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White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-20 [Englisch] [Taschenbuch]

Norman Davies

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23. Oktober 2003
A neglected event in history, the Polish-Soviet War represents the first occasion when the Red Army set out to revolutionize the whole of Europe. For the Poles, it was the occasion when they finally justified their claim to independent statehood.

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'Norman Davies's book is a permanent contribution to historical knowledge and international understanding.' A.J.P. Taylor


'Norman Davies's book is a permanent contribution to historical knowledge and international understanding.' A. J. P. Taylor

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Amazon.com: 4.3 von 5 Sternen  28 Rezensionen
44 von 49 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Another little known Big Event of the XX Century History 2. Januar 2008
Von Leszek Strzelecki - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
This much goes beyond any doubt in my mind: the history of the Twentieth Century in Europe could have taken on an entirely different path should Poles fail to beat the Bolsheviks at the gates of Warsaw in 1920.

Lenin, following doctrine of Karl Marx, believed that the communist revolution, initiated in Russia, should be taken abroad to the rest of Europe and beyond. He wanted to go global. Time of the capitalistic society was nearing its end, he thought; social conflicts came to their extreme during World War I, hence - it was time to abolish old system and replace it with Socialism, Communism and the so called 'classless society' of eternal justice.

Feeling already victorious in his 'domestic' dispute over who were to rule Russia, Lenin believed time was ripe for other countries.

And let's not forget that the Communist movements elsewhere in Europe following the end of the Great War were strong and lively, especially in Germany. Lenin believed that if Bolsheviks could beat Poland the gates of Berlin would stand wide open to Communist takeover enthusiastically supported by German workers. And then the rest of Europe would fall into their hands.

It did not happen that way, Russians were beaten at the gates of Warsaw, Communist Revolution in Germany run out of steam, Social Democrats and supporters of democracy in general prevailed, Europe was spared horrors of the Gulag System created soon after in the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin.

Norman Davies in his book attempted to explain in detail what exactly had happened and how did it happen. As far as I can tell this book, originally written, I believe, close to thirty years ago (was it not his doctoral dissertation?), still remains the most comprehensive, complete study of the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920. I tend to agree with some of the reviewers that this book may be somewhat outdated, may be lacking in some illustrative materials such as graphics, maps and so on... bear in mind, thought, this was written when the Iron Curtain was still dividing East from West, archives in Poland and the Soviet Union were not widely opened (if at all) leaving the author certainly to desire much more. Nevertheless, Norman Davies prevailed in writing an (almost) complete story of the war that saved Europe from Communist takeover.
19 von 20 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen No Miracle on the Vistula 20. September 2009
Von R. Albin - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
An early and fine book by the distinguished historian Norman Davies. The subtitle "The Miracle on the Vistula" is probably a recent addition by the publisher as it does not appear in the original (1972) edition. Davies takes pains to demonstrate that there was nothing miraculous about the Polish victory. The Polish-Soviet War is known to many from Isaac Babel's great Red Cavalry story sequence. Davies provides a well written and documented narrative and analysis of the Polish-Soviet War. He covers the background, military history, political history, and diplomatic history in a series of well integrated chapters. All chapters are distinguished by Davies' well considered descriptions and judgments about the major actors and historic trends, and excellent selection of quotations from the primary literature (including some from Babel's stories).

In Davies analysis, some type of conflict between the Soviet Union and the Polish state was inevitable. The collapse of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and German Empires left an enormous power vacuum in Eastern Europe, particularly the borderlands between central Poland and western Russia. The Soviet leadership, facing great challenges from internal enemies, was convinced that the revolution had to expand, particularly to Germany, to be secure. They also perceived the Polish nationalist regime led by Pilsudski as a tool of western capitalism and inevitable foe. The Pilsudski regime, in fact, was regarded with considerable distaste by the French, British, and Americans, and pursued a strongly independent policy. A more important vision driving the Polish leadership was of a greater Polish state or Polish led federation from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In 1919, the expanding Poles and Soviets slid into conflict in Lithuania, Byelorussia, and the Ukraine. Polish fears of the Soviets then led to a Polish effort to develop a buffer zone with an unsuccessful conquest of much of the Ukraine while the Soviets were preoccupied with internal enemies. As the Soviets gained the upper hand in the Russian Civil War, they focused their energies on the Poles and rolled back the Polish incursions, followed by an invasion of Poland that reached deep into northern and central Poland. Overextended and straining their primitive supply system to its limit, the Soviets were then pushed back by skillful and vigorous generalship on the part of Pilsudski and his commanders.

