The Maisky diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James’s 1932-43. Gabriel Gorodetsky, editor. (Yale University Press)
The terror and purges of Stalin's Russia in the 1930s discouraged Soviet officials from leaving documentary records let alone keeping personal diaries. A remarkable exception is the unique diary assiduously kept by Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to London between 1932 and 1943. This selection from Maisky's diary, never before published in English, grippingly documents Britain's drift to war during the 1930s, appeasement in the Munich era, negotiations leading to the signature of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, Churchill's rise to power, the German invasion of Russia, and the intense debate over the opening of the second front. His diary reveals the role personal rivalries within the Kremlin played in the formulation of Soviet policy at the time. Scrupulously edited and checked against a vast range of Russian and Western archival evidence, this extraordinary narrative diary offers a fascinating revision of the events surrounding the Second World War.
About the editor: Gabriel Gorodetsky is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and emeritus professor of history at Tel Aviv University. Read an exclusive Pushkin House interview with him here.
Stalin: new biography of a dictator. Oleg Khlevniuk, translated by Nora Seligman Favorov (Yale University Press)
Josef Stalin exercised supreme power in the Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. During that quarter-century, by Oleg Khlevniuk's estimate, he caused the imprisonment and execution of no fewer than a million Soviet citizens per year. Millions more were victims of famine directly resulting from Stalin's policies. What drove him toward such ruthlessness? This essential biography, by the author most deeply familiar with the vast archives of the Soviet era, offers an unprecedented, fine-grained portrait of Stalin the man and dictator. Without mythologizing Stalin as either benevolent or an evil genius, Khlevniuk resolves numerous controversies about specific events in the dictator's life while assembling many hundreds of previously unknown letters, memos, reports, and diaries into a comprehensive, compelling narrative of a life that altered the course of world history. At the book's conclusion, the author presents a cogent warning against nostalgia for the Stalinist era.
About the author: Oleg Khlevniuk is a leading research fellow at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences and senior research fellow at the State Archive of the Russian Federation. Read an exclusive Pushkin House interview with him here and with his translator here.
The Russian decision to mobilise in July 1914 may have been the single most catastrophic choice of the modern era. Some articulate, thoughtful figures around the Tsar understood Russia's fragility, and yet they were shouted down by those who were convinced that, despite Germany's patent military superiority, Russian greatness required decisive action. Russia's rulers thought they were acting to secure their future, but in fact - after millions of deaths and two revolutions - they were consigning their entire class to death or exile and their country to a uniquely terrible generations-long experiment under a very different regime.
The Russian annexation of Crimea was one of the great strategic shocks of the past twenty-five years. For many in the West, Moscow’s actions in early 2014 marked the end of illusions about cooperation, and the return to geopolitical and ideological confrontation. Russia, for so long a peripheral presence, had become the central actor in a new global drama. In this groundbreaking book, Bobo Lo analyses the broader context of the crisis by examining the interplay between Russian foreign policy and an increasingly anarchic international environment. He argues that Moscow’s approach to regional and global affairs reflects the tension between two very different worlds—the perceptual and the actual.
About the author: Bobo Lo is an associate fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House and an associate research fellow with the Russia and New Independent States Center at the French Institute of International Relations. Read an exclusive Pushkin House interview with him here.
Stalin and the struggle for supremacy in Eurasia. Alfred Rieber (Cambridge University Press)
This is a major new study of the successor states that emerged in the wake of the collapse of the great Russian, Habsburg, Iranian, Ottoman and Qing Empires and of the expansionist powers who renewed their struggle over the Eurasian borderlands through to the end of the Second World War. Surveying the great power rivalry between the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for control over the Western and Far Eastern boundaries of Eurasia, Alfred Rieber provides a new framework for understanding the evolution of Soviet policy from the Revolution through to the beginning of the Cold War. Paying particular attention to the Soviet Union, the book charts how these powers adopted similar methods to the old ruling elites to expand and consolidate their conquests, ranging from colonisation and deportation to forced assimilation, but applied them with a force that far surpassed the practices of their imperial predecessors.
About the author: Alfred J. Rieber spent thirty years as Professor of History and ten years as Chair at the University of Pennsylvania before moving to Budapest in 1995 to chair and reorganise the History Department at the Central European University. Read an exclusive Pushkin House interview with him here.
The end of the Cold War: 1985-1991. Robert Service (Pan Macmillan)
The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the spread of Perestroika throughout the former Soviet bloc was a sea change in world history and two years later resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In The End of the Cold War, Robert Service examines precisely how that change came about. Drawing on a vast and largely untapped range of sources, he builds a picture of the two men who spearheaded the breakthrough: Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, and Mikhail Gorbachev, last General Secretary of the Soviet Union and first and last President of the USSR. He also analyses the role of influential players not only in America and the USSR, but throughout Eastern and Western Europe, and focuses especially on Pope John Paul II, Lech Watesa and Vaclav Havel.