Reviews


  • Ian Warden, ‘Russian fighters, one Anzac spirit’, Canberra Times, 19 April 2005, Times 2, pp.2-3, ills.

    “…The reporter has read a great many books about the Great War, but Govor’s has a hard-to-define sensitivity and generosity of spirit about it. She shows a fondness for the men (and their families) that she writes about, and they in turn respond to this approach by coming alive for the reader…”

  • David Jean, ‘Author marks Russians’ role in Australian effort’, Canberra Times, 20 April 2005, p.2, ill.; Daily Liberal, Dubbo, 20 April 2005; Western Advocate, Bathurst, 20 April 2005

    “…Historian Dr Michael McKernan, who wrote the book foreword, said it was an amazing revelation of multicultural Australia long before the term had ever been coined. ‘I think it is remarkably important book for today because it tells us that multiculturalism wasn’t only invented after the Second World War or in the 1970s. It was part of the way we have always been and we are a nation of migrants’, he said…”

  • Ann Tundern-Smith, ‘19 Estonians Died for Australia’, Meie Kodu, 20 April 2005, p.6.

    “There are at least 19 names of Estonians who died serving with the Australian Armed Forces cast in bronze on Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, not two as thought previously. Sixteen Estonians at least were killed while serving with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during World War One. This discovery comes from the research of Dr Elena Govor, an academic with the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) at the Australian National University…”

  • Peter Stanley, ‘Enriched message on Russian Anzac front’, Canberra Times, 23 April 2005, Panorama, p.15

    “…Govor has achieved several notable successes with this book. The first is simply to locate these folk, many of whom changed their names… Govor’s second achievement is to show that a multiple biography (an approach called “prosopography” by technically minded historians) is possible. Rather than focus on a few strong stories, she has stitched together a patchwork of accounts, tracing them beyond World War I to the present. The cumulative force of their contending voices, at first perplexing, at length resonates with great narrative power. Her third achievement is to persuade us, as her sub-title puts it, that these Russian Anzacs belong in Australian history. This is not just a curiosity of ethnic history. She shows how these thousand Poles, Ossetians, Ukrainians, Finns or Latvians are a part of what we regard as the Anzac story, as much as any thousand Australian men in khaki…”

  • Peter Stanley, ‘Anzacs 90 year anniversary special - and still stands? A changing Anzac’, Courier Mail, 23 April 2005, p. 114.

    “Recently I reviewed Elena Govor’s book Russian Anzacs, a discovery of the thousand Anzacs in the Great War who came from the old Russian Empire. Her book is subtitled In Australian History. Her research places ethnic Anzacs in Australian history (not an ethnic historical ghetto) and in the Anzac legend. The legend is a lot more ethnically diverse than we might suppose, and since the 1990s we have explicitly seen it embrace black as well as white Australians.”

  • Tony Maniaty, Review, Weekend Australian, 23-24 April 2005, p. R14.

    “Russians at Gallipoli? Elena Govor’s exhaustive research shows that more than one-fourth of the male Russian immigrants then in Australia - about 1000 men - joined the AIF, making up the largest group not of Anglo-Celtic stock: more than 150 fought at Gallipoli…”

  • Elizabeth Colman, ‘Russian chapter in Anzac saga’, The Australian, 25 April 2005, p. 16, portr.

    “…Launched last week at the National Archives at an event attended by children and grandchildren of Russian immigrant World War I servicemen, Russian Anzacs in Australian History tells the stories of soldiers who struggled with English and were shunned as “bolshies”…”

  • Frances Atkinson, Review, The Sunday Age, 8 May 2005, p. 29.

    “This book honours the deeds and memories of those ANZACS without an Anglo-Celtic heritage but mainly the Russians who fought with Australians during WWI. During the battle of Pozieres, an entire section of the 9th Battalion was made up of Russian soldiers. These were men who had left their homelands for a life in Australian only to “disappear themselves, sadly, often without a trace”. Drawing on letters, diaries, photos and other documents, Elena Govor has produced a body of work that captures the voices of these forgotten comrades.”

  • The untold story of Russian Anzacs‘, Memento: News from the National Archives, no. 29, May 2005, pp. 4-6, ills.

    “… A profoundly touching aspect of Elena’s research is just how many Russian families have reconnected because of her efforts. Her book is richer too, because it includes the personal narratives of some of the descendants of the Russian Anzacs. Alexander Egoroff’s story is a good example – a man on paper brought more fully to life by the memories of his children and grandchildren who, despite their best efforts, had lost touch with their relatives in Russia until they came into contact with Elena…”

  • Robert Crawford, Review, JAS Review of Books, Issue 34, June 2005.

