Review Essay 51 on The Fortress: The Great Siege of Przemyśl24 min read

The centenary of World War I has been a significant stimulus to new research about that conflict. Like any historical era, the meaning and consequences of the war have been reinterpreted in light of our own twenty-first century concerns. The perception that in recent years the world has witnessed a ‘return to geopolitics,’ ending the relative calm of the post-Cold War period, has made the tensions that produced the Great War appear freshly relevant. It has also refocused attention on the early twentieth-century roots of present-day conflicts. In this new international environment, U.S.-China rivalry begins to look similar to Anglo-German competition in the years before 1914, and the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement and the treaties of Brest-Litovsk (1918) and Versailles (1919) seem to contain clues about contemporary conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

H-Diplo | ISSF
Review Essay 51

Alexander Watson.  The Fortress: The Great Siege of Przemyśl.  London: Allen Lane, 2019.  ISBN:  9780241309063 (hardback, £25.00); 9780141986333 (paperback, October 2020, £10.99).

Essay by Nicholas Mulder, Cornell University

Published 2 April 2020 | issforum.org

 Editor: Diane Labrosse
Production Editor:  George Fujii

https://issforum.org/essays/51-przemysl

PDF Version

The centenary of World War I has been a significant stimulus to new research about that conflict. Like any historical era, the meaning and consequences of the war have been reinterpreted in light of our own twenty-first century concerns. The perception that in recent years the world has witnessed a ‘return to geopolitics,’ ending the relative calm of the post-Cold War period, has made the tensions that produced the Great War appear freshly relevant. It has also refocused attention on the early twentieth-century roots of present-day conflicts. In this new international environment, U.S.-China rivalry begins to look similar to Anglo-German competition in the years before 1914, and the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement and the treaties of Brest-Litovsk (1918) and Versailles (1919) seem to contain clues about contemporary conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Amidst the welter of new research, Alexander Watson’s The Fortress stands out as a singularly original study of how the war shaped East-Central Europe. Watson’s book reconstructs a forgotten chapter in the history of the war: the siege of the Galician fortress city of Przemyśl (also known as Premissel in German and Peremyshl in Ukrainian) between September 1914 and March 1915. As the most prominent fortification on the northeastern frontier of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Przemyśl found itself squarely in the path of invading Russian armies at the outbreak of the war in August 1914. Over the course of the next months, the fighting in this region witnessed many of the phenomena that would mark the twentieth century ‘age of extremes’ in East-Central Europe. Ethnic cleansing, deportation, the starvation and bombing of civilians, the confiscation of property, and the erasure of cultural life began to occur in the Galician borderlands between the Habsburg and Russian empires within months of the outbreak of war. Watson first and foremost provides a more comprehensive account of the siege than any that has come before. But he also connects this work of reconstruction to a core argument: that Przemyśl’s wartime experience matters “because it reveals in microcosm a forgotten pre-history to the later, better-remembered totalitarian horrors” (3).

The story that Watson unfolds across seven chapters puts his talents as a social historian of the Great War on full display. For readers of his earlier prize-winning Ring of Steel, which provided a masterful survey of the war from the vantage point of the inhabitants of Germany and Austria-Hungary from 1914 to 1918, this will come as little surprise.[1] But in The Fortress, Watson deftly integrates illuminating explorations of daily life in the besieged city with narration of the wider political, regional, and military history in which the lives of the besieged unfolded.

Watson sets the stage with his vivid portrait of a cosmopolitan Habsburg garrison town. Przemyśl had belonged to the Habsburg Empire since the First Partition of Poland in 1772, but did not become a major frontier fortress until one century later. By the eve of World War I it was the third-largest city in Galicia after Cracow, 200 kilometers to the west, and Lwów, some 90 kilometers to the east.[2] Przemyśl’s 54,000-strong population was composed largely of Roman Catholic Poles (47 percent) but also included significant numbers of Jewish inhabitants (30 percent) and Greek Catholic Ruthenians (22 percent). Whereas under Habsburg rule the Polish population acquired a growing presence in local political life and the Jewish community enjoyed increasing prosperity, the Ruthenians were in a more fraught position. Many were suspected by Austro-Hungarian authorities of Russophilia and thus of sedition. At the same time, Ruthenians who made a claim to independent nationhood as Ukrainians were oppressed to varying degrees by both Habsburg and Russian authorities and by Polish and Hungarian nationalists. Despite these growing cultural cleavages, class politics retained its force in a region marked by labor emigration and urban industrialization. When Austria-Hungary held its first parliamentary elections through universal suffrage in 1907, the townspeople of Przemyśl voted out a Polish nationalist and sent the Polonophone Jewish socialist Herman Lieberman to Vienna instead. This relative concord came under strain in the last years before the war and was shattered by the conflict itself.

