Brian Pearce

Short History

(Summer 1956)

From Anglo-Soviet Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2, Summer 1956.
Scanned and prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

R.D. Charques
A Short History of Russia
Phoenix House, 18s

Mr. R.D. Charques, the literary critic and translator of Fadeyev’s Razgrom (as The Nineteen), has written a short history of Russia in one slim volume, intended for the reader with little or no previous knowledge of the subject. The book is less than half the length of Sir Bernard Pares’ History of Russia; inevitably, as the author admits, he has had to condense his treatment of some aspects of the theme severely, notably foreign relations and economic history. One misses, too, the detailed accounts of significant episodes and pen-pictures of outstanding individuals, and the wealth of quotations from contemporary sources, that are characteristic of Pares’ book and enable the reader to perceive something of the colour and depth of Russian history.

Nevertheless, within the strict limits imposed by the book’s shortness, a very readable and instructive essay has been written, giving a clear general survey. The very brevity of the treatment may stimulate the reader’s desire to learn more — as, for example, when, writing of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries, Mr. Charques points out that ‘in some ways Kievan Russia reached a higher level of civilisation than was attained in these centuries in the West’. To some extent the need for compression causes the most important facts to stand out the more clearly: the significance of the two milliard francs French loan of April 1906 in enabling the Tsar to defy the Duma is unmistakable in Mr. Charques’ account, whereas it is easily overlooked in Pares’, for instance.

The list of his previously published works given by the author does not include The Soviets and the Next War (1932) or Profits and Politics (in collaboration, 1934). This is all the more regrettable in that the account of the Civil War and intervention following the Bolshevik Revolution which is included in A Short History of Russia neglects to consider some major facts that were dealt with in those earlier books. A reader of this latest of Mr. Charques’ works might be forgiven for getting the impression that Allied intervention began only after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, that the revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion was defensive in character, and that Allied intervention was only a secondary factor in the Civil War. Yet, when he wrote Profits and Politics, Mr. Charques knew about the ‘secret Franco-British arrangement drawn up a month or so after the Bolshevik seizure of power, for the division of a large part of European Russia into zones of influence’ (p. 221); in The Soviets and the Next War he wrote of how ‘the Czechoslovak battalions, commanded by counter-revolutionary officers and subsidised by the Allies, opened up the European attack on Bolshevism almost immediately after the November Revolution’ (p. 20); and in those days he acknowledged that it was ‘Allied armed intervention which alone gave the Civil War its continued impetus’ (Profits and Politics, p. 220).

Last updated on 6 June 2015