A Nasty Little War

The Western Intervention into the Russian Civil War


By Anna Reid

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The first comprehensive history of the failed Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War, a decisive turning point in the relationship between Russia and the West

Overlapping with and overshadowed by the First World War, the Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War was one of the most ambitious military ventures of the twentieth century. Launched in the summer of 1918, it drew in 180,000 troops from fifteen different countries in theaters ranging from the Caspian Sea to the Arctic, and from Poland to the Pacific. Though little remembered today, its consequences stoked global political turmoil for decades to come. 
In A Nasty Little War, top Russia historian Anna Reid offers a sweeping and deeply researched account of the conflict. Initially launched to prevent Germany from exploiting the power vacuum in Eastern Europe left by the Russian Revolution, the Intervention morphed into a bid to destroy the Bolsheviks on the battlefield. But Allied armaments, supplies, and loans could not prevent Russia’s anti-Bolshevik armies from collapsing, and the Allies were forced to retreat in defeat. The humiliation sapped British imperial swagger, chastened American idealism, and stoked militarism and nationalism in France and Germany. 

Combining immersive storytelling with deep research, A Nasty Little War reveals how the Allied Intervention reshaped the West’s relations with Russia, and set a pattern for other interventions to come.
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  • “A bracing account…[Reid] is a skillful narrator with an eye for the telling anecdote.”
    Wall Street Journal
  • “A vivid and sparkling account, full of colour and dark drama.”
  • “One of the most complicated and oft-forgot foreign-policy failures of the 20th century, captivatingly retold in technicolor detail…excellent.”
    Foreign Policy
  • “A thoroughly researched, stylish and entertaining account.”
    Financial Times
  • “A lively narrative.”
    Foreign Affairs
  • “A rich, engaging narrative."
    New Criterion
  • “Superbly researched…Reid’s prose is vivid and colourful…this hugely impressive but emotionally grueling book is essential reading.”
    Irish Independent
  • “Reid cogently unspools the narrative of the intervention…with a heap of creative imagery.”
    The Bulwark
  • “Well-written and accessible.”
    The Past
  • “Readers of A Nasty Little War will love the page-by-page experience…thanks to the clarity of Reid’s account, [readers will] feel the failure of the Intervention coming almost from the first page.”
    Open Letters Review
  • “An excellent history…well-written narrative and mastery of complex material.”
    The Article
  • “A stellar account of a long-ago, still resonant slice of 20th century history…Reid demonstrates her superior archival research by masterfully painting a picture of the domestic political realities facing the Western powers at the time.”
    Washington Independent Review of Books
  • “A well-researched deep dive into military and political actions set against post–Russian Revolution.”
    Library Journal
  • “An elucidating work of research that resonates amid another ongoing intervention involving Russia.”
  • “A vivid critical assessment of Western meddling in foreign affairs.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “Brilliantly depicts the disastrous failure of our intervention in the ‘Russian’ civil war. The atmosphere, the characters, the absurdity are all there.”
    Antony Beevor, New York Times–bestselling author of Stalingrad
  • “In witty, elegant prose, Reid uncovers the true story of the West’s failed and forgotten attempt to reverse the Bolshevik revolution. Excellent.”
    Anne Applebaum, New York Times–bestselling author of Twilight of Democracy
  • “A compelling and meticulously researched account. Through its pages strut arrogant warlords, tsarist generals, Bolshevik revolutionaries and British and American military commanders; at stake, the future fate of Russia. With Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine—and the West’s determination to see him defeated—A Nasty Little War is chillingly topical.”
    Giles Milton, author of Checkmate in Berlin
  • “Combining exemplary research, arresting anecdotes and elegant prose, Anna Reid’s history of the Allied attempt to strangle the Bolshevik revolution in its cradle is that rare beast—an academically impeccable history book that is a pleasure to read.”
    Roger Moorhouse, author of Poland 1939
  • “A vivid and remarkably timely account of a Western intervention that we have largely forgotten, but the Kremlin has brooded on for more than a century.”
    Martin Sixsmith, New York Times–bestselling author of Philomena

On Sale
Feb 6, 2024
Page Count
400 pages
Basic Books

Anna Reid

About the Author

Anna Reid was Kyiv correspondent for the Economist and the Daily Telegraph from 1993 to 1995, and has since written about Ukraine for Foreign Affairs, the Observer, and the Times Literary Supplement. She is the author of Borderland, The Shaman’s Coat, and Leningrad, which was published in eighteen languages and short-listed for the Duff Cooper Prize. She lives in London. 

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