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To Serve the Russian Empire: The Autobiography of Boris Héroys
by John Elverson
book review by Donna Ford
"Grand Duke [uncle of emperor] did nothing to show off...many of those
words proved useful grains that settled quietly in the minds of his listeners."
Héroys, the author of this intriguing autobiography, was sent to elite St. Petersburg military schools. A chamber page to the future Empress Alexandra, he attended her wedding to Nicholas II. His battalion also traveled to Moscow for their 1896 coronation. Graduating at twenty-eight from the academy as a General Staff officer, he would meet many of his teachers again on battlefields as he worked up the ranks to general.
The first battle he took part in was in the Japanese/Manchurian war. He served as a messenger and cartographer, creating maps the troops would use in daily battles. He eagerly accepted developing technology. Later the author served the emperor’s army in Kiev, through the uprising of factory workers which was put down in 1905 but successful under Trotsky. Héroys records the emperor’s forced abdication, his being called comrade soldier by the new regime, and his years fighting in World War I. Forced to flee in 1918, he crossed the river to Finland on foot, hoping to assist White armies regrouping outside of Russia. He went to England, first as an anti-revolutionary and afterward as a full-time artist until his death in 1942.
Héroys two grandsons along with Elverson validated the translation and arranged for publication. To add flavor to this autobiography, the book includes some of the author's drawings and photographs. With 230 text pages, the included encyclopedia and index are necessary additions for a researcher. The Romanov Family Tree and battle maps also successfully orient readers. The details recorded in this military memoir ring with a realism that only one who has actually seen and interacted with the various individuals mentioned in this book could adequately describe. The reader meets each officer or professor with all his warts, short legs, riding boots, and loud or muttering voice.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
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