Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 6.2 (2005) 335-344
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Extremists and Swindlers
Stanford, CA 94305-6010 USA
Sometime in the second half of the 1980s, time began to run backward in the USSR. The rehabilitation of Nikolai Bukharin, Aleksei Rykov, Lev Kamenev, Aleksandr Bogdanov, and other long-forgotten opposition Bolsheviks was [End Page 335] quickly followed by the republication of works by Lev Trotskii, but even that sensation soon gave way to Sergei Mel´gunov's Krasnyi terror v Rossii (The Red Terror in Russia). Memoirs of the leaders of the White movement appeared in print not long thereafter, and a shift of attention onto the emigration followed apace.
The literary and artistic emigration was the first and most approachable subject of scholarly study when the collapse of ideological control made this possible. Philosophy was also not far behind: the works of Nikolai Berdiaev and others appeared in Voprosy filosofii and in independent editions.1 It was only with a significant time lapse that the long-calumniated political thought of the emigration—and later still, military thought—found an audience in Russia. In part, this must be due to the ever-broader search for alternative political forms in contemporary Russia, which would explain the popularity of such conservative and monarchist thinkers as Ivan Il´in and Ivan Solonevich. Though their writings appeared here and there in periodicals in the early 1990s, it was only later in the decade that they were systematically published in book (and in the case of Il´in, multivolume) form.
Not only did the cultural heritage of the emigration have greater currency with the general public, but much of the political and military thought was considered so dated that it was of interest only to small groups of specialists. Yet it soon became clear that even this part of the emigration's thought and experience had not merely a historical but a contemporary dimension. Works on the subject then progressed along the usual path: first anthologies, followed by historical studies and interpretation.
Although some books on the emigration had appeared in the West, this topic was not a central concern of Western historians.2 But in post-Soviet Russia, the study of the emigration is like the unearthing of a long-forgotten and obscure past; more, it can be seen as the disclosure of "alternative history": the presumed development of Russian culture, thought, and science had the revolution of 1917 not occurred. Despite the great interest in the [End Page 336] topic starting in the 1990s, the study of the Russian emigration has not yet seen the profusion of works that is the mark of a venerable topic of research. The dearth of established scholarship is particularly noticeable in dealing with the even more obscure theme of the military emigration, as reflected in the works under review.
The youthful nature of this subfield of Russian history is visible in the fact that much of the literature on the emigration remains...