White Eagle, Red Star: The Polish-Soviet War 1919-20 (Anglais) Broché – 27 novembre 2003
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Présentation de l'éditeur
Surprisingly little known, the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-20 was to change the course of twentieth-century history.
In White Eagle, Red Star, Norman Davies gives a full account of the War, with its dramatic climax in August 1920 when the Red Army - sure of victory and pledged to carry the Revolution across Europe to 'water our horses on the Rhine' - was crushed by a devastating Polish attack. Since known as the 'miracle on the Vistula', it remains one of the most decisive battles of the Western world.
Drawing on both Polish and Russian sources, Norman Davies illustrates the narrative with documentary material which hitherto has not been readily available and shows how the War was far more an 'episode' in East European affairs, but largely determined the course of European history for the next twenty years or more.
Biographie de l'auteur
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L'ouvrage débute sur un bref résumé consacré à la situation de l'Europe à la fin de la Grande guerre et aux événements qui ont conduit à la confrontation entre la Pologne et la Russie. S'ouvre ensuite la partie majeure du texte, consacrée à la description de l'ensemble des opérations militaires ayant eu lieu en 1919 et 1920, cette seconde année étant de loin la plus couverte de part son importance. Les affrontements sont bien décrits et permettent de saisir les difficultés et particularités propres au conflit. La description est également soutenue par des témoignages et une cartographie de bonne facture.
L'auteur ne se contente toutefois pas de nous fournir un résumé des opérations militaires, et nous propose également une vision politique et diplomatique de la guerre. Le texte présente ainsi le point de vue des quatre protagonistes majeurs du conflit (l'URSS, la Pologne, l'Allemagne et les Alliés occidentaux), en évoquant leurs objectifs ainsi que les difficultés internes et externes rencontrées. Les autres protagonistes ne sont pas pour autant oubliés, et l'ouvrage propose une vision très intéressante des relations entre les différentes nations et factions d'Europe de l'Est qui sont concernées, de près où de loin, par le conflit.Lire la suite ›
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
I have just one major issue with the book: the proofreading quality is abysmal. Typos abound, in a few places entire paragraphs are repeated, and in some places all of the words run together. Worst of all are the misspellings of Polish names -for readers not already steeped in Polish political figures and spellings, this book could be a doozy. Even Józef Pi³sudski (commonly spelled as Joseph Pilsudski in Western Europe and the US)-arguably one of the best-known Poles outside of Poland and one of the most important Poles of all time- didn't escape the orthographical slaughter: he has at least 8 incorrect spellings of his name- some laughably so: Pihudski, Pi³eudski, Pifcudski, Pitsudski, Piisudski, Pi³cudski, Piteudski and Pi?sudski (with a question mark in the middle of his name). (Amazon can't display Polish letters- the little 3 represents an L with a line through it).
In Krakow, bookshops have entire walls dedicated to Davies's books and posters are for sale bearing his likeness and his work. It's too bad that the abundance of spelling errors detracts from such an accomplishment.