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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 6 January 2011

Russia's Balkan Entanglements

Another gift from Santa was Barbara Jelavich's tome on Russia's Balkan Entanglements 1806-1914.

This is a primarily a diplomatic history of Russia's 19th Century engagements in the Balkans. Starting with the Napoleonic wars and ending with WW1 and the subsequent collapse of both the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Imperial Empires. The period included no less than five wars with the Ottoman Empire from which Russia gained minimal territorial advantage at considerable expense. The author concludes that emotional commitments played a significant part in driving Russian policy. The irony is that an autocratic regime supported, what we would today call liberation struggles, at an economic cost that contributed to its own downfall.

I was about to say that the military operations are given cursory attention. However, that would be overstating the case. They are barely mentioned. Whilst this is not a military history, a reader not familiar with these conflicts would struggle to follow events.

This is not an easy read, not least because the author quotes primary documents at length. It does give a detailed understanding of both the internal Russian considerations and the diplomatic exchanges between the Great Powers. The author also threads the theme of the motives for Russian engagement throughout the book. The analysis is excellent, if the presentation is a little turgid.

One for the real Balkan enthusiast now it is available at a reasonable price in paperback. Not for the general reader.

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