August 1914

Dostoevsky, Tolstoy… Solzhenitsyn!

A few excerpts from the book:

Although every officer was supposed to have a map of the area on his map board, no one in their company did; and Grokholets was the only officer in the battalion to have one. Even this was a reprint of a German map; the place names were barely legible and it was inaccurate. Among the platoon commanders, Yaroslav was the one who hovered closest to Grokholets to take every opportunity to have a look at his map. The Germans had burned all the signposts, and as the names of villages were passed orally from officer to officer, they became more and more distorted

[English general Alfred…] Knox showed particular interest in VI army Corps on the right flank, because this corps had driven deeper than any other into enemy territory and was now not much farther from the Baltic Sea than the distance which it had already covered.
Yes, VI Army Corps should have occupied Bischofsburg yesterday, and by today it was probably already farther north.
It was shown on the map as being in that position, and for the Englishman’s sake, Samsomov had to pretend that it really was there; he could not admit to his Allied colleague that Russians marked their maps with information they did not really possess, that not all radio signals reached their destination, and that apart from radio there were no means of communication except dispatch riders, who were highly insecure since they were sent out unescorted across enemy territory. Blagoveshchensky’s corps had, in fact, strayed so far over to the right that it had ceased to act as a flank guard at all; it was no longer performing a screening role but had become a detached, independent corps, the victim of a quarrel…


What could he tell this uninvited guest? That all his units were under-strenght, and that XXIII Army Corps was still not mustered? That the force under his command was an army only on paper, that in reality it consisted of no more than two and a half army corps in the center, toward which he was now driving? And that he was not even sure of their positions either?
Knox was now interrogating him ad nauseam about the center corps. Where were they?
Samsomov pointed at the map with his large finger. ‘XIII Corps is here … approximately there … It is moving northward in roughly this direction, between these two lakes …’
‘Moving northward?’
‘Yes, it’s advancing northward … toward Allenstein. It should take Allenstein today.’ (it should have taken Allenstein yesterday, but had been too slow.)
‘And what about XV Corps?’
‘Well, XV Corps should be level with XIII Corps and also moving northward. Yesterday it should have taken Hohenstein.’ (Had it?) ‘And today it should have moved far beyond Hohenstein.’


September 23, 2008 - Posted by | Books, History, Russia

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