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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Peter Gatrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Whole Empire Walking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

". . . a signal contribution to a growing literature on a phenomenon that has become tragically pervasive in the 20th century. . . . This highly original account combines exemplary empirical research with the judicious application of diverse methods to explore the far-reaching ramifications of 'a whole empire walking.'" -Vucinich Prize citation

"An important contribution not only to modern Russian history but also to an ongoing repositioning of Russia in broader European and world historical processes. . . . elegantly written . . . highly innovative." -Europe-Asia Studies

Drawing on previously unused archival material in Russia, Latvia, and Armenia…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Eric Lohr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nationalizing the Russian Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this compelling study of the treatment of "enemy" minorities in the Russian Empire during the First World War, Eric Lohr uncovers a dramatic story of mass deportations, purges, expropriations, and popular violence.A campaign initially aimed at restricting foreign citizens rapidly spun out of control. It swept up Russian subjects of German, Jewish, and Muslim backgrounds and drove roughly a million civilians from one part of the empire to another, resulting in one of the largest cases of forced migration in history to that time. Because foreigners and diaspora minorities were prominent among entrepreneurial and landowning elites, the campaign against…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Laurie S. Stoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Russia's Sisters of Mercy and the Great War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They are war stories, filled with danger and deprivation, excitement and opportunity, sorrow and trauma, scandal and controversy-and because they are the war stories of nurses, they remain largely untold. Laurie Stoff's pioneering work brings the wartime experiences of Russia's "Sisters of Mercy" out of the shadows to show how these nurses of the Great War, far from merely binding wounds, provided vital services that put them squarely in traditionally "masculine" territory, both literally and figuratively.

While Russian nursing shared many features of women's medical service in other nations, it was in some ways profoundly different. Like soldiers and doctors,…

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

Why did I love 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.

By David R. Stone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Russian Army in the Great War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A full century later, our picture of World War I remains one of wholesale, pointless slaughter in the trenches of the Western front. Expanding our focus to the Eastern front, as David R. Stone does in this masterly work, fundamentally alters-and clarifies-that picture. A thorough, and thoroughly readable, history of the Russian front during the First World War, this book corrects widespread misperceptions of the Russian Army and the war in the east even as it deepens and extends our understanding of the broader conflict.

Of the four empires at war by the end of 1914-the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, German, and…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Melissa Kirshcke Stockdale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mobilizing the Russian Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The First World War had a devastating impact on the Russian state, yet relatively little is known about the ways in which ordinary Russians experienced and viewed this conflict. Melissa Kirschke Stockdale presents the first comprehensive study of the Great War's influence on Russian notions of national identity and citizenship. Drawing on a vast array of sources, the book examines the patriotic and nationalist organizations which emerged during the war, the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, the press and the intelligentsia in mobilizing Russian society, the war's impact on the rights of citizens, and the new, democratized ideas of…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, World War 1, and nursing?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, World War 1, and nursing.

Russia Explore 323 books about Russia
World War 1 Explore 826 books about World War 1
Nursing Explore 23 books about nursing