Empires dicing with destruction

Empires dicing with destruction
Russian infantry in World War I: the Bolsheviks would never have held onto power without the vacuum of international instability

Non-FICTION: Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia. By Dominic Lieven . Allen Lane, €34. Reviewed by Dermot Bolger

The question of what the First World War was really about surely crossed the mind of Francis Ledwidge, pinned down in the slaughter on the Gallipoli sands. It surely perplexed the extraordinarily courageous Irish Jesuit, Willie Doyle, who knelt amid the fighting at Ypres to give absolution to dying men in their final agony until shell-fire ended his life.

I cannot say what answers came to the Irishmen who died in that conflict. I can...

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