Przemyśl’s garrison consisted of troops from the Austrian and Hungarian Landsturm, the army reserve units composed of men between the ages of thirty-seven and forty-two. Most of its officers were German-speaking Austrians and Hungarian gentry, while much of the rank and file was locally recruited in Galicia. This motley crew was commanded by a Transylvanian German general with the impeccably Habsburg name Hermann Kusmanek von Burgneustädten. The Austro-Hungarian army is famous for the problems that its ethnic and linguistic diversity caused for effective command as well as unit cohesion and the maintenance of morale under pressure.[3] It is unsurprising that a garrison of middle-aged fathers who spoke at least six different languages would struggle to defend a brick fortress against the largest army in Europe. Watson follows a number of individuals through the disorientating opening of the war and uses their eyewitness accounts to illuminate the confusing experiences of mobilization, deployment, combat, retreat and encirclement.

The first military histories of the siege of Przemyśl were researched and written in German and therefore heavily Austrian in their perspective.[4] These accounts took Habsburg officers’ complaints about their largely Slavic soldiers at face value and produced the impression that subaltern nationalisms were to blame for the collapse of the Dual Monarchy’s armed forces. Watson corrects for this bias by drawing extensively on Polish-language sources, as well as first-hand accounts of the siege by Czech and Hungarian soldiers and more recent local histories.[5] For example, Watson uses the testimony of Hungarian officer István Bielek to great effect to provide a new account of the battle for Fort I/1 on the night of 9 October 1914. This battle was the apex of the first siege of Przemyśl and became a major staple of Austro-Hungarian propaganda. By retracing the dramatic battle for the fort in painstaking detail, Watson is able to show that Habsburg authorities produced a significantly doctored official version of the battle for popular consumption. The army command ignored the crucial role of Hungarian units and of the brave Jewish Austrian junior officer Altmann, and instead decorated a more senior Croatian officer as the official hero of the battle.

The fortunes of the soldiers fighting in Galicia constitute only a part of Watson’s narrative. Besieged cities offer an ideal setting for thick social history, since many processes that in peacetime society are conducted in separate domains suddenly become extraordinarily compressed in space.[6] The range of topics Watson accordingly examines is impressive: from expositions of the linguistic organization of the Austro-Hungarian army to explorations of Galicia’s confessional politics, and from excursions into the lives of villagers caught in no-man’s land to reconstructions of the difficult circumstances of women caught in the city. An additional boon are the colorful flourishes of late Habsburg culture under strain. Throughout the siege, Przemyśl continued to operate a movie theatre; printed three different newspapers in German, Polish, and Hungarian; and converted its useless railway station arrivals hall into a concert venue. Right up until the city’s surrender, Austrian and Hungarian officers continued to frequent the fancy Grand Café Stieber on the city’s Mickiewicz Street, even if it now served weak tea and horse-meat canapés instead of the usual coffee and pastries.

This glimpse of the last moments of Austro-Hungarian society at war is gripping in its own right. However, Watson not only recovers the civilian angle of the war’s eastern front, but also argues that this theater prefigured many of the horrors of interwar nationalism and totalitarianism in Europe. Promisingly, the experience of civilian suffering during WWI is increasingly being examined from new perspectives. Historians have begun to grapple with the long-ignored experience of civilians in the Greater Middle East, where Ottoman mass requisitioning, imprisonment, and genocide combined with an Allied starvation blockade by land and sea to render the Levant and Anatolia a uniquely deadly region for non-combatants.[7] As Robert Gerwarth has recently emphasized, East-Central Europe and the Mediterranean countries witnessed enormous bloodshed not just during but also after the official war ended.[8] Watson brings forward the beginnings of these escalatory processes of violence, showing how they emerged from a mixture of racialized nationalism, fears of treason and sedition, and wartime improvisation.

