February 8, 2013
Historian wins article prize
David Stone, Pickett professor of military history, won a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History for his article "Misreading Svechin: Attrition, Annihiliation and Historicism." The article appeared in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Military History.
"The article," Stone said, "deals with questions of military theory."
During the 1920s and 1930s, new technologies forced military institutions around the world to wrestle with complicated questions of how the next war would be fought. Aleksandr Svechin was a Russian military thinker who began his career under the czar but continued it after the 1917 Russian Revolution established a new communist Soviet Union.
"Svechin is a compelling figure," Stone said. "He wanted to maintain his intellectual integrity, but his background under the old czarist regime meant he wasn't trusted by the new Soviet government." Svechin's book "Strategy" became a standard textbook in Soviet military academies, but he was executed as a supposed traitor in 1938.
"Historians in the west know about Svechin, but they often don't read him, even the parts of his work available in English. The result is that they often miss the point of what he said," Stone said. "Because he wasn't a communist and wasn't a revolutionary, too many people in the west have assumed that he was a rigid adherent to conventional approaches. That wasn't the case at all. Instead, Svechin stressed the importance of intellectual flexibility and a willingness to see and judge the world accurately."
"Svechin still comes up a lot in discussions of military theory," Stone said. "So it's important to know what he actually said. Military institutions — and indeed all big organizations — need to remember the importance of clear thinking and openness to new approaches."
Stone has taught in the history department at Kansas State since 1999. His most recent book is "The Soviet Union at War, 1941-1945."