Dreams of a Great Small Nation

The Mutinous Army that Threatened a Revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe

Kevin J. McNamara

Author & Writer


Dreams of a Great Small Nation

Dreams of a Great Small Nation tells the story of 50-65,000 émigrés, deserters, and POWs from the Austro-Hungarian Empire who are cast adrift inside Russia at the end of the Great War.  Lost amidst the Russian Revolution as Moscow's new Soviet regime withdraws from the war, these obscure Czech and Slovak subjects – long oppressed by the German rulers of Austria-Hungary – are organized by an aging fugitive professor from Prague, Tomas G. Masaryk, into an ad hoc army. 

They turn on the hated Habsburg rulers of their native Austria-Hungary, which fights alongside Germany, to join the Allied war against Berlin and Vienna – in return for an Allied promise to create an independent nation of their own after the war.  Their efforts to reach the trenches in France leads them on a perilous journey across Siberia, where an altercation leads to a brawl that launches one of the wildest misadventures in modern history.

Kevin J. McNamara first learned of the incredible exploits of this Czecho-Slovak Legion during a journey across eastern Siberia in 1993, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Traveling almost 2,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Irkutsk and Khabarovsk, he happened upon the story of these legionnaires, who riveted the world’s attention in 1918 by seizing the entire length of Siberia and nearly toppling Moscow’s Soviet regime.  Their improvised, yet powerful, army played a role in the First World War, Russian Revolution and Civil War, Allied Intervention, the collapse of Austria-Hungary, the founding of Czecho-Slovakia, and the diplomacy that ended the war and remade the map of Europe.

McNamara subsequently acquired and had translated from Czech to English more than 100 first-hand accounts by the very men who served in the Czecho-Slovak Legion.  Their personal stories were published in Prague in the 1920s in five volumes of a work called Cestami Odboje: Jak Zily A Kudy Tahly CS. Legie (The Road to Resistance: How the Czech Legion Lived and Fought), but such works were suppressed following the Nazi and Soviet conquests of Czecho-Slovakia.  No longer censored following the collapse of communist rule, these first-hand accounts have never before been rendered in English.

Public Affairs, LLC, has published Dreams of a Great Small Nation: The Mutinous Army that Threatened a Revolution, Destroyed an Empire, Founded a Republic, and Remade the Map of Europe.  McNamara’s agent is Glen Hartley of Writers' Representatives, LLC.

A former journalist for Calkins Media Inc., and a former Capitol Hill aide to U.S. Congressman R. Lawrence Coughlin, McNamara is an Associate Scholar of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia.  He earned the B.A. in journalism and M.A. in international politics from Temple University, where he was a student of noted military historian Russell F. Weigley.  McNamara also earned a certificate in national security law from the University of Virginia’s School of Law.

A former contributing editor to Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, he has been published in Aspen Review Central Europe, Commentary, Defense News, Military History QuarterlyOrbis, Russian LifeSociety, and The World and I, as well as in the Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit News, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Seattle Times.  His work has been translated into Chinese, and has been cited by the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Commission on Broadcasting to the People's Republic of China.  He is a consultant on an exhibit based on his book, Guts & Glory: The War Train that Shaped a Nation, which will open on April 7, 2018, at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Cedar Rapids, IA.