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Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 5.1 (2004) 107-112

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Liberation or Liberalism?

Terence Emmons
Dept. of History
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305 USA

Liberal' noe dvizhenie v Rossii, 1902-1905 gg. [The Liberal Movement in Russia, 1902-5]. Compiled by Dmitrii Borisovich Pavlov. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2001. 646 pp. ISBN 5-8243-0174-3. Part of the series Politicheskie partii Rossii: Konets XIX-pervaia tret' XX veka. Dokumental'noe nasledie [Political Parties in Russia: The End of the 19th and First Third of the 20th Century. The Documentary Inheritance], under the general editorship of Valentin Valentinovich Shelokhaev.

The vast documentary-publication project of which this is one of the latest fruits was begun by the Moscow publisher ROSSPEN in the mid-1990s under the general editorship of the well-known historian Valentin Valentinovich Shelokhaev. By now it has pretty much covered the spectrum of parties and more or less party-like formations, from the Anarchists and Left Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) to the United Nobility and the All-Russian National Center by way of the SRs, Mensheviks, Constitutional Democrats (Kadets), Octobrists, and various parties of the Right. 1 ROSSPEN launched the enterprise with an Encyclopedia of Political Parties under the same general editorship. 2 The lot has been sponsored by the association that owns and gives its name to ROSSPEN ("The Russian Political Encyclopedia"); the Federal Archival Service of Russia; the State Archive of the Russian Federation (successor to the old Central State Archive of the October Revolution [TsGAOR]); and the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History, the former Central Party Archive. It may be noted here that the same sponsors were responsible for bringing out in 1994 under a different imprimaturthe multi volume proceedings of the meetings of the Kadet (Constitutional Democratic, People's Freedom) Central Committee and émigré groups from 1905 to the mid-1930s. 3 [End Page 107]

The general inspiration behind this large, no doubt costly, enterprise appears to be the perceived need to certify a Russian tradition of political pluralism, more specifically a tradition of nonviolent, non-maximalist political opposition on which post-Soviet Russian citizens can draw in shaping their political future. While the uses to which this tradition may be put in contemporary politics constitute an open question, there can be no doubt now that it existed; and scholars, at least, can only welcome this documentary embarras de richesses, coming as it does after three-quarters of a century of what might be called Bolshevik solipsism in the business of publishing documents from the political history of the country surrounding the Revolution of 1917.

Of course, much, even most, of this documentary inheritance has long been known to foreign, what used to be called "Western," scholarship, which, early on in the Cold War era, made a considerable specialty of exploring political alternatives to Bolshevism before, during, and after 1917. 4 Soviet historical scholarship began to play catch-up in regard to the "non-Bolshevik" parties fairly late in the post-Stalin era, really beginning only in the mid-1970s; and those monographs that did manage before the advent of perestroika to describe the organization, tactics, and programs of these parties were seriously crippled, even the best of them, in matters of interpretation. 5 Practically no state supplies of paper and ink were allocated to reproducing either these parties' official documents or the memoirs of their prominent activists. By the same token, the law of supply and demand precluded, with the partial exception of memoirs, extensive publication in the kapstrany (capitalist countries) of such records, whether in the original or in translation. The current flood of documentary publications on the political life of late 19th- and early 20th-century Russia—practically a monopoly of ROSSPEN—is, therefore, quite unprecedented.

The volume under review here, one of the last to appear in the ROSSPEN series, presents a documentary record of the "liberal" or "liberation" movement (liberal'noe dvizhenie, osvoboditel'noe dvizhenie) that, in the course of the Revolution of 1905, culminated in the...


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