Following on arguments that he first advanced in Ring of Steel, Watson makes an important set of claims about mass violence against civilians in World War I. The German violence against Belgians in 1914 has occupied much political and historical attention. But these abuses pale in comparison to imperial Russian and Austro-Hungarian atrocities on the Eastern and Balkan fronts, which were not only larger in scale but much more systematic and long-lasting. Habsburg forces began mass executions of Serbian soldiers and civilians almost immediately after invading the Balkans (in Serbia at least one-sixth of the population died as a result of the war). In and around Przemyśl, Austro-Hungarian forces were equally ruthless, especially against Ruthenian peasants. In September 1914, Watson writes, ‘corpses on the roadside trees, bobbing in the wind, marked the path of the retreating Habsburg army’ (46). Entire Ruthenian villages were burned down to clear fields of fire for the defenders. Although their communities were uprooted, many locals returned to their charred hamlets, some spending the months of the siege in a harrowing no-man’s land between besiegers and besieged.

The most systematic Austro-Hungarian war crimes in Galicia, however, were committed against Ruthenians by Hungarian units. Watson presents a chilling account of the massacre of a group of Ruthenian prisoners by Hungarian soldiers and a mob of Przemyśl townspeople. This incident of gruesome slaughter shows that mass violence in East-Central Europe in these years was not a purely top-down affair, but could also be sustained and even initiated by popular outbursts of ethnic prejudice.

Russian administration of occupied territories was notoriously anti-Semitic as well as repressive towards Poles and Ruthenians. Although Russian rule over Przemyśl lasted for a mere 73 days, just two and a half months between March and June 1915, Watson insists that “around and later in the city the Russian army perpetrated the first ambitious programme of ethnic cleansing to befall East-Central Europe” (3). In April 1915 the Russian military administration of occupied Galicia deported 17,000 Jewish inhabitants of Przemyśl from the city into the Russian empire. By juxtaposing this anti-Jewish action, further instances of which are documented in the work of Eric Lohr, Marsha Rozenblit and Alexander Prusin,[9] with the religious and linguistic repression of Polish and Ruthenian inhabitants of the region, Watson makes the case that there was a violent program of Russification behind tsarist policies. In this regard, Watson is concerned first and foremost with description rather than explanation. He notes the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism in the Russian army as well as disagreements between army commanders and civilian authorities over whether Galician Jews had to be deported to Russia or driven across the frontline into Austria-Hungary. However, the precise forces that drove Russian occupation policies, and the degree to which they formed a coherent whole, merit further systematic study.[10]

The need to understand this violence is only heightened by the fact that, as Watson acknowledges, the ranks of the imperial Russian army were ethnically “hardly less diverse than those of its Habsburg enemy” (243). Besides numerous Baltic German as well as Finnish and Bulgarian commanders, the imperial Russian army deployed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Tatar, and Jewish soldiers between 1914 and 1917.[11] How do we explain atrocities committed by and among such diverse imperial formations? Watson sums up the litany of depredations in Galicia as “the warring Habsburg and Romanov Empires’ racialized fantasies of treason and brutal reprisals interlocking and spiralling” (122). The timing and pattern of these campaigns of violence has not been fully absorbed by mainstream historical narratives of the twentieth century because the empires that committed them ceased to exist a century ago. Watson’s emphasis on how early these atrocities took place, and how intense they were, now stands as an important finding that future historians of Europe’s twentieth century must reckon with.

The story told in The Fortress also enables a fresh look at the military history of the Eastern Front during the Great War. Conventionally, the war in the east is construed as a much more dynamic affair than the more static trench warfare on the Western Front. This was not because military mobility was exceptional. Rather, as Norman Stone’s classic 1975 study of this front showed, it was the inability of defenders to quickly move up reserves via railroad that allowed for major offensives to break through and move the frontline across distances unimaginable on the Western Front.[12] Yet Watson has constructed a fascinating narrative around an important exception to this trend; Przemyśl was the longest siege battle on the Eastern Front between 1914 and 1917, pitting entrenched Russian troops against an Austro-Hungarian garrison ensconced in elaborate nineteenth-century fortifications. This was in large part due to the Austro-Hungarian decision to build up Przemyśl as one of the main border forts on the Galician frontier, together with Cracow and Lwów. Eighteen forts and dozens of ancillary fortifications were constructed between the 1880s and early 1900s. As a result of this protective carapace, and the Russian lack of heavy siege artillery that could destroy the forts, as the Germans did at Antwerp and Liège in August 1914, the frontlines around the city barely moved for the duration of the siege.

