Modern History of the Arab Countries. Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky 1969


Modern History of the Arab Countries by the prominent Arabist Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky (1906-1962), one of the Soviet Union’s leading specialists in modern Arab history, was published after the author’s death.

His book is the first attempt in Russian or Soviet literature to write a systematic history of the Arabs in modern times. Lutsky set about studying the modern history of the Arab countries as an independent historical discipline in the thirties. An enthusiast wholly dedicated to his subject, he was never afraid to blaze new trails and is rightly regarded as the founder of the Soviet school of Arab historians.

The Russian classical Orientalists of pre-revolutionary days showed no great interest in modern Arab history. Journalists, diplomats and military men referred to Arab history only in connection with the Eastern Question or the European Powers’ colonial policy. Despite their importance to Russian scholarship even such impressive works as K. M. Bazili’s Syria and Palestine Under Turkish Government (in Russian) and A. Adamov’s Arab Iraq and the Basra Vilayet in Its Past and Present (in Russian) are no more than essays on the history of individual Arab countries.

In Soviet times many interesting articles and monographs dealing with the history of the Arab countries and, in particular, Egypt, Syria, the Sudan and Arabia, have been published. None of these works, however, set out to provide a coherent and systematic account of Arab history at the turn of the 19th century. Nor do any of them give an overall picture of the history and development of the Arab world and its place and role in modern times.

The absence of Russian historical traditions, the relatively limited amount of literature on the subject and the fact that many cardinal problems of Arab history have been little studied both in Russian and foreign literature were bound to have its effect on Lutsky’s book. Some of its chapters and sections lack development. There is, for example, no section on the social and economic history of Morocco, which remains a blank in world history to this day. At times Lutsky only gives outlines and reference points where further research and concrete details are needed. But this does not detract from the significance of his work as the first attempt to systematise and generalise modern Arab history.

Lutsky writes from the Marxist-Leninist point of view. He sharply criticises the European Powers’ colonial policy and regards their presence in the East as an evil.

His book is inspired by a warm and deeply felt affection for the Arab peoples, enthusiasm for their struggle to free themselves from the Turkish pashas and European colonialists, and belief in the Arab peoples’ future and in their ability to choose their own way of life.

Lutsky’s book is the result of much hard and painstaking , work. In its present form it consists of a series of lectures that took several years to prepare. In 1936, he began lecturing at Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies, at Moscow University and at many other higher schools of learning. Some of his lectures appear as independent chapters in the textbook Modern History of the Colonial and Dependent Countries, Moscow, 1940 (in Russian). Later Lutsky considerably expanded his university lecture course.

The present book is the fullest available version of the series of lectures delivered by Lutsky at Moscow University between 1949 and 1953. Unfortunately, no verbatim report of this series of lectures was made. The book was therefore compiled from the verbatim report of lectures delivered in previous years, which were revised and expanded by referring to synopses from Lutsky’s own archives and to students’ notes. Since there was no verbatim report of the lecture on the French conquest of Algeria, Chapter XIII is based on Chapter XI of Modern History of the Colonial and Dependent Countries, which was contributed by Lutsky. Certain other sections of this book, in particular, Chapters X and XXII, were also used in preparing the Modern History of the Arab Countries.

Chapter XIX (The Mahdist State in East Sudan), Chapter XX (Algeria in 1870-1914) and Chapter XXVII (The Arab Countries in the First World War 1914-18) were prepared for publication by R. G. Landa, Chapter IV (Palestine, Syria and Iraq at the Beginning of the 19th Century), Chapter IX (Lebanon, Syria and Palestine in the Period of the Tanzimat) and Chapter XXIV (Syria, Palestine and Iraq at the End of the 19th Century) by I. M. Smilyanskaya. Material prepared by M. S. Lazarev was used for Chapters XXV and XXVII.

N. Ivanov