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The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushimaby Constanti Pleshakov
Synopses & Reviews
On May 14-15, 1905, in the Tsushima Straits near Japan, an entire Russian fleet was annihilated, its ships sunk, scattered, or captured by the Japanese. It was among the top five naval battles in history, equal to those of Lepanto, Trafalgar, Jutland, and Midway. The Japanese lost only three destroyers, but the Russians lost twenty-two ships and thousands of sailors. To this day Russian ships throw wreaths on the waves when passing the Korea Strait. The Russians had traveled for nine months to be destroyed in a few hours. Because they were afraid of capture in the Suez Canal, their legendary admiral, dubbed "Mad Dog," led them on an extraordinary 18,000-mile detour from the Baltic Sea, around Europe, Africa, and Asia to the Sea of Japan. They were burdened by the Tsar's incompetent leadership and the old, slow ships that he insisted be included to bulk up the fleet. Moreover, they were under constant fear of attack, and there were no friendly ports to supply coal, food, and fresh water. The level of self-sufficiency achieved by this squadron was not again attained in naval practice until the Second World War.
With a novelist's eye and a historian's authority, Pleshakov tells of the Russian squadron's long, difficult journey and swift, horrible defeat.
"A stirring reconstruction of one of history's great — and least-known — naval battles....Pleshakov does a fine job of explaining the military and political complexities of the conflict....[He] also vividly describes the battle itself....Fascinating stuff. A boon for students of military history and naval warfare." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]he book moves inexorably toward its inevitable end with the power of a giant dreadnought at full steam, affording a moving portrait of a capable leader placed in a situation where he could not possibly prevail." Publishers Weekly
"Anyone interested in navies will race through this book, replete as it is with the still-strange spectacle of a battle fleet sailing around the world to its doom....A compulsively readable account told from the Russian viewpoint." Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
"This book is a page-turner, even though one knows what the outcome will be....Historians and specialists will be interested in the narrative and development of the main characters." Library Journal
"The strengths of this book lie in the colorful, detailed approach Pleshakov takes to presenting the world of sailors and officers during the early part of the 20th century....However, there are deficiencies. For example, Pleshakov forthrightly admits that he does not read Japanese and, therefore, a whole side (intentions, tactics, strategy, etc.) of this tale is omitted....Nevertheless, Pleshakov has rendered a little-remembered, but extremely important, battle and its Russian participants in vivid color." Ian Drake, JournalNow.com
Book News Annotation:
The total victory of the Japanese over the Russians in May 1905 stunned the western world at the time, but only later was seen to have ushered in the modern age of war and politics. Pleshakov (international relations, Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts) tells of the Russian fleet's epic voyage from St. Petersburg around Europe and Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and up the east coast of Asia to meet its quick destruction.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Constantine Pleshakov is a member of the new generation of Russian historians. He received his Ph.D. from the Soviet Academy of Sciences and was Director of the Geopolitics Center there until 1995. Pleshakov has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, Oslo, Norway. Since 1998 he has been a Visiting Professor at Mount Holyoke College. He is the co-author of the Lionel Gelber Award-winning Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev, which was translated into three languages, and Basic Books' The Flight of the Romanovs. He has published six novels and a collection of short stories in Moscow. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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