In fact, there were not one but two sieges of Przemyśl. The initial attempt by the Habsburg high command to bring the war to the Russians in late August and early September 1914 backfired spectacularly. Owing to inconsistent mobilization plans and a flawed deployment pattern, as well as ill-chosen equipment and antiquated tactics, the Austrian offensive into eastern Galicia was beaten back. Habsburg forces retreated to the western part of the province in a state of disorder. This left Przemyśl as the only bulwark guarding the Carpathian Mountain passes. From late September until mid-October 1914, the fortress pinned down a significant Russian force that otherwise would have been able to cross the Carpathians and probably invade the Danubian plain of Hungary. A German-Austrian counteroffensive in October relieved the fortress, and a narrative of heroic resistance was quickly constructed in Austro-Hungarian official discourse around Festung Premissel.

A renewed Russian offensive in November 1914 inaugurated another Austro-Hungarian withdrawal. This time, the city was in a much worse state to resist. Its supplies had been depleted by troops fighting nearby, and since the Austro-Hungarian rear had been stabilized by the arrival of German troops in western Galicia, there was no longer a compelling strategic reason to hold on to the fortress. Yet the public image of Przemyśl as an impregnable fortress now held the Habsburg high command captive. The Austrian commander in chief, Conrad von Hötzendorf, ordered Kusmanek to hold out as long as possible.[13] Since the winter was setting in, he thereby sealed its fate. The garrison managed to keep up the defense for five months by subsisting on meager supplies and the meat of its 17,000 cavalry and draught horses.

Little actual fighting took place around the city during the second siege, except for a strong sortie by the garrison in December 1914. Most of the Austro-Hungarian military effort was taking place to the south, where in January 1915 Conrad ordered a major offensive to capture the mountain passes that gave way to Przemyśl. In the winter snow and frost, these fruitless attacks wasted staggering numbers of human lives and large amounts of equipment; in the space of three months the Habsburg army lost an astonishing 670,000 men dead, wounded, and missing. Przemyśl’s garrison, updated via radio transmission and connected to the Dual Monarchy by the world’s first air-mail service, followed these relief attempts with consternation and a growing sense of exhaustion. A final breakout attempt on 19 March failed, and two days later Kusmanek had the city’s fortresses, depots, and bridges blown up to prevent their capture by the Russians. An escaping pilot taking off from the city described the cascading explosions as a spectacle of “horrible and yet incomparable beauty, eternally sad and yet of such sublime greatness that the destruction of Pompeii or Herculaneum could not have offered a sight more awesome” (207). Przemyśl surrendered on 22 March, after 133 days of siege.

In comparative and historiographical terms, Watson’s book opens several interesting questions. Przemyśl was the only prolonged siege on the Eastern Front of the First World War, but it was not the only or the first siege battle to occur in East-Central Europe in the period. During the First and Second Balkan Wars, the strength of prepared fortifications had already come up against the power of modern mass armies. The possession of food supplies and sufficiently powerful and numerous artillery could decide these battles. During the First Balkan War, two Ottoman fortresses were invested in long-lasting sieges that witnessed many of the same approaches taken to conquer Przemyśl. From October 1912, Shköder (Scutari) in Albania held out for 183 days against a Serbo-Montenegrin force, while the garrison of Edirne (Adrianople) in Thrace lasted five months against a joint Bulgarian-Serbian army. Adrianople also saw the first experimental use of airplanes for the aerial bombing of besieged cities, a tactic later employed on a more significant scale by the Russians at Przemyśl.

Watson’s book ends on a haunting note, which connects Przemyśl’s experience in World War I with its fate during the interwar period and World War II. Located on the river San, the city was the point where the German and Soviet occupation zones of Poland bordered each other from 1939 to 1941. The Fortress raises the question to what degree the aforementioned Austro-Hungarian and imperial Russian atrocities were precursors of the mass murder and genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany and by the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s. In doing so it engages directly with Timothy Snyder’s well-known ‘bloodlands’ paradigm, which stresses the interactive and overlapping nature of Nazi and Soviet occupation of the part of Eastern Europe where 14 million people were killed between 1933 and 1945.[14] Although Watson’s argument challenges Snyder’s chronology by suggesting much earlier roots, his view of imperial Russian atrocities in 1914-1915 is located on the same moral horizon, one oriented around the crimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. “Though the Tsarist army lacked the state direction necessary for genocide,’ he writes, ‘its occupation foreran later totalitarian projects” (124).

