Russia since 1917

Russia since 1917

Russia since 1917

Russia since 1917

Excerpt

Everyone--well, almost everyone--who writes of the Soviet Union has some bias. Few topics are so likely to be presented in such sharp black and white terms. The American student who takes up the history of Russia since the revolutions of 1917 therefore confronts at the outset one of the historian's most difficult dilemmas: how to study with clinical dispassion a subject almost all writers treat in a framework of social conviction or patriotic emotion.

Until the outbreak of World War II the number of historical works about Russia since 1917 were understandably few: the elapsed time was scant. There were personal experiences, reporters' accounts, political scientists' and economists' studies aplenty. They reflected their contemporary prejudice, but provided the indispensable base for systematic historical study. Many of them are today invaluable, bias and all, because they represent views quaintly devoid of the emphasis on terrorism as a prime mover, and Cold War psychology as a mirror, that dominated Soviet studies in the United States during the 1950's. The Cold War during that decade had such a tremendous effect on American opinion, both lay and scholarly, that it almost obliterated any but the most superficial picture of the USSR. The frame of reference was the conflict between good and evil (democracy vs. communism), the topical emphasis was narrow (the party or the terror), and the sources were poor (from lack of adequate opportunity to visit the USSR or to secure reliable published material from the USSR in quantity). For this reason it is well to begin with some of the works that created the picture of Soviet Russiabefore World War II, as backdrop for the postwar crop of works. Many newer works are open or tacit reactions, under new circumstances in the USSR, to the climate of opinion engendered by the earlier accounts.

The indispensable introduction to the history of Russia since 1917 is still William Henry Chamberlin's The Russian Revolution, 1917- . . .

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