Russia, Past and Present

Russia, Past and Present

Russia, Past and Present

Russia, Past and Present

Excerpt

This book owes its appearance to a decade-old desire to construct a topical rather than a strictly chronological design of Russian history. Years of teaching experience have convinced me that the American readers and college students who desire even a partial solution of the notorious "riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma" will benefit more by a topical rather than chronological approach to the vast and complex problem of Russia's historical background. In addition, I have endeavored to incorporate some of the cultural aspects of Russian history. Thus, the role of the Church, the part of the theater, literature, music, and painting were brought into the general picture. These were presented only in so far as they bore upon the course of history, and it is hoped that the chapters will be instrumental in the more successful interpretation of the Russian people.

This novel effort has been experimented with in classrooms, and, to my surprise and delight, the response of the students has been most heartening. It was this favorable reaction that gave me the first encouragement to undertake the present work. Throughout the entire period of preparation of my work I was guided by a single aim, to write objectively, without, however, allowing this objectivity to become a suffocating fetish, an escape from the responsibility of interpretation, or a fear of expressing conviction. Evaluations, controversial judgments, or even predictions I endeavored to present with the hope that these were not arbitrary, but disciplined and sufficiently substantiated.

From the very inception of this work to its completion the counsel of many of my colleagues as well as the stimulus derived from my teaching proved of inestimable value. The morass of dates and facts would have bogged me down had it not been for the enthusiastic research and participation of my students in seminar discussions; their consuming curiosity and uninhibited expression of opinions were important in the selection of the material as well as in its organization. To the legion of students with whom it was my privilege to work I owe genuine gratitude for their inspirational interest in the subject I am here presenting.

It is also a pleasure to express my belated thanks to the Social Science Research Council, which some ten years ago allowed me a Grant-in-Aid during the initial stages of this project. To Professor Michael Karpovich of Harvard University, who read the entire manuscript, I pay my deep respect for his magnificent, scholarly cooperation and total unselfishness . . .

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