Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History


Honorable Mention

The Baron’s Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution

Honorable Mention: Willard Sunderland
Title: The Baron’s Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution (Cornell University Press)

In this beautifully written and masterfully conceived book, Willard Sunderland has wrought a remarkable reconstruction of the imperial lives of Baron Roman Fedorovich von Ungern-Sternberg (1885-1921), a Baltic German military officer who sought to restore the Romanov and Qing Empires. Sunderland recasts the so-called “mad Baron” as a representative type in the Russian Empire’s last decades, an “imperial cosmopolitan” whose political logic derived considerably from his geographic odyssey from Graz, Austria, to the Baltic Provinces, St. Petersburg, Manchuria, the Far East, Prussia, Mongolia, Siberia, and elsewhere. To read the book is to understand the insufficiently appreciated, yet destructively consequential, role that such imperial cosmopolitans played in the violent unravelling of the Russian empire’s political structures—and, in turn, how that process shaped, and was shaped by, the other empires on which the Romanov empire bordered.

Winner: Agnès Nilufer Kefeli