Cover: The Tsar’s Colonels in HARDCOVER

The Tsar’s Colonels

Professionalism, Strategy, and Subversion in Late Imperial Russia

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Product Details


$100.00 • £80.95 • €90.00

ISBN 9780674911116

Publication Date: 04/20/1999


6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

5 computer line illustrations, 5 (8 pp.) tables


The Tsar’s Colonels is an impressive study that demonstrates how the modernization of Russia’s General Staff during the second half of the 19th century re-shaped its intellectual and strategic outlook and equipped the staff to play a strong, and at times dominant, role in shaping Russian foreign policy...[It] contributes to a number of debates in Russian military and social history and offers new insights on the structural roots of the Great War, and on the theoretical problems of modernization and professionalization. Rich’s book provides a fascinating account of how the Imperial Russian Army struggled to modernize in a Darwinian world that dealt harshly with those who failed to adapt to changes in technology and military art.—Robert A. Lyn, Military and BRAVO/Veterans Outlook Magazines

David Rich’s outstanding The Tsar’s Colonels is a highly original examination of the rise of the professional general staff in Russia in the period from the end of the Crimean war to the conclusion of the Franco-Russian alliance. Based on extensive archival research, informed by an impressive knowledge of the theoretical literature, and distinguished by its comparative perspective, the book casts light on the uneasy coexistence of ’premodern’ and ’modern’ elements within the Russian state, as well as the constraints that Russian reality placed on the empire’s implementation of positivist agendas for military reform and strategic planning. An important contribution to international, strategic, social, and cultural history, fluidly written and trenchantly argued, The Tsar’s Colonels is a superb, sophisticated study by a talented young historian.—William C. Fuller, Jr., U.S. Naval War College

David Rich questions a venerable myth in Russian historiography: the centrality of the tensions between an autocratic state and a nascent ’civil society’ to understanding the career of autocracy before 1914. In so doing, The Tsar’s Colonels deepens and broadens our understanding of the social, intellectual, and political factors that led to the emergence of a professional and technical elite within the Russian military establishment. This book powerfully demonstrates how the forces that led to the rise of the Russian Main Staff also crystallized in the irreconcilable tensions that define the ’crisis of autocracy’ in the first two decades of the twentieth century.—David McDonald, University of Wisconsin, Madison

The Tsar’s Colonels is an impressive contribution to military history, diplomatic history, history of the professions and intellectual history, and will be read with great profit by scholars in all these fields. Within the small but very significant constellation of military professionals Rich focuses on, the real hero of the story is Nikolai Obruchev, who is revealed here in marvelously revisionist ways. The story, as Rich tells it, will have importance for debates over professionalization in the late Russian empire and its successor Soviet state, and even for current post-Soviet Russian debates about military doctrine.—Mark von Hagen, Director, Harriman Institute, Columbia University

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