The best and most recent books on Russia in World War I

Joshua A. Sanborn Author Of Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire
By Joshua A. Sanborn

Who am I?

I’m a professor of history at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been studying Russia ever since visiting the Soviet Union as a college student in 1990. I’ve been particularly interested in seeking connections between violence and other dimensions of historical experience. My first book (Drafting the Russian Nation) explored connections between political ideologies and violence, Imperial Apocalypse is in part a social history of violence, and my current project is examining the connection between literary cultures, professional communities, and the violence of the Cold War.


I wrote...

Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire

By Joshua A. Sanborn,

Book cover of Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire

What is my book about?

Imperial Apocalypse describes the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War One. Drawing material from nine different archives and hundreds of published sources, this study ties together state failure, military violence, and decolonization in a single story. I examine the individual lives of soldiers, doctors, nurses, politicians, and civilians caught up in the global conflict along the way, creating a narrative that focuses both on actual people and on large historical processes.

The books I picked & why

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A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia During World War I

By Peter Gatrell,

Book cover of A Whole Empire Walking: Refugees in Russia During World War I

Why this book?

There has been a revival of the study of the Russian experience in World War I over the last twenty-five years. Much of this can be explained by the opening of archives after 1991 and by the centennial of the war in 2014-2018. But the publication of this book was also enormously important. It recast the impact of the war by focusing on the experience of regular individuals rather than Petrograd elites and labor leaders. It also highlighted the massive scale of social dislocation – more than six million uprooted Russian subjects in all.


Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The Campaign against Enemy Aliens during World War I

By Eric Lohr,

Book cover of Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The Campaign against Enemy Aliens during World War I

Why this book?

A variety of factors in the 1990s (most notably the break-up of the Soviet Union and the war in Yugoslavia) saw historians re-evaluate both nationalism as a concept and nationalism within the Russian context. Several historians working in the field of Russian and East European history observed that World War I was a particularly important period for the evolution of Russian nationalism. Lohr’s book is critical for this re-evaluation. It focuses not only on the (mis) treatment of foreign subjects in Russia during the war, but also the large political consequences of the “nationalization” of the empire in terms of eroding concepts of personal inviolability and property rights.


Russia's Sisters of Mercy and the Great War: More Than Binding Men's Wounds

By Laurie S. Stoff,

Book cover of Russia's Sisters of Mercy and the Great War: More Than Binding Men's Wounds

Why this book?

Stoff’s work on women’s history during the war has been consistently excellent, starting with her book on women soldiers and continuing with this book. One of the most significant developments of the war was the need to dramatically expand medical care, especially for sick and wounded soldiers. Women rushed in to fill this need, with significant consequences not only for the health of the army but also the nature of gender and sexual relations throughout the whole country.


The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

By David R. Stone,

Book cover of The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

Why this book?

There is a shortage of good books on the military aspect of the war on the Eastern Front, with some of the most prominent books in English (and for that matter in Russian) dating back nearly fifty years. Stone’s volume is a prominent exception in this regard. Stone is thoughtful, concise, and judicious throughout. Readers will emerge with a comprehensive view of combat operations – and more.


Mobilizing the Russian Nation: Patriotism and Citizenship in the First World War

By Melissa Kirshcke Stockdale,

Book cover of Mobilizing the Russian Nation: Patriotism and Citizenship in the First World War

Why this book?

One of the most pernicious myths surrounding the Russian population in the years of the war is that the subjects of the tsar were too provincial and ignorant to really have a sense of what was going on or why. This myth was perpetuated above all by political and military elites after the war as a way of explaining the reasons they had lost the war. Stockdale’s work makes this myth almost impossible to maintain. In chapters on the effectiveness of mass media, on the role of the church, on the heartfelt hatred of the enemy, and more, she shows how regular Russians were mobilized for the war. If some were unpatriotic, this was not the result of ignorance but of knowing too well how the regime was failing the people it was supposed to protect.


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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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