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Re: [xmca] Krementsov, N. (1997). Stalinist science

A **scholarly** review of Figes' bestseller has been detected:

A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes
Review by: James D. White
Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 49, No. 7 (Nov., 1997), pp. 1321-1323



translated into the language of aims and
objectives, the author says: 'My aim has been to convey the chaos of those years, as it must
have been felt by ordinary men and women. I have tried to present the revolution not as a
march of abstract social forces and ideologies but as a human event of complicated individual
This approach not only justifies an anecdotal treatment of the subject, but also frees the
author from any obligation to come up with an interpretation of the revolution in the
conventional sense. 'Chaos' and 'individual tragedy' *are* the interpretation. That there was
chaos, horror, mindless cruelty and a great deal of suffering in the Russian revolution and the
Civil War is beyond dispute, and to be reminded of the fact is of course salutary. But that
knowledge can hardly count as a new and original interpretation of the revolution. It is only
a starting point from which an interpretation might be constructed.

 another QUOTE, conclusion, last paragraph:

Authors like to have their books described as 'brilliant'. This is without doubt a brilliant
book. It sparkles in the way it presents its string of picturesque episodes, and it dazzles in the
confidence and verve with which it presents even its erroneous erudition. But it is brilliant as
a novel or a play is brilliant. As a work of history it has little point, because it does not give
what a reader of a historical work normally demands. It does not set out and explain the various
episodes of the revolution with any clarity. It does not even seek to do so because it holds that
no such clarity exists, that all is confusion and chaos. The book consequently cannot be
recommended as an introduction to the subject, although it is a general history of the Russian
revolution. It does, however, provide a rich fund of stories, some of which might bear
re-telling, if the selection is made with caution and the audience is not overly squeamish.


Consider the review, attached; for what it's worth. To anyone interested in the scholarly and unbiased
history of Soviet science, Krementsov, N. (1997). Stalinist science is still highly recommended.


 From: Anton Yasnitsky <the_yasya@yahoo.com>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu> 
Sent: Sunday, June 3, 2012 7:35:47 PM
Subject: Re: [xmca] Krementsov, N. (1997). Stalinist science
I do not know anything about this specific book, but would definitely be suspicious about any attempt to recast the history of Russian Revolution in terms of "tragedy". Quite popular during the Cold War (in the West) or perestroika (back in the USSR), such black and white narrative tends to look fairly simplistic and helpless these days, especially since a great deal of fairly balanced and unbiased scholarly works came out.

I guess of primary interest to us here, in this online community, is the history of Soviet science in its social and cultural context. To those interested, I would strongly recommend Nikolai Krementsov's "Stalinist Science" (Princeton, 1997) that equally well serves as an introductory and pretty advanced reading on the topic of Russian/Soviet science of the first half of 20th century. Very good comprehensive treatise that goes far beyond dated and naive narrative about the "oppressed science", which, as a matter of fact, is the dominant axiomatic standpoint among the so-called historians of Soviet psychology back in Russia these days.  The book is currently out of print, but can be easily found on abebooks.com or barnesandnoble.com . A little bit expensive, but definitely a classic one.

From: Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu>
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>; " (pazaroff2001@yahoo.com)" <pazaroff2001@yahoo.com> 
Sent: Sunday, June 3, 2012 5:55:04 PM
Subject: [xmca] A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes

To fill in one of the many gaps in my historical knowledge, I've ordered "A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924" by Orlando Figes

Does anyone know anything about this account of the revolution? The one I recently saw on PBS really sounded like US propaganda. So I'd like to know if the Bolsheviks got off to a more positive start than was suggested by that documentary, as they call them.
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Attachment: White (1997). Review of Figes, O. A people's tragedy_154088.pdf
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