Arthur Ransome History Archive

Russia in 1919

Transcription/Markup: Joseph Gallanar / Brian Baggins
Online Version: Project Gutenberg (1998); Arthur Ransome History Archive ( 2000

This book describes the economic, social and political situation Arthur Ransome saw during his visit to Russia in February and March of 1919. Underlining the description of these events is the wrenching famine in Russia caused by the Civil War. In this work Ransome interviews several prominent members of the Soviet government as well as ordinary citizens of Soviet Russia.

While Ransome’s support of the Soviet society is evident in his critical but encouraging look at this new government struggling through a civil war, what is not evident is that Arthur Ransome was a British Secret agent working with MI6! (Biography) Nevertheless, in some ways this only increases the historical value of this work; being an apolitical individual in the search for information.

Note that the author refers to dates before 1918 in the European, not Russian, sense. Before 1918 Russia used the Julian calendar. After 1918 the Soviet government switched Russia to the Gregorian calendar. Thus, when the author refers to the March revolution, in Russia it was the February revolution; and similarly when he refers to the November revolution, in Russia it was the October revolution.


To Petrograd
Petrograd to Moscow
First Days in Moscow
The Executive Committee on the Reply to the Prinkipo Proposal
Kamenev and the Moscow Soviet
An Ex-Capitalist
A Theorist of Revolution
Effects of Isolation
An Evening at the Opera
The Committee of State Constructions
The Executive Committee and the Terror
Notes of Conversations with Lenin
The Supreme Council of Public Economy
The Race with Ruin
A Play of Chekhov
The Centro–Textile
Modification in the Agrarian Programme
Foreign Trade and Munitions of War
The Proposed Delegation from Berne
The Executive Committee on the Rival Parties
Commissariat of Labour
A Bolshevik Fellow of the Royal Society
The Opposition
The Third International
Last Talk with Lenin
The Journey Out

Publisher's Note

On August 27, 1914, in London, I made this note in a memorandum book: “Met Arthur Ransome at_____’s; discussed a book on the Russian’s relation to the war in the light of psychological background – folklore.” The book was not written but the idea that instinctively came to him pervades his every utterance on things Russian.

The versatile man who commands more than respect as the biographer of Poe and Wilde; as the (translator of and commentator on Remy de Gourmont; as a folklorist, has shown himself to be consecrated to the truth. The document that Mr. Ransome hurried out of Russia in the early days of the Soviet government (printed in the New Republic and then widely circulated as a pamphlet), was the first notable appeal from a non-Russian to the American people for fair play in a crisis understood then even less than now.

The British Who’s Who – that Almanach de Gotha of people who do things or choose their parents wisely – tells us that Mr. Ransome’s recreations are “walking, smoking, fairy stories.” It is, perhaps, his intimacy with the last named that enables him to distinguish between myth and fact and that makes his activity as an observer and recorder so valuable in a day of bewilderment and betrayal.

B. W. H.

Last updated on: 3.10.2008