiper.

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.
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