William Henry Chamberlin | Soviet Russia: A Living Record and a History


SOVIET RUSSIA to-day is a tempting and difficult field for the foreign observer. The new Soviet social order, with its multiplicity of changes, political and economic, intellectual and moral, fairly challenges interpretation and analysis. At the same time, Russia's past isolation from many main currents of European historical and cultural development, the novel and unprecedented characteristics of the Soviet state, the new standards and values which the Revolution has brought, are all formidable obstacles in the way of formulating an unbiased and realistic judgment of the country's present condition and future prospects of development.

In preparing this book, which is the product of seven years' residence in Russia in the capacity of a journalist, I have tried to combine an impartial analysis of what has happened in Russia with an attitude of open-minded curiosity as to what may lie in the future. The French philosopher Remy de Gourmont once recommended the ideal of "seeing the six sides of the cube." Probably the cube represented by the Russian Revolution has more than six sides, and I am far from confident that I have seen all of them in accurate perspective. But I think I may maintain that such mistakes as time will doubtless reveal in my interpretation of the Soviet Union are without bias aforethought and are not the result of some preconceived dogmatic view of a movement which is still too young and too fluid to fit into any hard-and-fast classification.

I can hardly expect that my book will satisfy those extreme partisans in opposed controversial camps who regard Bolshevism as either the greatest calamity or the greatest blessing which ever befell mankind. I hope, however, that it may be of some service to those people who feel that an honest effort at understanding is a more useful form of approach to the complicated problem of the Russian Revolution than are rhetorical exercises in eulogy and denunciation.

While most of my stay in the Soviet Union has been spent in Moscow, I have also traveled extensively in the country, visiting almost all the large cities of European Russia, making one trip through the Soviet Republics of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and several times striking off the main-traveled roads and living for weeks at a time in the peasant villages of Central Russia, Ukraina, and the North Caucasus. The bibliography contains my main sources of reference material, which have been supplemented by travel and personal observation, interviews with officials, and talks with Russians of all classes and views.

While the book was, in the main, written independently of my journalistic work, I desire to express appreciation of the kindness of the editors of the Christian Science Monitorin permitting me to incorporate occasional excerpts from my correspondence, which originally appeared in that newspaper. Some chapters and parts of chapters have been published as magazine articles in the American periodicals, the Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, and the Yale Review, and in the Manchester Guardian Commercial.

I am glad to acknowledge the courtesy of the Press Department of the Soviet Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and of the Supreme Economic Council and the Commissariats for Agriculture and Trade in facilitating my investigations and supplying me with some special data, unobtainable in the Soviet daily and periodical press.

My greatest appreciation is due to my Russian-born wife, Sofia Mikhailovna, without whose devoted collaboration this work could never have come into being.

Moscow, September 15, 1929