Austro-hungarian empire

The horrors of the Eastern Front

Ten years ago David Cameron, as prime minister, pledged £50 million for the centenary of the first world war. The focus was on ‘capturing our national spirit in every corner of the country, something that says something about who we are as a people’. Beyond a celebration of the Tommy on the Western Front and a belated acknowledgement of colonial Britain’s sacrifice, it was a missed opportunity. There was little attempt to better understand the region where the war began – and where, according to Nick Lloyd’s exhaustive The Eastern Front, it never really ended. Indicative of his understandable wariness about penetrating beyond Britain’s comfort zone (he is the acclaimed

An elegy for Vienna

Vienna Somebody once described Vienna as a top opera performed by understudies. The remark was unquestionably witty, but utterly false when it was made. It is perfectly true today, however. During the 650-year rule of the Habsburgs, Vienna reigned supreme, an opera sung by its greatest stars. It is the present-day Vienna, which has lost its empire, its imperial family and its power, that is sung by the understudies. I’ve just spent three days there, in Harry Lime time. Okay, close your eyes and imagine the Grand Canal with just a few gondolas and no behemoth floating horrors, the Bridge of Sighs without the crowds of visiting Chinese beneath it,