MIA: History: USSR: Histories and First-Hand Accounts

Writers on the History of Marxism


With the Russians in Peace and War: Recollections of a Military Attaché, Col. F. A. Wellesley
1871-1905: Wellesley recollects his observations of his time as a British Military Attaché in Russia, with attention to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.

The Story of My Life, Georgy Gapon
1905: Gapon was a Russian Orthodox priest and head of a police-organized labor union. In this memoir he recounts his participation in the events that helped spark the 1905 Revolution, including those leading up to, during, and following "Bloody Sunday".

Twenty Years in Underground Russia: Memoirs of a Rank-and-File Bolshevik, Cecilia Bobrovskaya
1905-15: Bobrovskaya recollects her radicalization as a young worker in Warsaw, and her years of underground work in Europe and Russia until the time of the first World War. It includes her brushes with Marxists such as Lenin, Krupskaya and Zasulich, her many arrests and imprisonments, events surrounding the 1905 struggle, and the difficulties in printing illegal papers and getting information to the workers.

War and Revolution in Russia: Sketches and Studies, John Pollock
1915- September 1917: The observations of a minor British aristocrat and journalist during his time in Poland and Russia as chief commissioner of the Great Britain to Poland and Galicia Fund under the Russian Red Cross. His account ends on the eve of the October Revolution.

Ten Days that Shook the World, John Reed
October 16-25,1917: In this classic book on the revolution, U.S. reporter John Reed describes the ten days leading up to the Russian Revolution; ten days that forever changed the path of workers' revolutions and aspirations to follow.

Through the Russian Revolution, Albert Rhys Williams
1917: In this classic book on the revolution, U.S. reporter Albert Rhys Williams describes what he witnessed during the events leading up to and following the October Revolution.

Under Cossack and Bolshevik, Rhoda Power
1917:  In 1917 Power became governess to the daughter of a business family in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, where she became caught up in the October Revolution. The American edition was published under the more lurid title of Under the Reign of Bolshevik Terror.

The First Days of Revolution in Petrograd, M. A. Oudin
1917:  Text of a talk before The Fortnightly Club, of Schenectady, New York, USA. The author endeavors to bring to the minds of his audience "a picture of Petrograd during the first stirring days of the coup which overthrew a dynasty and gave to an astonished and inexperienced people the unexpected problem of how to govern an Empire."

Six Red Months in Russia: An Observer's Account of Russia Before and During the Proletarian Dictatorship, Louise Bryant
1918: American journalist and historian chronicles the Soviet Revolution from the ground up, detailing events that both moved the nation, and those that changed families, the new role of women in society, and the lives of children.

Tales of Sub-Lieutenant Ilyin, F.F. Raskolnikov
1918: Seven stories from the Russian Civil War by Red Navy leader Raskolnikov. They include the tale of his capture and imprisonment by the British, and of his subsequent seizure of Enzeli, the last British garrison on the Caspian Sea.

The Socialist Soviet Republic of Russia, Its Rise and Organisation, Jacques Sadoul
1918: First part of a letter written by the French government's official agent in Russia to politicians in France describing the situation in Russia. Sadoul had developed a deep sympathy for revolutionary Russia and opposed Allied intervention against it.

Russia in 1919, Arthur Ransome
Feb-Mar 1919: This book describes the economic, social and political situation he 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.

A Great Beginning, Vladimir Lenin
June 19, 1919: In this account Lenin describes the tasks being made throughout the country to rebuild itself during the wrenching famine and Civil War. Lenin describes the "Communist Subbotniks" who are rebuilding the nation in peace, while he also describes the heroic efforts of the workers in the rear, those workers and peasants living under the domination of the white armies.

From a Russian Diary, 1917-1920, An Englishwoman
1921: Passages from the diary of an anonymous Englishwoman living in Russia when Revolution broke out. During the time period covered by the diary she lived with a family of the minor nobility and worked as a provincial school teacher.  Hers is a critical and unsympathetic view of the revolution and the Bolsheviks, but her diary illuminates the hardships the country faced as a result of the Civil War on a day-to-day basis.

