Episode 8: Old Strategic Thinkers for a Neo-Imperial Russia: Leer and Messner

Where do Russian military strategists seek their inspiration now that the Soviet authorities are no longer in fashion? In this episode, we will discuss Genrikh Leer and Evgeny Messner, key authors who have now been rediscovered by Russian military strategists.


Most of the Russian strategists of the 19th and 20th centuries fell into the ‘Realist’ school of thinking about the world: they saw it as an anarchic system, in which might is right, and where the cost of defeat is devastation. The imperial Russian General of the Infantry Genrikh Antonovich Leer and the Colonel of the Imperial Army and later émigré Evgeny Eduardovich Messner are good examples of the holistic view that to some extent distinguished – and still distinguishes – Russian thinking from the more compartmentalising approach in the West.

Dr Ofer Fridman, now a lecturer at King’s College London, came to academia after an active career in the Israeli army. His book on what the Russians mean by hybrid war is today the authoritative work on the subject. Of most interest for us today are the excerpts from the works of key Russian imperial and émigré strategists that he has edited in English, called Strategiya.

Further reading

Ofer Fridman, (ed.), Strategiya, The Foundations of the Russian Art of Strategy, Oxford University Press, 2021.

David A. Richard, Tsar's Colonels: Professionalism, Strategy, and Subversion in Late Imperial Russia, Harvard University Press, 1998.

Andrei Kokoshin, Soviet Strategic Thought, 1917-91, The MIT Press, 1998. 


Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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