RUSSIA: HOPES AND FEARS by Alexander Werth


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In form and tone this series of apercus contrasts with its predecessor Russia at War, which reminded ""the West"" of the great costs of the decisive Soviet contribution to Hitler's defeat. Here Werth traces postwar scars and lauds postwar recovery: intellectual oppression is the last flaw in a system that ""on the whole has been an enormous success."" This view is at least franker than last season's look-they're-good-guys-now collages. And the book offers en passant the sort of data we got more drearily during the 50th Anniversary, about technocrats, housing, sexual mores, the demise of Lysenkoism, etc. But the information is presented with singular informality and sophistication: it's an awfully readable book. Werth's strong point is not his opinions on the Sino-Soviet conflict, the Czech invasion, or the Soviet ""welfare state."" It is his unAmerican intimacy with the country (as native and correspondent) and his intimacy with friends (including Ilya Ehrenburg) and acquaintances (including young Party members and a ""radical"" economist). This nonchalant intimacy also lends credence to his revisions of cliches--the position of Jews and African students and the distortions in Dallin's force-labor statistics for the Stalin era. Even if one is disposed to dismiss Werth as a decadent Briton or a hopeless Russophile, one will be well entertained; and for academics it's a near-mandatory antidote to solemn doom-or-devolution studies like Brzezinski's Dilemmas of Change in Soviet Politics (p. 703).

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1969
Publisher: Simon & Schuster