What I saw in Russia, George Lansbury
1920: A description of Russia through the eyes a socialist journalist for London's Daily Herald, who in February 1920 traveled to Russia, where he met Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders. He shows the effects of the Allied military intervention and economic blockade of Russia.

Crisis in Russia, Arthur Ransome
Summer 1920: Coming back a year after his last visit, British reporter Arthur Ransome examines in detail the government apparatus of the Soviet system. He emphasizes the background of the World War and the Civil War to follow which caused economic collapse, and on this basis describes the actions of the Soviet institutions. Among the issues he explains are the communist dictatorship, trade unions, communist propaganda, and non-partyism.

Pen Pictures of Russia Under the "Red Terror" (Reminiscences of a surreptitious journey to Russia to attend the Second Congress of the Third International), John S. Clarke
1920: Impressions from socialist journalist John S. Clarke of his time in Russia while attending the 2nd Congress of the Comintern.  The "Red Terror" in the title is either ironic or was perhaps a publisher's flourish.

"Barbarous Soviet Russia", Isaac McBride
1920: Impressions of an American correspondent of a five-week fact-finding journey through Soviet Russia, principally along the Western Front and in Moscow, where he had an interview with Lenin. The book ends with over 100 pages of appendices on legislation, labor unions, agriculture, statistics, and more.

The Soviet System at Work, Robert Williams
1920: Articles by a member of a British Labour Party delegation detailing his impressions from a visit  to Russia, including a visit with Lenin.

How the Soviets Work, H. N. Brailsford
1920,1927: A critical description of the positives and negatives of the grass-roots councils empowered by the revolution. Much of this material is drawn from 1920 and qualified by his visit in 1927.

My Disillusionment in Russia, Emma Goldman
1921-22: American anarchist Emma Goldman travels to Russia for the first time in 30 years. She provides a revealing picture of rampant opportunism throughout the Soviet government and its steady roots throughout the bureaucracy. Goldman explains life in Soviet Russia from the viewpoint of Russian anarchists who wanted to abolish all government right away, and she charts the undemocratic injustices that occur to them as a result.

The First Time in History, Anna Louise Strong
August 1921 to December, 1923: A bottom-up description of the bitter difficulties and challenges faced by the Soviet people, with descriptions of the famine and disease that swept the land during the Civil War. She continues on to provide a general overview of Soviet society during the NEP.

Children of Revolution, Anna Louise Strong
1925: Story of the John Reed Children's Colony on the Volga, which is "as well a story of the whole great structure of Russia."

Year One of the Russian Revolution, Victor Serge
1925-1928: Victor Serge, a former anarchist who supported the revolution, the achievement of Socialism and the gains of the Russian working class. The author notes what he sees as signs of  decline and failure of the revolution within the first year, as opposed to the more common views of 1921, 1927, 1936, 1952, etc, being the year when the revolution 'failed'.

Soviet Russia: Some random sketches impressions, Jawaharlal Nehru
1928: Collection of articles by Indian independence movement leader, and later Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, on his impressions of Russia from a visit in November 1927 to attend the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution.

Soviet Russia: A living history, William Henry Chamberlin
1929: One of the least biased and most balanced accounts of the Soviet Union one can find, this author traveled throughout the country interviewing Soviet citizens on various questions. This exposition also occurs at the advent of an epoch changing process: Collectivization of agriculture. Thus, one can get an exact idea of Soviet society before this process, and the attitudes of the peasantry as the policy was just beginning to be implemented.

History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky
1930: In this tremendous work of three volumes, a decade later Leon Trotsky describes the events leading up to the october revolution. He deals with the Romanov dynasty, the February Revolution which overthrew it, the turmoil and events in the life of the Provisional Government, and finally, the events of the October Revolution.

