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Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin by George F. Kennan (148,000 words)

“The material contained in this book is drawn from lectures, some of which were delivered in 1957-1958 in the schools at Oxford University, others — in the spring of 1960 — at Harvard University... This is a study of the relationship between the Soviet Union and the major Western countries, from the inception of the Soviet regime in 1917 to the end of World War II. It is not intended as a chronological account of the happenings in this phase of diplomatic history, but rather as a series of discussions of individual episodes or problems.” — George F. Kennan, Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin

Kennan describes the diplomatic dilemmas that grew out of ignorance and mutual distrust, beginning with the Allied intervention in Russia in 1918, through World War I, the Versailles conference, Stalin’s bloody purges of 1934-1938, the Soviet-German Nonaggression Pact of 1939, the end of World War II, and the meeting in Yalta between Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt.


“It is not often that a book as instructive as this one manages at the same time to be so engrossing that it is bound to keep even general readers fascinated long past their bedtimes. The book’s message is a stern one; the pleasure in reading it derives from the elegant and yet fresh prose style that is one of the many gifts of our new Ambassador to Yugoslavia. George F. Kennan is an artist as well as an experienced diplomat; a moralist as well as a consummate historian. With superb felicity and grace, he here unfolds a historical narrative rich in prophetic judgments — prophetic in the Biblical sense of the word. Not everyone, of course, will agree with all of Mr. Kennan’s conclusions, but there is so much that is useful in this volume (a Book-of-the-Month selection for June) that even those who have reservations about one or another of the judgments in it will welcome it warmly as a significant contribution in several ways.” — Marshall D. Shulman, The New York Times

“Superbly concise, meaty, and lucid. It surveys the whole fascinating, involved drama of Communism’s rise to world power.” — Newsweek

“Every adult American ought to read it.” — William L. Shirer

“Surely one of the most important books since the end of the last war... an over-all view that transcends the provinciality of so much of our foreign policy and embraces the whole immense area from Washington to Peking.” — Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker

“An important, a disturbing, a deeply moving book.” — Merle Fainsod, New York Herald Tribune Book Review

“Not only Mr. Kennan’s finest book, but also the best that has been written on Russia in this century.” — Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart

“In this absorbing and eloquent book... Mr. Kennan reviews with much perception and sensitivity the ragged course of relations between the Soviet Union and the West from 1917 to 1945. While there is much in Western understanding and action to be criticized in the early years, during the inter-war period and during World War II, Mr. Kennan is keenly aware of the intense hostility of the Communist stance which exacerbated all problems.” — Henry L. Roberts,
Foreign Affairs

“Kennan, a fine writer as well as historian and diplomat, has made a magnificent attempt to put into order the chaotic relations between Russia and the West from the Communist Revolution to the end of World War II... A most important book, deserving the widest possible readership.” —
Kirkus

“So much of the presentation is deserving of particular commendation — Kennan’s narrative of Soviet cleverness at Rapallo in 1921; his appraisal of Stalin as a statesman; his delineation of Stalin’s villainies, especially in the period of the purge trials, and in the ‘last years... of increasing madness and sterility’; his analysis of the circumstances leading to the nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1939; and his relating of the labyrinthine diplomacy between Russia and the West in the Second World War. Kennan’s outstanding chapter, in my judgment, is the one dealing with the Lenin period, analyzing what is new and destructive, and at once self-righteous and inherently cynical about the Communist approach to international relations.” — Charles Burton Marshall, Stanford Law Review

“As a summary of events and an epitome of Kennan’s reflections on this crucial period [Lenin’s lifetime], the present work is most rewarding. Kennan is at his best in showing how, despite all Soviet propaganda claims the Civil War was essentially a Russian affair.” — John A. Armstrong, The Journal of Modern History

“Ambassador Kennan’s volume on Soviet foreign policy has been a remarkable ‘best-seller.’ This fact is a tribute to both the author and the subject with which he deals. It is superfluous to comment on Mr. Kennan’s authority or on the brilliance of his lucid prose, which are again in evidence in this work. It is a volume not easily put aside as a mere purveyor of information; it solicits judgments and proffers them lavishly, inviting agreement or dissent.” — Alexander Dallin, Slavic Review

“[A] valuable volume. It is full of flashes of insight, into both Soviet and Western attitudes and policies, and it reveals the painful dilemmas Wilson, Roosevelt, and other Western leaders faced in dealing with this new state and system.” — Robert F. Byrnes, The Slavic and East European Journal

“In the depth of its scholarship [the book] clearly reflects the author’s association with the Institute for Advanced Study, while in its more informal asides and colorful personal recollections it convincingly portrays Ambassador Kennan’s long and significant diplomatic service... A delightful sense of informality pervades this important work and guarantees in advance a long and healthy tenure on the national non-fiction best-seller list.” — Andrew Gyorgy, The American Political Science Review

“[T]he spotlight thrown on the ‘how’ of Soviet diplomatic conduct is invaluable. This latest book of Mr Kennan’s is marked by the fine scholarship, the keen political intelligence, the perceptive understanding of political personalities and situations, and the generous sympathy with Russia and the Russian people which characterize all his works... a most informative and stimulating spur to thought on crucial political problems of the day.” — International Affairs

“Kennan’s latest book is a significant contribution to history, the philosophy of interstate relations, and the study of diplomatic method. It is also readable, delightfully so. The story is told with grace and verve; the pauses for judicious weighing up, reflecting and moralizing, though frequent, leave the flow of the narrative undisturbed and add immeasurably to the value of the volume.” — Peyton V. Lyon, The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science

“These lectures are a superb summary of [Kennan’s] meticulous research and like his books on Soviet-American relations are distinguished by mastery of the sources, discerning historical judgment and a talent for humanizing diplomatic history.” — Robert H. McNeal, International Journal

“There is no dearth of brilliant insights scattered through this study.” — Philip E. Mosely, Political Science Quarterly

“These connected essays are brilliant, bold, and in some respects, baffling. They are brilliant because of their range, vividness, sense of essentials, lucid summaries, and flair for personal portrayal. They are bold in analysis of the causes of events, of the purposes behind policies pursued, and of their consequences. The narrative is endowed thereby with stimulating meaning...” — Herbert Feis, The American Historical Review