Spies and Commissars: Bolshevik Russia and the West

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9780230748071: Spies and Commissars: Bolshevik Russia and the West

In the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, the Western powers were anxious to prevent the spread of Bolshevism across Europe. Lenin and Trotsky were equally anxious that the Communist vision they were busy introducing in Russia should do just that. But neither side knew anything about the other. The revolution and Russia's withdrawal from the First World War had ensured a diplomatic exodus from Moscow and the usual routes to vital information had been closed off. Into this void stepped an extraordinary collection of opportunists, journalists and spies - sometimes indeed journalists who were spies and vice versa: in Moscow Britain's Arthur Ransome, the American John Reed and Sidney Reilly - `Ace of Spies' - all traded information and brokered deals between Russia and the West; in Berlin, Paris and London, the likes of Maxim Litvinov, Adolf Ioffe and Kamenev tried to infiltrate the political elite and influence foreign policy to the Bolsheviks' advantage. Robert Service, acclaimed historian and one of our finest commentators on matters Soviet, turns his meticulous eye to this ragtag group of people and, with narrative flair and impeccable research, reveals one of the great untold stories of the twentieth century.

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About the Author:

Robert Service is a Fellow of the British Academy and of St Antony's College, Oxford. He has written several books, including the highly acclaimed Lenin: A Biography, Russia: Experiment with a People , Stalin: A Biography and Comrades: A History of World Communism , as well as many other books on Russia's past and present. His most recent book, Trotsky: A Biography was awarded the 2009 Duff Cooper Prize. Married with four children, he lives in London.

Review:

Library Journal
"[A] well-researched, detailed, and thoughtful analysis of the Russian Revolution, here removed from the global vacuum into which it is often relegated.... Service is careful not to lose focus on the cultural, political, and economic weight that the revolution brought to a dispirited Russia.... [A] nuanced and important contribution to the history of the Russian Revolution. Readers of Russian and early Soviet history, both in and out of academia, will find it illuminating."

Kirkus Reviews
"Careful, dense scholarly study" that "paints detailed portraits of the revolutionary principals and their sometimes-surprising allies and enemies."

Booklist"The twenty-first century needs this kind of unflinchingly honest history." Simon Sebag Montefiore, Wall Street Journal"An outstanding work of scholarship with all the excitement of a real spy novel—and with lessons beyond its historical moment" that "is especially valuable, in our own epoch of Arab revolutions, for showing the fragility and unpredictability of new regimes."

Minneapolis Star-Tribune“Robert Service is a wizard. Not only does he make the often complicated history and personalities of modern Russian history intelligible to contemporary readers, as his excellent recent biography of Trotsky attests, but he's also an expert at de-mythologizing the "enigma wrapped in a riddle," as Churchill famously stated. In "Spies and Commissars," Service gives us a remarkably clear portrait of Russia as it emerged from the Bolshevik coup d'etat, and the efforts of its erstwhile allies -- Britain, France and the United States -- to compel the regime to (a) remain in the war against Germany, and failing that, to (b) isolate it and extinguish the bacillus of communism. The story is told with panache and great insight. Yes, it has been told before, but Service's achievement is that he has drawn together threads from disparate sources to weave a story that is vivid and fresh. Moreover, the characters that loom large in the telling -- wildly colorful Western agents and their grim Bolshevik foes -- are a match for anything to be found in the most enthralling political thrillers. Quite a triumph.”

CHOICE
“An excellent account of the international intrigue that took place during the Russian Revolution...The author uses lesser- and well-known historical figures to facilitate understanding of the global significance of WW I, which most prominently included the survival of the Soviet state. The book's broad perspective makes it useful in world history survey courses.”
New York Review of Books
“[a] colorful history.”

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