Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Legions of the East: A Compendium of the Russian Army in the First World War

by Daniel C. Deyo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016
Michael Kihntopf, Reviewer

Russian Troops on the March

There have always been two mysteries about the Russian Army during the Great War which many aficionados of the Eastern Front would like to get their hands on. The first is casualty statistics for the war, which were censored by both the tsarist and Soviet governments and shielded by the Federation. The second is the orders of battle. The first dearth of information will probably remain a mystery forever. The second, however, is answered in Daniel C. Deyo's new book, Legions of the East.

Deyo, a former Central Intelligence officer, delved deep into any source he could lay his hands on, including information he could glean from Russian archives, to construct the orders of battle. In his words, the direction that the research took him was confusing. Many sources proved to be contradictory while others offered a cornucopia of information. In the end, Deyo had to use his own analytical skills to ferret out the intricacies of the Russian Imperial Army.

This book lays out, in easy-to-understand charts, hierarchies of the fronts, theaters, armies, corps, divisional, and special units including subordinate units, mission statements, and commanders. These pages, dare I say too few even though there are 440, are beyond a trite description of "simply informative." They are priceless. The layout of the chapters is reminiscent of the British War Office's Handbook of the Russian Army, published in 1914.

Deyo, though, adds a very important part to the structure: an excellent description of how the Russian general staff formed units during the war to meet the ever-changing nature of offensive and defensive tactics. He lists the following methods: Genesis, Hidden Frame, Expansion, Conversion, Fission, Fusion, and Fission/Fusion. His explanation for each method is thought provoking and shows, despite a common threat which branded Russian leadership as incompetent, just how adept the Russian bureaucracy behind its commanders was.

The only thing I found lacking in Legions of the East was definitions of organizations, such as the difference between a rifle regiment and an infantry regiment, or what the Opolchenie was [ed. it means militia], plus helpful maps—but I managed to get along. I was able to find this information in the many books I have accumulated over the years when looking for the information Deyo refers to in this work.

Michael Kihntopf

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