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A nasty little war


The untold history of the Western invasion of Soviet Russia – and the tragedy it created. In the closing months of WW1, with the world exhausted by a long, brutal war, 15 nations cobbled together an army of 180,000 men and embarked on one of the most extraordinary and ambitious military ventures of the twentieth century. The Intervention in Russia’s civil war was spearheaded by Britain, her colonial forces and allies. It was designed to stop the Bolsheviks in their tracks, reinstate conservative regimes in the Russian Empire and ensure that Germany did not fill the power vacuum which the Russian Revolution had created. 18 months later – after a long and bloody conflict between the Reds and the Whites, the execution of the former tsar and his family, and brutal famine – the British, American and French forces marched out again, surrendering to the unstoppable force of Soviet power.

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

‘Chillingly original’ Max Hastings, ‘Pick of the Week’, The Times

‘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.

Additional information

Weight 0.64 kg
Dimensions 23.6 × 16 × 3.8 cm






xvii, 366 , 8 unnumbered of plates




947.0841 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K