As a diachronic view of eastern Galicia in the early twentieth century, this framing makes sense. But violence against civilians during World War I should not be judged only in relation to the mid-century telos of totalitarian terror. Equally important and perhaps more germane is a synchronic point of reference: the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against the Armenians and Assyrians, which was initiated at the exact time that Russia instituted its brutal short-lived occupation of Galicia in the spring of 1915.[15] If the descent into mass violence is what matters, then the clash of empires along the Eurasian seam in 1915 did not prefigure anything–it already was the scene in which genocide could and did emerge, in circumstances not altogether dissimilar to those around Przemyśl.

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, violent nationalism both emerged from and contributed to the collapse of imperial structures. Ethnic cleansing should be seen first and foremost in the context of these late imperial nationalizing anxieties, conducted through ‘interpenetrating’ ethnic groups spread across different states, rather than as a foreboding of a totalitarianism that did not yet exist and would only emerge twenty years later.[16] Omer Bartov and Eric Weitz’s notion of a “shatterzone of empires” is a more capacious geographical frame that seems better suited to the variegated and complex patterns of violence seen from the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 onwards than the geographical focus of the ‘bloodlands’ paradigm on East-Central Europe, which excludes the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus.[17]

Choosing juxtaposition over prefiguration would have had other advantages, too. The argumentative and narrative links that The Fortress forges between the Great War and the great dictators are fairly thin. Watson covers the entire late wartime and interwar history of Przemyśl between its recapture by the Central Powers in June 1915 and the invasion of Poland in September 1939 in just two pages. This somewhat flattens the intervening history of Polish-Ukrainian conflict and of interwar Polish governance in the region, and one wishes that Watson, as a talented social historian, had gone into greater depth about the continuities and discontinuities in state policy, civilian life, and inter-ethnic coexistence in the city and its surroundings in these crucial years.[18] After all, plenty of interesting and important things happened in the remaining three years of the war, not least the making of the territorial order of Eastern Europe as it existed for the next two decades. The values of such a longitudinal analysis can be seen in Robert Blobaum’s recent study of Warsaw in World War I, which compares Russian rule of the Polish capital with the subsequent German occupation of the city before Polish independence.[19]

Altogether, Watson has produced a gripping study of a largely forgotten battle that makes a major contribution in putting East-Central Europe at the center of our increasingly global accounts of World War I. The book advances historical debates about wartime violence against civilians by calling attention to the clash between the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, even though more work remains to be done on the nature and drivers of the latter’s occupation policy, and the connection between Watson’s excellent narrative and Eastern Europe’s ‘bloodlands’ in later decades is underdeveloped. An impressive blend of social and military history that is superbly written and based on scrupulous source research, The Fortress is the kind of total history that the total war of 1914-1918 deserves.

Nicholas Mulder teaches modern European history at Cornell University and is finishing a book about the origins of economic sanctions between the world wars.

©2020 The Authors | Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License

 

Notes

[1] Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I (London: Allen Lane, 2014).

[2] For the key role of the inhabitants of these two cities in fostering a sense of Galicia as a distinctly multiethnic territory between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Larry Wolff, The Idea of Galicia: History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010).

[3] The classic literary depiction of this is Jaroslav Hašek’s 1923 satirical novel Good Soldier Švejk. The main historical studies are Gunther E. Rothenberg, The Army of Francis Joseph (West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1976); and István Déak, Beyond Nationalism: A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848-1918 (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

[4] In addition to the memoirs of garrison commandant Kusmanek and other officers such as Bruno Wolfgang, the Austrian staff officer Franz Stuckheil wrote a number of analytical essays about the siege in the 1920s; the first book-length study was Hermann Heiden’s Bollwerk am San. Schicksal der Festung Przemysl (Oldenbourg and Berlin: Gerhard Stalling, 1940).

[5] Tomasz Pomykacz, ‘Kontrowersje wokół dowódcy obrony Fortu I/1 “Łysicka”,’ Rocznik Prezmyski 51:3 (2015), 135-148; John E. Fahey, ‘Bulwark of Empire: Imperial and Local Government in Przemyśl, Galicia (1867-1939),’ (PhD dissertation, Purdue University, 2017).

