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A Nasty Little War

On sale

9th November 2023

Price: £25

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Selected: ebook / ISBN-13: 9781529326796

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A BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE BOOK OF THE YEAR

‘Chillingly original’ Max Hastings

‘A vivid and sparkling account, full of colour and dark drama’ Observer

‘Brilliantly depicts a disastrous failure’ Antony Beevor


‘Witty and elegant . . . Excellent background to today’s events’ Anne Applebaum

‘Britain’s most forgotten war, brilliantly remembered’ Simon Jenkins

‘Vivid and remarkably timely’ Martin Sixsmith

From the bestselling author of Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine

The extraordinary story of how the West tried to reverse the Russian Revolution.

In the closing months of the First World War, Britain, America, France and Japan sent arms and 180,000 soldiers to Russia, with the aim of tipping the balance in her post-revolutionary Civil War. From Central Asia to the Arctic and from Poland to the Pacific, they joined anti-Bolshevik forces in trying to overthrow the new men in the Kremlin, in an astonishingly ambitious military adventure known as the Intervention.

Fresh, in the case of the British, from the trenches, they found themselves in a mobile, multi-sided conflict as different as possible from the grim stasis of the Western Front. Criss-crossing the shattered Russian empire in trains, sleds and paddlesteamers, they bivouacked in snowbound cabins and Kirghiz yurts, torpedoed Red battleships from speedboats, improvised new currencies and the world’s first air-dropped chemical weapons, got caught up in mass retreats and a typhus epidemic, organised several coups and at least one assassination. Taking tea with warlords and princesses, they also turned a blind eye to their Russian allies’ numerous atrocities.

Two years later they left again, filing glumly back onto their troopships as port after port fell to the Red Army. Later, American veterans compared the humiliation to Vietnam, and the politicians and generals responsible preferred to trivialise or forget. Drawing on previously unused diaries, letters and memoirs, A Nasty Little War brings an episode with echoes down the century since vividly to life.

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Reviews

Antony Beevor
Reid brilliantly depicts the disastrous failure of our intervention in the "Russian" civil war. The atmosphere, the characters, the absurdity are all there
Anne Applebaum
In witty, elegant prose, Anna Reid uncovers the true story of the West's failed and forgotten attempt to reverse the Bolshevik revolution. Excellent background to today's events
Simon Jenkins
Britain's most forgotten war, brilliantly remembered
The Observer
Reid brings this little-known period thrillingly back to life . . . A vivid and sparkling account, full of colour and dark drama
Max Hastings, 'Pick of the Week', The Times
Chillingly original
BBC History Magazine, Books of the Year
Elegantly written, and drawing on extensive archival research . . . This remarkable book is simultaneously comic and horrifying
London Review of Books
Unusually entertaining