In This Review

To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Express, the World's Greatest Railroad
To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Express, the World's Greatest Railroad
By Christian Wolmar
PublicAffairs, 2014, 320 pp
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Wolmar is a historian of railroads, not of Russia, but his story of the Trans-Siberian Express opens a fascinating window onto aspects of Russian history only touched on obliquely in conventional histories. The book begins in the late nineteenth century by exploring the politics surrounding the monumental project of building the railroad and the extraordinary challenges it posed. Wolmar describes in textured detail what travel on the Trans-Siberian Express has looked like from its early years up to the present. He notes the railway’s original mission as a military and imperial project, its role in populating the emptiness of Siberia, and its unique impact as a solitary thread tying Russia together. He follows its fate during the civil war following the 1917 revolution, when it became a high-stakes prize in the struggle between the Bolsheviks and their opponents. Above all, he recounts the vital role that the railroad played in saving the Soviet Union during World War II.