[6] Unsurprisingly, many of these histories have focused on the Eastern Front; see for example Krisztian Ungvary, Die Belagerung Budapest (1999), translated into English as The Siege of Budapest: 100 Days in World War II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005); Jochen Hellbeck, Stalingrad: The City that Defeated the Third Reich (New York: Public Affairs, 2015); Alexis Peri, The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017).

[7] See especially the excellent recent study by Melanie S. Talienian, The Charity of War: Famine, Humanitarian Aid, and World War I in the Middle East (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018). The issues of food and civilian relief in northwestern Europe are the subject of Clotilde Druelle, Feeding Occupied France during World War I: Herbert Hoover and the Blockade (London: Palgrave, 2019).

[8] Robert Gerwarth, The Vanquished: How the First World War Failed to End (London: Penguin, 2016).

[9] Eric Lohr, “The Russian Army and the Jews: Mass Deportation, Hostages, and Violence during World War I,” Russian Review 3 (2001): 404-419; Marsha Rozenblit, Reconstructing a National Identity: The Jews of Habsburg Austria during World War I (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Alexander Victor Prusin, Nationalizing a Borderland: War, Ethnicity, and Anti-Jewish Violence in East Galicia (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2005).

[10] Watson writes that the motives behind the expulsion of the Jews from Przemyśl ‘were, and remain, opaque,’ (225) and that the relevant Russian files about the administration of occupied Galicia from archives in Lviv ‘must have been removed or destroyed’ (304 n63). Important in this regard is the comparative work of Peter Holquist. See his “La violence de l’armée russe à l’encontre des Juifs en 1915: Causes et limites,” in John Horne, ed., Vers la guerre totale: Le tournant de 1914/1915 (Paris: Tallandier, 2010): 191-219; as well as his forthcoming book on imperial Russian attitudes to the laws of war in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, By Right of War: Imperial Russia and the Discipline and Practice of International Law, 1868-1917.

[11] The cultural and social experience of Jewish soldiers in the Russian imperial army is examined in Olga Litvak, Conscription and the Search for Modern Russian Jewry (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2006); and Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, Jews in the Russian Army, 1827-1917: Drafted into Modernity (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). At least 100,000 Jewish soldiers were drafted into the Russian army in 1914-1917.

[12] Stone, The Eastern Front 1914-1917 (London: Penguin, 2008 [1975]).

[13] Watson places the responsibility for Przemyśl’s second siege and for its eventual fall to the Russian army in late March 1915 squarely on the figure of Conrad. In this he follows the verdict of the military historian Graydon Tunstall, who has produced two in-depth studies of the Austro-Hungarian army in the first year of the war which emphasize how Conrad’s political and personal quest for prestige, not strategic considerations, caused the grave Austro-Hungarian losses incurred in this period. See Graydon A. Tunstall, Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2010); Written in Blood: The Battles for Fortress Przemyśl in WWI (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016).

[14] Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

[15] Peter Holquist, for example, has highlighted the differences between Russian policy in Galicia and its contemporaneous occupation of Armenia, where Russian rule “produced policies that were callous and frequently brutal, yet…rarely had the purposefulness that is so often ascribed to them.” Holquist, “The Politics and Practice of the Russian Occupation of Armenia, 1915-February 1917,” in Ronald Grigor Suny, Fatma Müge Göçek, and Norman M. Naimark, eds., A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 153.

[16] See the impressive study of imperial ethnic politics on the Russian-Ottoman frontier by Michael Reynolds, who foregrounds the emergent properties of inter-imperial strife, arguing that nationalism was ‘a byproduct of interstate competition, not a stimulus of that competition,’ Shattering Empires: The Clash and Collapse of the Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1908-1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 18.

[17] Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz, Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2013). The vastness of this zone is also well captured in the newly-translated history of the war in the East written in 2014 by the historians Włodzimierz Borodziej and Maciej Górny, Die Vergessene Weltkrieg: Europas Osten 1912-1923 (2 vols.) (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2018), especially the first volume on the period from 1912 to 1916.

[18] For example, the Jewish community in Przemyśl did rather well during the decade after the war; by 1928, nearly half of the representatives on the city council as well as the assistant mayor were Jewish. Similarly, Ukrainian peasants recovered some of their landholdings around the city, and the surrounding region remained distinctively multi-ethnic until the outbreak of World War II. Fahey, “Bulwark of Empire,” 285, 288.

[19] Robert Blobaum, A Minor Apocalypse: Warsaw during the First World War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017).