THE SECRET BETRAYAL 1944-1947 by Nikolai Tolstoy

THE SECRET BETRAYAL 1944-1947

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Long suppressed, the post-WW II forced repatriation of Soviet citizens and Russian ÉmigrÉs was first widely revealed in Nicholas Bethell's recent concise history, The Last Secret, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. Now Nikolai Tolstoy assembles the most detailed account yet of the diplomatic, military, and human aspects of this episode. Violently opposed to repatriation were thousands of POWs dishonored by surrender; forced laborers and refugees tainted by exposure to the West; and members of pro-German formations like the Vlasov Army. Stalin's lack of concern for Red Army POWs in German hands had warned the first group of their eventual fate. Thrown into concentration camps as Slavic ""subhumans"" whose motherland had never ratified the Geneva Convention, the POWs marveled at captured American Negroes--fellow ""subhumans"" protected by the Convention who shared their chocolate with them. (Many, choosing service with Vlasov over almost certain death, wondered, ""why didn't the Soviet Government, which we considered our own, send us at least some plain hard tack?"") Shameful excesses also resulted from Britain's anxiety to honor the secret Yalta agreement on repatriation lest the Soviets balk at returning liberated British POWs. Thousands of Civil War era emigres, no longer Soviet citizens and thus exempt from the Yalta agreement, were delivered to the NKVD. Tolstoy clarifies the subtle legal principles at issue in forced repatriation, in particular the relationship between a soldier's uniform and nationality. Though he cites the need to judge events within the context of their times, he unequivocally denounces Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden as the major Allied villain, and he is given to emotional asides (the next time Smersh operates openly in England ""it is unlikely the victims will be Russians""). Nevertheless Tolstoy's extensive treatment joins Bethell's to form a standard of comparison for future works on this subject.

Pub Date: June 26th, 1978
Publisher: Scribners