The Russian Origins of the First World War

Sean McMeekin. Harvard/Belknap, $29.95 (321p) ISBN 978-0-674-06210-8
Going against a century of received wisdom, Bilkent University professor McMeekin (The Berlin-Baghdad Express) offers a dramatic new interpretation of WWI. People had always assumed that the inciting event would occur in the Balkans, and so it did with the assassination in Sarajevo of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown. Germany took it from there, lashing out right and left, dedicating the brunt of its military might against France and Belgium. McMeekin suggests that this interpretation misses the mark by 2,000 miles. The strategic key was not the Western Front, but the tiny straits separating the Black Sea from the Aegean; the leading instigators were not in Berlin, but in St. Petersburg. Rifling the archives, analyzing battle plans, and sifting through the machinations of high diplomacy, McMeekin reveals the grand ambitions of czarist Russia, which wanted control of the Black Sea straits to guarantee all-weather access to foreign markets. Maneuvering France and England into a war against Germany presented the best chance to acquire this longed-for prize. No empire had more to gain from the coming conflict, and none pushed harder to ensure its arrival. Once unleashed, however, the conflagration leapt out of control, and imperial Russia herself ranked among its countless victims. (Nov.) %A0
Reviewed on: 09/26/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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Paperback - 324 pages - 978-0-674-07233-6
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