Book Review: All the Tsar's Men: Russia's General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898--1914


by John W. Steinberg

Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. Pp. xvii, 283. Illus, maps, tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $60.00. ISBN: 9780801895456

Although the Tsarist army is usually regarded as wholly inept and corrupt, in this very detailed look at the role of the Russian general staff in the army's development from the late 1890s through the Russo-Japanese War and on to the outbreak of World War I, Prof. Steinberg (Georgia Southern) makes a compelling case that by training and ability, Russian staff officers were as capable as any in Europe. 

Steinberg, author or editor of such works as The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective (2007) and The Making of Russian History (2009), opens with a discussion of the selection and training of Russian staff officers in the period, comparing its curriculum and vigor favorably with that given officers in France or Germany.  He then addresses the question of why such well-prepared, often far-sighted men, were unable to make much of an impact on the army.  Steinberg argues, with considerable evidence, that their ability to influence policy and, most importantly, operations, was limited by the inherent defects of Russian government and society, which denied staff officers the promotions, autonomy, and authority that their counter-parts had in other armies.  Given the chance, many staff officers proved surprisingly effective when serving with the infant Red Army or the "White Guards" during the Revolution and Civil War or in the armies of several of the "successor states" that emerged from the ruins of the Tsarist empire.

An important read for serious students of Russian military history, World War I, and the military staff.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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