Davies shows very well how this happened, with evenhanded discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. He concludes with a thoughtful chapter on the consequences of the Polish-Soviet War. Contrary to the statements of some other Amazon reviewers of this book, he specifically rebuts the idea that the Poles saved Europe from a Communist conquest. In his judgement, and this is backed by a careful analysis of diplomacy and politics in Britain and France, the Soviet defeat was blessing in disguise for the Soviets. A Soviet victory would probably have aroused British and French fears of the Soviet Union to the extent that a direct intervention would have occurred destroying the nascent Soviet state. In Davies analysis, the major consequences of the war were Soviet isolation and a Polish state dominated by the military.
17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Misguided Porter 16. Januar 2005
Von Thomas F. Wojt - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
As a historian of Central and Eastern Europe, I am responding to the review by Thomas Porter who sounds like a typical Westerner who never had the dubious pleasure of living his life within the confines of a communist society.

At the time of this war, it was not necessarily certain that either system would prevail or that Comumuism was such a bad thing. We know a bit better these days since those in power tend to stay in power - for better or worse and usually the latter - unless there is a system that can check them. At the time of this war - according to the philosophy esposed by Marx (and to a certain extent Hegel), the founder of the doctrine - world revolution was an essential requirement for its success. It was this very action that necessitated a change in that theory and the new flavor of the month became Communism in one country with its export later once victory was secure (although Lenin's NEP was a harbinger). This is exactly what happened as we now know. Historically, Russia had far less of a claim to these lands than Poland, at least since the time of Ivan IV. I do not question the fact the Pilsudski was the instigator nor would I say that he was not a dictator - a strong person was needed to forstall the imposition of Communism from within Poland itself (many of the best Communists were Poles or Lituanians - Dzerzhinski, Radek, Rokossovski, etc.). Nonetheless, the evacuation of the Germans from the Ostland created a vacuum that had to be occupied somehow and the race was on.

The Western victors of WW1 were exhausted and had no particular interest in this conflict. It is quite likely that this war prevented the imposition of Communism throughout Central Europe or if not, at the very least it prevented another war to decide the issue. There is no evidence that England or France would have moved in any manner had the Reds overrun Poland and entered Germany (and the USA certainly would not have)and even if they had, it is unlikely that the would have fared better then Napoleon before them or Hitler after. However, the time was as ripe as ever considering the fact that Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were working the doctrine in Germany (though they were against the impostion of Communism from Russian, wisely seeing this as a Russian dictatorship) and Russian style Soviets were vying for power in Hungary and Munich. Though all of these attempts were eventually crushed it is interesting to note that that the political rivals that Hitler later targeted were not the Monarchists or liberals but rather the Communists.

For these reasons, this war should be considered one of the most important of the 20th century, no less so than the defeat of the Turks at the gates of Vienna by Sobieski several hundred years earlier.

It is a great book.
12 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen The Polish Soviet War 23. Juli 2007
Von A. T. Kowaluk - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
This is a scholarly and impartial account of the Polish Soviet War of 1919-1920. The author is the preminent student of Polish history in the English language. This is an early work but ranks easily with the others. The book has been researched well and is relatively easy to read. It stears clear of many of the myths surrounding the war and traces the conflict from its origins on the borderlands (Kresy) in 1919 to Pilsudski's premptive strike in 1920, the subsequent invasion by the Soviets, and finally the Polish victory and subsequent peace. Well worth a read.
8 von 9 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Decent treatment of a complex topic (when the writer decides to provide info in English) 30. August 2011
Von E.J. Kaye - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
A reasonably well-written book that teases out a forgotten but interesting chapter of 20th century history. The author's prose is robust, and he takes pains to quote from primary sources. I also like his weaving the writings of Isaac Babel into the narrative, as I believe that it brings a sense of color that helps moves things along.

The book is not limited to a Polish viewpoint. Instead, it takes pains to show the Russian point of view as well as that of the Entente. The reference points in English and French politics are particularly revealing. The Battle of Warsaw is strongly downplayed by the author, who holds that the Polish victory was more a fact of Tukhachevskii and Budyenny outrunning their supply lines than anything Pilsudski contrived. It does put to rest the tired belief that General Weygand was the 'architect' of the Polish triumph -- his role was a complete fabrication and it is duly exposed as such.

The only things that would have made this book better include information from the USSR that is now available (and wasn't when this book debuted in 1972). I think there is much to be mined from that source which would clear up many of the mysteries that persist. Additionally (and I can't stress this enough), history writers (particularly UK history writers) have to stop assuming that the average reader has an idiomatic grasp of the French language. My schoolboy French is enough to puzzle out the meaning, but for those who don't 'parlez' they can't even get the benefit of a footnote with the English text. If I wanted to read it in French, I would have bought a French translation.

So -- for all of you Francophile authors who think it's cool to pepper your publications with flashy words like 'Cri de couer' and long passages of French diplomatic discourse, STOP IT!
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