Inside the Enigma: British Officials in Russia, 1900-1939

Overview

The twentieth century has been fundamentally shaped by changes in Russia, where disaster in the First World War was followed by the fall of the Tsar. Nicholas II's replacement first by Kerensky's liberal government then by the Bolsheviks, and the subsequent Civil War and foreign intervention, led to the erection of a system of state tyranny previously unthought of. The Bolshevik regime, with its ideological hatred of other regimes, was a threat to the west where developments in ...

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Overview

The twentieth century has been fundamentally shaped by changes in Russia, where disaster in the First World War was followed by the fall of the Tsar. Nicholas II's replacement first by Kerensky's liberal government then by the Bolsheviks, and the subsequent Civil War and foreign intervention, led to the erection of a system of state tyranny previously unthought of. The Bolshevik regime, with its ideological hatred of other regimes, was a threat to the west where developments in Russia were watched with both horror and fascination.

Britain's information about this series of extraordinary events, and about what might be about to happen next, was largely dependent on the small number of British officials, mainly diplomats, posted in Russia.

Inside the Enigma gives us a view from an unusual and privileged angle of the history of Russia between the turban of the century and the beginning of the Second World War. The discomforts and privations suffered by British officials were matched by their frustration. Impenetrable Tsarist court intrigue was replaced by a wall of disinformation and suspicion after the Bolshevik seizure of power. Nevertheless, what they saw and reported makes remarkable reading.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781852851606
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 11/1/2003
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Diplomats and Russia
there will be a catastrophe
drawing near the end
a scene of extraordinary disorder
robbery and murder
the worst horrors of history
a very ordinary bureaucracy
a grotesque vision of life.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Fine study of the British ruling class's hatred for the USSR

    This illuminating book reveals the sheer class hatred of successive cadres of British officials towards the Soviet Union. The British Embassy backed the reactionary Stolypin, who was Prime Minister from 1906 to 1911. In July 1917 the British Ambassador “contacted the [Russian] Foreign Minister to ask that the government should take advantage of the situation to crush the Bolsheviks once and for all.” The Ambassador told the British Foreign Office, “normal conditions cannot be restored without bloodshed and the sooner we get it over the better.” The British Embassy was ‘involved in an extraordinary scheme, organised by Colonel Keyes and General Poole, to take control of a number of Russian banks in order to use them to channel funds to the counter-revolutionary movement in south Russia’. The Embassy was ‘responsible for channelling money to the nascent anti-Bolshevik forces in the south’, led by General Kolchak. The British Military Mission had to admit that Kolchak’s troops ‘had undoubtedly been guilty of atrocities’ against the civilian population. The British government sent troops and armed, funded and propagandised to aid the counter-revolution. As E. H. Carr wrote, “it is no longer possible for any sane man to regard the campaigns of Kolchak, Yudenich, Denikin and Wrangel otherwise than as tragic blunders of colossal dimensions. They were monuments of folly in conception and of incompetence in execution; they cost, directly and indirectly, hundreds of thousands of lives; and, except in so far as they may have increased the bitterness of the Soviet rulers against the ‘white’ Russians and the Allies who half-heartedly supported them, they did not deflect the course of history by a single hair’s breadth.” The Whites lost ‘because no individual or group among them managed to attract any genuine measure of popular support’. As Hughes acknowledges, “the events of 1917 had transformed Russia for ever, making it difficult to impose order by force on a population that relished its new economic and political freedoms.”

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