Constantine Pleshakov received his Ph.D. from the Soviet Academy of Sciences and was Director of the Geopolitics Center there until 1995. He has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and a Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, and since 1998 has been a professor of International Relations at Mount Holyoke College. He is the co-author of Inside the Kremlin's Cold War and Flight of the Romanovs and has published six novels and a collection of short stories in Russia. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Journey to the Battle of Tsushimaby Constantine Pleshakov
On May 14-15, 1905, in the Tsushima Straits near Japan, an entire Russian fleet was annihilated, its ships sunk, scattered, or captured by the Japanese. In the deciding battle of the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese lost only three destroyers but the Russians lost twenty-two ships and thousands of sailors. It was the first modern naval battle, employing all the new technology of destruction. The old imperial navy was woefully unprepared. The defeat at Tsushima was the last and greatest of many indignities suffered by the Russian fleet, which had traveled halfway around the world to reach the battle, dogged every mile by bad luck and misadventure. Their legendary admiral, dubbed "Mad Dog," led them on an extraordinary eighteen-thousand-mile journey from the Baltic Sea, around Europe, Africa, and Asia, to the Sea of Japan. They were burdened by the Tsar's incompetent leadership and the old, slow ships that he insisted be included to bulk up the fleet. Moreover, they were under constant fear of attack, and there were no friendly ports to supply coal, food, and fresh water. The level of self-sufficiency attained by this navy was not seen again until the Second World War. The battle of Tsushima is among the top five naval battles in history, equal in scope and drama to those of Lepanto, Trafalgar, Jutland, and Midway, yet despite its importance it has been long neglected in the West. With a novelist's eye and a historian's authority, Constantine Pleshakov tells of the Russian squadron's long, difficult journey and fast, horrible defeat.
- Basic Books
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Well written entertaining account of a Russian fleet's travel around the world to it's doomed fate in the Straits of Tsushima. Here you read about the lives of sailors onboard and their overbearing dominating and ambitious commander who is known for his temper tantrums. Also about the ineptness and the corruption that according to this book was rather rife in the Russian military. After reading this you can easily see why they not only well deserve their defeat at the hands of the Japanese but why they really couldn't win this war.
Pleshakov's examination of the voyage of the Russian Baltic Fleet to the Far East and its disastrous battle with the Japanese Navy in the Battle of Tsushima is an overall commendable work with very interesting detail. However, the author's style of writing, that often appears as short, to-the-point sentences (a good aspect), can appear almost juvenile at times in his choice of words (how a lake in Madagascar can be "enigmatic" I am not sure). He also seems to draw special attention to the sexual orientations of various characters in the story which hardly appear to contribute anything worthwhile to the reader's understanding of the events and borders on annoying. At certain points in the book, Pleshakov makes rather exaggerated statements which causes the writing to appear questionable at times (such as claiming the British Navy could have sunk the Russian fleet in a matter of "minutes"; should such a hostile encounter have occurred, even the Royal Navy could not have destroyed the entire Russian fleet instantaneously as Pleshakov implies). The story also doesn't seem to bear-out the publisher's claim that the Russian fleet was "self-sufficient" during its journey. The book relates that the Russians took on huge quantities of coal and fresh water at German and French colonial ports (and even fresh water from facilities in British home waters), and was coaled by German transports in the Indian ocean. Nevertheless, the story is a vivid account and well-worth the price.
In brief, this is a wonderful book. Well written, captivating, and well balanced. The book is about the Imperial Russian navy's fateful cruise all the way from the Baltic to its fiery and complete destruction by a rising empire, that of Imperial Japan at the battle of Tsushima. Overall I thought it a great book.