The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non- Russian Nationalities

The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non- Russian Nationalities

The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non- Russian Nationalities

The Great Friendship: Soviet Historians on the Non- Russian Nationalities

Excerpt

Writing on recent Soviet historiography involves inherent problems of organization and presentation. Since the historiographical upheaval which began in the 1930's, the Communist party's interference has been growing apace, but its directives are seldom specific and the dialogue between scholar and party theoretician is never candid. One can get only faint hints of the actual process by which the party demands are met. Thus the Western student of Soviet historiography is obliged to do a certain amount of speculation, and to involve himself in Soviet political developments in each period under consideration. It is not unusual to observe an interpretation changing under one's eyes, between the time research is done and the writing completed.

When a new interpretation is established and wins official favor, a number of related subjects come under scrutiny and must be reconciled with it. Ultimately the whole fabric of Soviet historical writing has been affected by the party's demands in a few areas. Because of the many facets of interpretation that are in a state of flux at a given time, it is almost impossible to describe the whole process. Perhaps this explains the unusual disjointedness of much that has been written in the West on the subject. Some of the works are collections of essays on a variety of subjects that are barely related (such as Rewriting Russian History, edited by C. E. Black, and Contemporary History in the Soviet Mirror, edited by John Keep). The one comprehensive work, Konstantin Shteppa's Russian Historians and the Soviet State, deals with such a bewildering assortment of subjects, authors, and views that the reader may frequently find himself at sea.

In this study I have adopted a novel organization which I hope will give as much coherence to the subject as the subject matter will permit. I have chosen one theme, which seems to me to be central in many of the historiographical controversies--the accommodation of historical interpretation to the exigencies of nationality policy--and have tried to describe the principal developments in the dialogue between party and scholar and the resulting changes.

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