Ivan Maisky was the Soviet Union's Ambassador to Great Britain from 1932 to 1943. An outstanding Ambassador, in many ways ahead of his time, Maisky was distinguished by his sociability and access to key players in British public life, in the Foreign Office (Vansittart), politicians (including Churchill, Lloyd George, Chamberlain, Eden, and Halifax), press barons (Beaverbrook), ambassadors (Joseph Kennedy), intellectuals (Keynes, Sidney and Beatrice Webb), writers (George Bernard Shaw, H.G.Wells), and indeed royalty. (with acknowledgement to Yale University Press). He claimed to be on friendly terms with some 500 people. A lifelong compulsive diarist, a dangerous pastime in the Stalinist era when such activity was officially banned, his complete diaries run to some one thousand and five hundred full pages. Like his Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maksim Litvinov, Ivan Maisky campaigned ceaselessly for collective security, seeking to harmonise Anglo-French-Soviet policy against Nazi Germany. Sadly, Chamberlin and others preferred to appease Nazi Germany. The USSR's response was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
'Astonishing! Really remarkable .... Perhaps the greatest political diary of the twentieth century'. Professor Paul Kennedy, author in 1990 of "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1500-2000)"
In 1993, when Gabriel Gorodetsky was working in the Library of the Russian Foreign Ministry on a joint Russian-Israeli research project, he sought information on Maisky's involvement in the USSR's decision to support the partition of Palestine in 1947. The archivist emerged from the stacks with Maisky's voluminous diary for the eventful year of 1941. "No personal document of such breadth, value and size had emerged from the Soviet archives to throw fresh light on the Second World War and its origins. Flipping through the volume, I was struck by its immediacy and frankness, by Maisky's astute and penetrating insights, and by his superb prose" (Gorodetsky). The diaries were translated into English by Tatiana Sorokina and Oliver Ready, and Professor Gorodetsky spent more than ten years editing these diaries. Inaccessible for decades, Maisky's diaries are the sole Soviet record of the dangerous 1930s.
Gabriel Gorodetsky is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Emeritus Professor of History at Tel Aviv University, having also held fellowships at St. Antony's College, Oxford, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. In 2010 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Russian State University in Moscow. Among his books are Stafford Cripps' Mission to Moscow, 1940-1942 (1984), Russia Between East & West: Russian Foreign Policy on the Threshold of the 21st Century (2003) and Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia (Yale, 1999).
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