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Gabriel Gorodetsky talks about his new English edition (Yale University Press 2015) of the diaries of Ivan Maisky, Soviet Ambassador in London 1932-43, to John Thornhill, Deputy Editor of the Financial Times. With excerpts from the diaries read by Belka Productions' Oliver King, and archival photographs.  In English, followed by drinks.

Paul Kennedy, historian of international relations at Yale, has called Gorodetsky's new English edition 'really remarkable...perhaps the greatest political diary of the twentieth century'.  In the words of Niall Ferguson, the book is 'a fascinating, rich volume, brimming over with insights into two radically different worlds'.  Antony Beevor describes the book as 'not only a work of major historical importance.  It also provides an utterly fascinating view of Anglo-Soviet relations and British politics during the critical period of 1932 to 1943.'

Talk and Q&A 6.30pm - 8pm; drinks 8pm-9pm.

Throughout his career Ivan Maisky succeeded in walking a tightrope between maintaining his integrity as a professional diplomat and surviving the vagaries of Stalin’s regime. For almost a decade he served as ambassador in London. In this capacity he was able to witness and record the drift to war throughout the 1930s: appeasement, culminating in the Munich Agreement, the negotiations on the signature of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the battle for Britain, Churchill’s rise to power and the events leading to the German invasion of Russia, as well as the forging of the Grand Alliance and the major debate between the Allies concerning the opening of the second front and the post war arrangements. Maisky's fluent command of several European languages permitted him to move easily in societal circles and made him highly popular with both the diplomatic communities and top politicians of all persuasions. It was this popularity which spared his life during the Moscow purges, despite the fact that he had been a devout Menshevik before joining the Bolshevik party after the revolution. Maisky laboriously recorded the frequent conversations which he held with a wide range of prominent British politicians among them Neville Chamberlain, Lord Halifax, Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill. He also left candid and insightful records of meetings with Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs and other prominent Soviet diplomats and politicians.  

Gabriel Gorodetsky is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and emeritus professor of history at Tel Aviv University. In 2010 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Russian State University for the Humanities. After obtaining his doctorate in Russian studies from Oxford University he served as a Professor of Russian studies at Tel Aviv University, where he founded and was a director of the Cummings Center for Russian Studies, 1989-2005. Prof Gorodetsky had been a visiting fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, the Wilson Center, Washington DC, the Rockefeller Bellagio Research Center, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and the Institute for Advanced Study, Freiburg. Professor Gorodetsky has published widely on Soviet foreign policy in the interwar period and the Second World War. Among his leading publications are The Precarious Truce: Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1924-1927, Stafford Cripps' Mission to Moscow, 1940-1942, Mif ledolkola published in Moscow in 1995, and Grand Delusion: Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia, published also in French, German, Russian and Hebrew.

John Thornhill has been the Deputy Editor at the Financial Times since 2012. He was appointed Financial Times’ News Editor, based in London on the main news desk, in January 2009. Prior to this he spent four years in Paris as the Editor of the European edition of the Financial Times. He was in Moscow for the FT from 1994-2000.


Oliver King trained as an actor at Drama Centre London and The Boris Schukin Theatre School in Moscow. His film credits include Genius (2015) & Florence Foster Jenkins (2015), on which he also worked as a crowd acting coach. His theatre credits include A Warsaw MelodyLook Look (Arcola Theatre), Cymbeline (Shakespeare’s Globe), Billy Budd (Southwark Playhouse), Sunstroke (Platform Theatre) & Northanger Abbey (Upstairs at the Gatehouse). King also works as a producer and is the founding director of Belka Productions . His producing credits include Three SistersUncle Vanya (Wyndham's), Donkey Heart (Trafalgar Studios), A Dashing FellowAn Imaginary Circus (New Diorama), Tied to You (Pushkin House), Piranha Heights (Old Red Lion), and Mary PostgateHansel & Gretel(Edinburgh Festival).