Book Review: The Forgotten Front: The Eastern Theater of World War I, 1914 - 1915


by Gerhard P. Gross, editor, and translated by Janice W. Ancker

Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2018. Pp. x, 390+. Illus., maps, notes., index. $80.00. ISBN: 0813175410

The Opening Year of the Great War in the East

Author of The Myth and Reality of German Warfare and editor of the award winning The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I, Col. Gross, of the Bundeswehr Center for Military History, has put together twenty papers by mostly Central and Eastern European academic that explore current scholarship on first two years’ of fighting on the Eastern Front during the Great War.

An important point made by several authors in this collection is that, while the Eastern Front may be slighted in Western European and American scholarship and memory, it is almost literally “forgotten” in Russia and many of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, where the Napoleonic invasion and the Great Patriotic War attract far more attention, due to painful memories of the humiliating defeats of 1914-1918, the Revolutions of 1917, and the decades of Soviet misrule.

Following an introduction by Hew Strachan, the essays are grouped into three categories.

Part I, “The Battles on the Eastern Front, 1914-1915”, has four papers that offer overview of the first two years’ of operations in the East, followed by looks at how German actions were largely dominated by concern about the Western Front, how the Russians perceived the campaign, and German-Austro-Hungarian relations.

The eight papers of Part II, “The Battlefields of Concepts”, look at the evolution and influence of perceptions of the war, national identity, and the enemy, such as the war and Polish identity, German perceptions of Russians, and vice versa, Austro-German perceptions of other Slavic peoples, German and Russian literature on the war, and more.

Part III, “The Culture of Remembrance”, has five papers on various aspects of memory and memorialization, and particularly the loss of Russian memory of the war.

The work concludes with a paper that asks what influences the Great War in East had on the later “War of Annihilation” of 1939-1845.

An essential read for the serious student of the Great War and both twentieth century “Eastern Fronts”, The Forgotten Front, a volume in the AUSA Books series “Foreign Military Studies”, will be of less value to the casual reader of military history.


Note: The Forgotten Front is also available in several e-editions

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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