    “…In the introduction, Govor notes that her aim in writing Russian Anzacs was not to write a revisionist demythologisation of the Anzac legend, but rather to give the legend a fresh dimension. (p 2) The diverse stories of individual hardship and hope, achievement and failure recounted throughout the course of Russian Anzacs certainly remind us that these soldiers were average men – no better, no worse than any other Digger. However, Govor is less successful in completing her first aim. Indeed, it is testament to her own work that she cannot but help being a revisionist, for Russian Anzacs reminds us that the Anzac story is as complex and diverse as every man who donned a khaki uniform and a slouch-hat.”

  • Bernard Freedman, Stories of Russian-born diggers going to war, The Australian Jewish News, no. 42, July 2005, p. 20.

    “…They could have formed a Russian-Australian battalion in the AIF and Haim Platkin, a wandering Jewish impresario caught in Australia by the outbreak of war, even put the idea to Australian military officials, but nothing came of it and he eventually enlisted in 1917. Among the Russian diggers were 105 Russian-born Jews, many of whom had come to Australia with their families as children. The greatest number were from Ukraine and the Black Sea port of Odessa, while others were from provincial towns where large Jewish communities led traditional lives…..”

  • Peter Pierce, ‘Virtual battalion’, Australian Book Review, no. 273, August 2005, p. 40.

    “…Her notable gift for storytelling means that she punctuates the larger narrative with incisive vignettes. Thus, at the beginning of Russian Anzacs, she relates how the assassination of a police chief and poet at Nizhny Novgorod in 1905 led to his son’s eventual arrival in Australia. This single story also illuminates an interpretative challenge for the whole work….”

  • Graham Wilson, Sabretache, Vol XLVI, No. 3, September 2005, pp. 59-60.

    “…When describing the results of Govor’s research, the phrase “towering achievement’ springs to mind. The book is exhaustively indexed, footnoted and referenced, evidence of countless hours spent in the file repositories of the National Archives and the War Memorial. The result is a book that is both informative and moving…”

  • Patrick Morgan, ‘Casualties of war’, Quadrant, November 2005, pp. 88-89.

    “…The subject matter of this book may appear small and obscure, but the author has made it a fascinating study by recreating the individual lives of the participants. The book amounts to a composite biography of its subjects. Govor has been able to bring to light these lives because Australia has, for a number of reasons, wonderful archives. We have had no great natural catastrophes nor wars which caused destruction of records (like the bombing of London did). Moreover Australians inherited from the British a tradition of administrative orderliness in creating and keeping written records for good government. The files on the Russian Anzacs are now mostly in the National Archives of Australia. Govor praises Australian civil servants and police who showed curiosity and who, though they were confused over Russian names, places, religion, language and customs, meticulously took down their stories. Often it seems, sadly, that more time and care went into the records than into the individuals themselves….”

  • Gerhard Fischer, Australian Historical Studies, no. 127, 2006, pp. 234-36.

    “…It is to Govor’s credit that she does not gloss over these more unsavoury aspects, as, in fact, she does not hide incidents of bad treatments of Russian soldiers, of distrust and suspicions of disloyalty, while they were fighting alongside their British-Australian comrades. But Govor is clearly not so much interested in exploring areas of conflict relating to the socioeconomic and ethnocultural cleavages in Australian society during and after the war as she is in telling a story with a generally happy, assimilationist ending…”

  • Mike Scanlon, ‘Not all Aussie battlers’, The Newcastle Herald, 29 April 2006.

    “…Surprisingly, of the 1000 men tracked down by Dr Govor over four years’ painstaking research, at least 104 men had a direct link to Newcastle. Or did at least, on paper. Most of those named in service records with Newcastle links had disembarked here at some stage. At least eight, however, belonged to the AIF’s 34th battalion, usually referred to as “Maitland’s own”. Another five more at least joined the 35th battalion, tagged as “Newcastle’s own…”.

  • Jim Sinclair, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, June, 2006, pp. 111-13.

    “Dr Govor’s references to the experiences of individual Russian ANZACs is what makes this book so interesting and readable”.

  • Russell W. Stern, Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, Vol.18 no.1 June 2006, pp.131-135.

    “It is because she consciously distinguished between other ‘Russians’ and those who had a Jewish background that this book is an important addition to an Australian Jewish Historical Library”.