Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Translator's Introduction

In contrast to the enormous literature on that most controversial of all subjects of the early postwar period, the Cold War, Soviet internal affairs have received relatively meager attention. What we know of them is little more than a litany of several chiefly ominous events: the forced repatriation of reluctant Soviet military and civilian personnel from Central Europe at the end of the Second World War, the infamous Leningrad Affair (purge) of 1949, the Nineteenth Party Congress of November 1952, and the even more infamous Doctors' Plot of early 1953. 1 As Alexander Werth (who was there) observed, it is "the most unexplored period in the whole history of the Soviet Union." 2 In one of the few respectable, if dated, textbooks of the period, Roger Pethybridge agrees: "The last stage of Stalin's rule is as difficult to interpret as any period in the Middle Ages."3 These two authors were long among the leading authorities on the subject, yet both were com- pelled to devote the bulk of their accounts to foreign affairs, as there was simply insufficient information on Soviet internal affairs.

If any part of this opaque picture has been more obscure than the whole, it is public opinion. When I told colleagues and Russian émigrés that I was translating a book on Soviet public opinion, their nearly invariable response was incredulous: Was there such a thing? they asked.

Fortunately, we now have a substantial remedy for this sad state of affairs. The work of Elena Zubkova is, in the literal sense of an oft abused word, unique. She is bold enough to attack these two difficult facets--public opinion and the high tide of Stalinism--of this doubly obscure subject at once. If some of her discoveries confirm our expectations, most of them are new and informative. The merest sampler of her subject matter illustrates the point:

-vii-

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