Public Affairs
Hardcover $28.99
Dreams of a Great Small Nation
The Mutinous Army that Threatened a Revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe


“The pages of history recall scarcely any parallel episode at once so romantic in character and so extensive in scale.” —Winston S. Churchill

In 1917, two empires that had dominated much of Europe and Asia teetered on the edge of the abyss, exhausted by the ruinous cost in blood and treasure of the First World War. As Imperial Russia and Habsburg-ruled Austria-Hungary began to succumb, a small group of Czech and Slovak combat veterans stranded in Siberia saw an opportunity to realize their long-held dream of independence.

While their plan was audacious and complex, and involved moving their 50,000-strong army by land and sea across three-quarters of the earth's expanse, their commitment to fight for the Allies on the Western Front riveted the attention of Allied London, Paris, and Washington.

On their journey across Siberia, a brawl erupted at a remote Trans-Siberian rail station that sparked a wholesale rebellion. The marauding Czecho-Slovak Legion seized control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and with it Siberia. In the end, this small band of POWs and deserters, whose strength was seen by Leon Trotsky as the chief threat to Soviet rule, helped destroy the Austro-Hungarian Empire and found Czecho-Slovakia.

British prime minister David Lloyd George called their adventure “one of the greatest epics of history,” and former US president Teddy Roosevelt declared that their accomplishments were “unparalleled, so far as I know, in ancient or modern warfare.”

about Kevin J McNamara

  • Kevin J. McNamara is an associate scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, PA, and an assistant dean at Drexel University. McNamara earned a BA in journalism and a MA in international politics from Temple University as well as a certificate in national security law from the University of Virginia Law School. McNamara has been a contributing editor to Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs and has been published in The American Spectator, Commentary, Defense News, National Review Online, Society, and The World & I, as well as in newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit News, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Seattle Times. His work has been translated into Chinese and cited by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a US Commission on Broadcasting to the People's Republic of China. He was awarded fellowships and grants by the Earhart and Tawani foundations to acquire and translate the first hand accounts of the Czechoslovak Legion that form the basis of this book.


“A valuable story that is relatively unknown and understood in the West… McNamara's work presents a vital first entry that opens the doors on this integral part of World War I history and the shaping of the Soviet-influenced Eastern European political and social fabric.” —Library Journal

“Kevin J. McNamara highlights this bizarre and heroic story...Much of his extensive source material is only recently available, and he uses it well. The brave misadventures of the Czech Legion deserve the wider recognition this fascinating history should provide.” —Shelf Awareness

“The saga of the Czech-Slovak Legion is one of the great unknown stories of the twentieth century. Kevin J. McNamara brings these fighters back to life by presenting their firsthand account of their travails in World War I and the Russian Civil War. His engaging and valuable work should be required reading for students of the period—and for anyone interested in stories of hardship and heroism.” —Max Boot, author of Invisible Armies

"An epic story unknown even to many World War I history buffs…With admirable energy [McNamara] has assembled the story by piecing together archival records and the memoirs of the gallant men who served in the rejuvenated Czech Legion during the fateful spring and summer of 1918…A fascinating narrative.” —Wall Street Journal

“This incredible story lives up to its billing. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it, though, is that it's a fable that's remained largely untold. Until now….A captivating tale, brilliantly told.” —History of War

“Extraordinary... McNamara, an impressive storyteller armed with a treasure of documents only recently available, ably narrates the remarkable feats of these men who fought every inch of the way… A fantastic addition to the shelves of World War I histories.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“In this captivating narrative history, foreign policy scholar McNamara reveals the obscure yet grand story of how a small, motley, and hastily organized army ushered in the founding of the nation of Czechoslovakia.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

other editions

  • Hardcover | ISBN 9781610394840
    Pub date: 03/29/2016 | Price: $28.99 / 37.50 Canada
    Publisher: PublicAffairs
    6.500 x 9.500 | 416 Pages
    HISTORY / Military / World War I
    HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
    HISTORY / Europe / Austria & Hungary
  • eBook | ISBN 9781610394857
    Pub date: 03/29/2016 | Price: $17.99 / 22.99 Canada
    Publisher: PublicAffairs
    416 Pages
    HISTORY / Military / World War I
    HISTORY / Europe / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
    HISTORY / Europe / Austria & Hungary