Sunday, 23 September 2018
Book Review: Warsaw 1920, Lenin's Failed Invasion of Europe, Adam Zamoyski
In this short, well-written and handsome little book Zamoyski reminds us of an intriguing if largely forgotten chapter in European history. With Poland acting as bulwark against the westward spread of Communism, battles that stand as the last 'hurrah' of C19th style cavalry engagements, and a large cast of colourful characters - from the major players like Pilsudski and Tuchachevsky, less well-known to us perhaps, to such giants-in-the-making as a young and insubordinate Stalin and the ever bullish Churchill, who involves Britain in this story, albeit indirectly, by sending troops to support the White Russians - there's plenty of interest in terms of both geopolitical and military manoeuvring.
Like many others I came to this via Zamoyski's splendid 1812, and consequently expectations were high. Unlike some others I was not at all disappointed. This is undoubtedly a much more modest undertaking on the author's part, but he succeeds in his stated aim of introducing a very interesting subject to the general reader admirably. And personally, as much as I enjoy door-stop sized tomes, I think it's excellent to have briefer, pithier alternatives to hand. I took this on a short holiday break and read the whole book whilst away, which was most enjoyable. As Zamoyski proved so well in 1812, he's a superb writer, and his handling of the confusing events of this campaign is a model of clarity and well organised exposition. Several maps and numerous black and white photographs support and enrich Zamoyski's lucid text.
Interesting trivia: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's paternal grandfather fought in the Polish 'Blue Army' during this conflict. Also, a Polish film has been made on the war, which you can read about here.
This conflict saw the use of tanks...
aircraft (American volunteers, pictured here)
and cavalry, such as these Poles...
and these Russians.