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The Broken Years
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Book description

The Broken Years tells the forgotten story of Russia's disabled ex-servicemen through three wars and three revolutions: the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian Civil War and the First World War. Using extensive archival material from national, regional and town archives, Alexandre Sumpf explores the treatment of these veterans by the state, their battle for legal status and their right to both collective and individual health care. He shows how the question of disabled veterans became bound up in broader political and social debates in the early 20th century and fostered healthcare and social welfare policy. The experience of these 1.14 million war veterans reconfigured notions of heroism, sacrifice and patriotism while the period of 1915-1919 was marked by extensive political activism by disabled veterans. Dr Sumpf illustrates how the Bolsheviks condemned disabled veterans as the symbol of the “imperialist war” and brutally negated their rights as part of the broader devaluation of the war experience in early Soviet Russia.


‘A heart-breaking study of forgotten fighters for Russia in the early twentieth century and a tribute to the vibrant activism of medical experts, social organizers, state officials, and wounded veterans. Their efforts created rights for the disabled, even as soldiers' sacrifices in world war one dropped out of Soviet sight.'

Jane Burbank - New York University

‘Meticulously researched, eloquent and moving, Alexandre Sumpf's important book brings disabled veterans, their sufferings, their emerging rights, previously overlooked or misunderstood, back to their proper place, at the heart of Russia's war experience in the early twentieth century.'

Bruno Cabanes - The Ohio State University

‘Sumpf shows how Russia's disabled veterans of the Great War found a voice, culminating in the Revolution, but were ignored by the Bolsheviks. He puts their experience of war and disability into its international context while exploring the relationship between Russia's Great War and Revolution. A moving and important study.'

John Horne - Trinity College Dublin

‘The Broken Years brilliantly excavates the lost voices of Russia's disabled veterans, long suppressed by both Tsarist and Bolshevik policymakers. Sumpf persuasively argues that disabled veterans of the First World War fought to amplify their voices as citizens through organizations such as the Union of Maimed Soldiers, but that the early Soviet state discriminated against them, crushed their movement, and relegated them to poverty.'

Karen Petrone - University of Kentucky

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