Russia: THE STALIN-KAGANOVICH CORRESPONDENCE, 1931-36


One happy byproduct of the fall of communism was that the archives of the Soviet bloc were opened to researchers, who rejoiced. Less happy were individuals whose nefarious activities were now exposed. Of special importance was the cooperation, heavily funded by US foundations, between Russian archives and Yale University Press, which began producing the "Annals of Communism" series, collections of English translations of Russian documents. In Russia a more complete series in the original Russian appears. There is an American Editorial Committee (one of whose members is Stanford's Norman Naimark) and a Russian Editorial Committee, To date, fifteen volumes have appeared. Of special interest to Hispanists is the volume Spain Betrayed: the Soviet Union and the Spanish Civil War, which confirms the conclusions of Burnett Bolloten, who did not have access to these documents, Another volume is Stalin's Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936, which provides a prelude to the present volume, since Kaganovich took over some of Molotov's responsibilities in 1931.

The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1031-36 (Yale University Press, 2003, pp. 431) was compiled and edited by
a team of six, led by R. W. Davies, professor emeritus at the University of Birmingham, UK, The other members were E.A. Rees, professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Steven Shabad, a former associate editor of Newsweek, and three Russians, Oleg K.Khlevniuk, Ludmila P. Kosheleva, and Larisa A. Rogovaya. The Russian edition of this book contained 862 letters and ciphers. For the English edition, 177 of these have seen selected for translation. Who was Kaganovich? A commissar. Most of these documents are bureaucratic, dealing with details of administration. Who was Stalin? That is a more complex question, since there were several Stalins: the young cleric, the party member, the smug secretary general who spent much of the year basking in the Crimea, communicating with Kaganovitch and others in Moscow in longhand. and finally the odious dictator. These bureaucratic notes reveal what Stalin thought of other party members At the back of the book are brief biographies of the people mentioned. L. P. , Beria (1899-1953), first secretary if Georgia and then of the Transcaucasian Party, was executed in 1953. In 1932 Stalin had high praise for him, Poor Kaganovich committed suicide in 1941, having lost the favor of Stalin. Stalin changed, times changed.

For those interested un international affairs there are references to other countries and foreign personalities The volume covers the period of the Spanish republic and the outbreak of the civil war. Marcelino Pascua, whom I had known in Madrid before he became ambassador to Moscow in 1936, is dismissed in these letters as a menschevik He was described as being very pessimistic about the situation in Madrid. Details are given of the shipment of Soviet military equipment and arms to Spain. Upton Sinclair is described as having been hoodwinked by the film-maker Sergei Aizensteind (Eiosenstein), "a Trotyskyite if not worse", The way to read this volume is to take a person or theme. The index is good, but it omits a number of names mentioned in the text, and this hinders the search. This volume and indeed the whole series "Annals of Communism" make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the workings of the Soviet government, and we are duly grateful.