Russia in War and Revolution: General William V. Judson's Accounts from Petrograd, 1917-1918

Russia in War and Revolution: General William V. Judson's Accounts from Petrograd, 1917-1918

Russia in War and Revolution: General William V. Judson's Accounts from Petrograd, 1917-1918

Russia in War and Revolution: General William V. Judson's Accounts from Petrograd, 1917-1918


General William V. Judson was Military Attache and Chief of the American Military Mission in Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. His letters, memoranda, and reports constitute one of the most informed eye-witness accounts of war and revolutionary conditions under the Provisional and Bolshevik Governments of Russia after the February Uprising and abdication of Czar Nicholas II, and shed light on the initiation of U.S. -- Soviet relations.

Judson's overriding task was to keep Russia in the war against Germany. His official communications pay particular attention to the organization and battle-readiness of the Russian Army. Published here for the first time is Judson's documentation of his December 1, 1917, meeting with Trotsky, the first official face-to-face discussions between a leader of the Bolshevik government and a diplomatic representative of the U.S. government. Notable as well in this volume are Judson's analyses of the role of the Soviet of Workers' Deputies and the KornilovUprising. The collection concludes with some of his observations on revolutionary Russia and U.S. -- Soviet relations after his return to the States in February 1918.

Judson was convinced of the necessity of direct discussions and negotiations between the U.S. and the Trotsky-Lenin government following the Revolution. However, President Wilson and the three Republican administrations that succeeded him chose a different course. The publication of these papers will contribute to our understanding of both the Revolution and the American struggle to find an appropriate policy to guide relations with Bolshevik Russia.


In his capacity as military attaché, General Judson should have reported to the United States government on political subjects only through the Ambassador, or at least with his knowledge and approval. In his capacity as chief of the Military Mission in time of war, he had a responsibility to report directly to the Secretary of War on anything he chose.

-- GEORGE KENNAN, Russia Leaves the War

This collection will provide Judson's eyewitness analyses of conditions under the Provisional Government, beginning in June 1917, three months after the February Uprising had resulted in the abdication of Czar Nicholas II. In chapters 2 and 3 we see how Judson carefully examined the area of his professional expertise: the organization and battlereadiness of the Russian army. He was particularly concerned about the breakdown in the command structure and discipline in the Russian army in the wake of the reforms and "democratization" that had followed the czar's abdication. Judson meticulously reported on all political developments since these affected the prosecution of the war, the most fiercely debated issue facing the Russians after the fall of the Romanov Dynasty. He analyzed the important and growing role of the Soviet of Workers' (later, Workers' and Soldiers') Deputies and, likewise, the influence of the Bolsheviks within their ranks through the summer and fall of 1917. Our understanding of the Kornilov Uprising is enhanced by our looking through the lens Judson provides. Gen. Kornilov's coup to overthrow the second Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky (9-13 September 1917) was a key event, not only in the faltering evolution of Russia's first experiment with democratic government, but in her fragile relations with her British, French, and U.S. wartime allies.

The major focus of this collection, as seen in chapters 4 and 5, will be the Bolshevik seizure of power and the U.S. response to the unfolding events in Soviet Russia; however, to understand Judson himself and his . . .

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