PUTTING UP WITH THE RUSSIANS: Commentary and Criticism, 1947-84 by Edward Crankshaw

PUTTING UP WITH THE RUSSIANS: Commentary and Criticism, 1947-84

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Drawn mostly from articles and reviews in the London Observer, with a few pieces from the New York Times and other sources, this selection of minor work by correspondent and historian Crankshaw (Shadow of the Winter Palace) is dedicated to the proposition stated in the title. The Soviets are here to stay; and while it is prudent to muscle up to Moscow occasionally, it is folly to pretend that the USSR is either an aberration, a mistake that can be undone, or a uniquely monstrous regime with which other nations must deal in a special way. Crankshaw has been saying that for a long time (as has George Kennan), and this anthology is spurred in part by the Reagan Administration's dedication to opposing principles. The selections include one, from 1948, on the gross inefficiency of Russian actions--illustrated by a riotous shipboard scene in which a corpse is used as a battering ram, the entirely predictable accidental drowning of a horse, and the various forms of forced labor Crankshaw apparently encountered everywhere. The Russian people are survivors, Crankshaw says; generous when they have food to eat, but ruthless in pursuit of crumbs when they have none. A 1951 piece disputes the view that Stalin's rule exemplified the effective use of propaganda. Some Kremlin propaganda was effective, Crankshaw says, notably word that threats to peace came from the West (being peace-loving, the Russian people assumed this to be true); but Stalin's power rested on the secret police, still. In the middle Sixties, Crankshaw warmed to Nikita Khrushchev--for moving the USSR toward a stable foreign policy and holding to ""peaceful coexistence"" even at the cost of the alliance with China. The post-Khrushchev leadership, he says, is chained to the past, to a Stalinist vision that would ruin the country if seriously pursued. And that is his main theme: the USSR is ruled by old men without vision, greedy for power, and yet insecure. The Soviets moved into Afghanistan because no one blocked or stopped them (as the British once had); they would not move into Poland, Crankshaw wrote in 1980, because that would bring down their own roof. Kremlin Man, as he calls the species, is sometimes overtaken by his own lies, and it is up to others to snap him out of it; but bombastic threats and ideological warfare won't do it. Occasional pieces, yet timely still.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Viking