Golden Days of Soviet Russia, Adolf Carl Noé
1931: Reminiscences from the author's 1927 trip to Soviet Russia and the Donbass as a mining geologist for an American commission engaged by the Soviet state-owned Donetz Basin Coal Corporation. No's impressions are not limited to mining but encompass notes on economy, industry, philosophy, religion, country life, etc.

America's Siberian Adventure (1918-1920), U.S. General William S. Graves
1931: 'Most of the nations having armed forces in Siberia were too much occupied at home to pay very much attention to what went on around Lake Baikal. As a consequence, their military commanders were left largely free to determine questions of political policy and if General Oi or General Knox conceived the notion that, by taking advantage of some new development, they could make a bold stroke in behalf of the Allied cause, and, incidentally, further the commercial and territorial aspirations which their governments ought, in their opinion, to entertain, it is not to be wondered at. Indeed, there is evidence in General Graves' book that even in the United States similar ideas every now and then took root in official minds.'

Two Weeks by Train, Phil Malkin
1931: The diary of a Canadian who visited Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine in May 1931.

Protection of Women and Children in Soviet Russia, Alice Withrow Field
1932: "The social status of Soviet women and children in the years 1929 and 1931. The problem involved primarily a thorough research in the means of allowing women and mothers to maintain an economic and social position equivalent to that of men... this book will deal solely with what is being done for women and children in Moscow and its environs, with only an occasional reference to other localities where I can be sure that my statements are true and fact.

Soviet Main Street, Myra Page
1933: 'Anna Krasinova's hoarse voice rushes across the hall. "Is our union paying enough attention to women workers? Why, hasn't the factory committee seen to it that the new nursery is open long before this? We got to have more places to put our kids."....Before us still glows the scarlet runner which had hung over the club stage: "Our Trade Unions are Training Schools in Communism."'

Red Medicine: Socialized Health in Soviet Russia, Sir Arthur Newsholme , K.C.B.,M.D. and John Adams Kingsbury, LL.D.
1933: "The former hospitals for the rich are now devoted primarily to the workers, and their accommodation has been greatly increased. New hospitals for general and special diseases have been built; and the poorest in the land have the advantage, in every department of medicine, of skilled aid in need. The cure places, furthermore, are used by the entire population, and patients from every part of Russia are sent to them. Thus efficiency and universality of medical aid have succeeded a system under which medical care could be secured only by the wealthy, or by the fortunate few among the workers who could gain admission to a good hospital."

I Saw Russia: Socialism in the Making, Meta Verger
1936: Report of a visit to Soviet Russia by Meta Verger, as the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers' representative on a Workers' Delegation invited to the 1935 May Day celebrations. The author was an old time member of the US Socialist Party and member of the Milwaukee School Board.

A Visit to Russia: A Report of the Durham Miners on their Visit to the U.S.S.R., Durham Miners Association
1937: Report by a delegation of British miners on a 1936 visit to the USSR to investigate for themselves whether the efforts being made, and the possibilities, of Russia founding a Socialist State in the midst of a hostile capitalist world were successful or otherwise.

Russia With Our Own Eyes, British Workers' Delegation
1950: Report by a delegation of British workers on a 1950 visit to the USSR, with accounts of visits to mines, factories, collective farms.

Quakers Visit Russia, Kathleen Lonsdale
1952: Account of how seven Quakers, appointed by the Executive Committee of the Religious Society of Friends in Great Britain, came to travel to the USSR in 1951 and of what they did and witnessed while there. In the text the members of the group speak for themselves, much of it having been taken from diaries or letters written at the time of the visit or shortly thereafter.

Soviet Snapshots: Trouble Brewing in the USSR?, H. S.
1988: Account by a West German Maoist of her observations during a trip through the USSR and of her discussions with workers and youth in Moscow, Leningrad, Tbilisi, Baku, and Piatigorsk, during what turned out to be the twilight days of the Soviet Union.