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The dramatic and little-known story of how, in the summer of 1920, Lenin came within a hair's breadth of shattering the painstakingly constructed Versailles peace settlement and spreading Bolshevism to western Europe.
In 1920 the new Soviet state was a mess, following a brutal civil war, and the best way of ensuring its survival appeared to be to export the revolution to Germany, itself economically ruined by defeat in World War I and racked by internal political dissension.
Between Russia and Germany lay Poland, a nation that had only just recovered its independence after more than a century of foreign oppression. But it was economically and militarily weak and its misguided offensive to liberate the Ukraine in the spring of 1920 laid it open to attack. Egged on by Trotsky, Lenin launched a massive westward advance under the flamboyant Marshal Tukhachevsky.
All that Great Britain and France had fought for over four years now seemed at risk. By the middle of August the Russians were only a few kilometres from Warsaw, and Berlin was less than a week's march away. Then occurred the 'Miracle of the Vistula': the Polish army led by Jozef Pilsudski regrouped and achieved one of the most decisive victories in military history.
As a result, the Versailles peace settlement survived, and Lenin was forced to settle for Communism in one country. The battle for Warsaw bought Europe nearly two decades of peace, and communism remained a mainly Russian phenomenon, subsuming many of the autocratic and Byzantine characteristics of Russia's tsarist tradition.
‘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 Mail
Warsaw 1920: Lenin's Failed Conquest of Europe
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