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Witness to History: 1929-1969 by Charles E. Bohlen (226,000 words, 37 illustrations)

“At the end of the 1920’s the Foreign Service of the United States... introduced a program of regional specialization. It was a fortunate innovation, for, among other things, it provided the Service with a group of well‐trained Russian‐language specialists just at the time when the United States was beginning its new and troubled association with the Soviet Union.

One of the first of these was Charles E. Bohlen, and for the next 40 years he was to be involved in every major development in Soviet American relations, serving under William C. Bullitt in the Moscow embassy in 1934, acting as interpreter and adviser at the wartime conferences at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, succeeding
George F. Kennan as Ambassador to Moscow in 1953, and, in later years, advising Presidents about Russian attitudes at the time of the Cuban missile crisis and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Diplomatic memoirs are generally thin stuff and often mere exercises in self‐inflation. This cannot be said of this absorbing account. Anyone who reads it will understand what George Kennan meant when he described his friend as ‘a man interested... both passionately and dispassionately in everything that concerned the Russian scene.’ It is clear that, from that bright snowy day when he jumped down on the station platform at Negoreloye in March, 1934, until the very end of his career, his hunger to learn all he could about Russia and its rulers was unabated; but it is also apparent that he always strove to remain objective about what he learned and to remember that his role was not to pass judgment on the behavior of the Soviet Government but to understand it and to use that understanding for the good of his country. His memoirs are the record of how he accomplished this... the account of the various phases of the author’s career is rich in circumstantial detail and in anecdote. Particularly effective are Mr. Bohlen’s descriptions of the men he met during his career. These include a shrewd assessment of de Gaulle, whom Bohlen saw frequently during his term as Ambassador to France from 1962 until 1968, and a series of impressions of the Secretaries of State under whom he served. Among these he admired
Marshall most and Dulles, who unceremoniously exiled him to Manila in 1957, least.” — Gordon A. Craig, The New York Times

“A fascinating account of a most extraordinary career.” —
W. Averell Harriman

“No single person was present at more of the high-level diplomatic encounters of the wartime and immediate post-war periods than Charles Bohlen. And none was better equipped to judge them. His memoirs have, therefore, unique historical value and should go far to answer the questions of those who are now challenging the soundness of American decisions in that time.” —
George F. Kennan

“This book is original, reflective, well written, full of new aperçus for the journalist and fresh fuel for the historian... an admirable book.” — The Economist

“Few diplomats covered as much ground, fewer have written so compelling a book... [a] solid, worthy book.” —
Times Literary Supplement

“Absorbing throughout... There is much that is amusing, for Bohlen has a bump of irreverence, and much that is new... A definite contribution to history.” —
Joseph P. Lash

“The book... is of major historical importance... for its perception and the light which it sheds on the statesmen and the major crises of our time.” — Edward Weeks,
The Atlantic Monthly

“[Bohlen was] one of the leading diplomats of his time but also an outstanding connoisseur of Russian history and culture... an important book.” — Adam B. Ulam, Slavic Review

“[An] extraordinary book... a dynamic narrative... for anyone... interested in the ups and downs of American-Soviet policies, this should prove a most useful book.” — Stephen D. Kertesz,
The Review of Politics

“[An] important book... I found these memoirs both fascinating and enlightening.” — F. H. Soward,
International Journal

“If one had to give in one word a key to Bohlen’s book and to his character it would be honesty... All in all, these memoirs show Bohlen as the steadying influence he was. They are fascinating to read alongside those of his friend, George Kennan; so different in cast of mind and temperament, they agreed on the fundamentals of what was at stake in Soviet-Western relations over the years, and both rendered great service to their country... this book is itself material for the historian, as well as entertaining and instructive for the rest of us, and on both counts we are grateful.” — John C. Campbell,
The Russian Review

“[The Soviet Union] is the central focus of these engrossing ‘reminiscences and observations’... Bohlen’s account provides historians, both professional and lay, with a rich source of information... Most valuable are his judgments and insights... The book is a fine tribute to the quality and integrity of the Foreign Service.” — Holbert N. Carroll,
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

“[Bohlen] has a fascinating story to tell...” —
Foreign Service Journal

Witness to History is a solid and readable memoir by one of America’s most respected and experienced diplomats... This excellent memoir by a consequential figure is honest, candid and clearly written.” — Ernest W. Lefever, History

Witness to History belongs on every bookshelf of modern American diplomacy... an important contribution to the history of our times, both in broad scope and in personalities.” — Chalmers M. Roberts, San Francisco Examiner

“[An] absorbing book... these are splendid reminiscences...” — Burke Wilkinson,
Christian Science Monitor

“This is a good book, giving an absorbing picture of the career of a decent foreign service officer who had the good sense to choose to be a Soviet specialist in the days when the service was only just beginning to depart from its generalist traditions... Part of the fascination of the story is that Bohlen emerges as a slightly tragic figure who never quite enjoyed the reputation he seemed to merit and who, for all his competence and perception of the Soviet way, never quite, over time, demonstrated the brilliance that he himself leads us to expect. Part of his problem was also his strength: he tended to externalise and render objective judgments rather than bow to contemporary fashion.” — D. K. Adams, International Affairs