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E. H. Cart is justly famous among scholars and students for his four-part, multi-volume History of Soviet Russia, among other writings. This short volume is a distillation of his great work styled for general readers, and the sacrifices entailed in the shrinkage are substantial. Carr's big history has one great virtue--its scope; no one else has covered so much of Soviet history from 1917 to 1929 as one continuous process of revolution ""from above."" The big flaw in his work, however, is in its stubborn concentration on history ""from above""; i.e., on narrow political, economic, and diplomatic history at the expense of less visible social forces. The Russian Revolution loses the virtue of the long work and exaggerates the weakness. Cut down to less than 200 pages, Carr's survey appears trivial, since very little goes beyond accepted knowledge or interpretation. His chapter on 1917 centers on Lenin, and the usual group of prominent Bolsheviks dominates thereafter through the usual narrative of the main phases in the Soviet history of the period; War Communism, NEP, the defeat by Stalin of the Opposition, collectivization of agriculture, etc. The only novelty of sorts for a book of this length is Cart's treatment of the genesis of Soviet socioeconomic planning--a feature of his full history as well--and its general impact on a depression-ridden world. For the rest, there is the insistence on the Achilles' heel of Russian agriculture and the virtual necessity of crash industrialization, as well as the refusal to see Stalin as Lenin's direct descendant; and, lacking in-depth treatment, these and other familiar features of Carr's interpretation appear as clich‚s. This is itself ironic testament to Cart's influence, since much of what now passes for standard in the field originated in Carr's big work. Rather than showing off his synthetic talents, this volume accentuates Cart's most archaic qualities.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan