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PREFACE THISBOOK is an abridgement of a seven-volume memoir of the Russian Revolution of 1917, written by Nikolai Nikolayevich Himmer, better known as Sukhanov. It is, as he assures us repeatedly, by no means a history, but merely his own personal reminiscences, written down shortly after the events it describes. His claim on our attention is unique. A well-known political and economic journalist and authority on agrarian questions, he was the only theoretician of importance actually present in St. Petersburg when the revolution broke out, and was a key figure in the formation of the first revolutionary Govern­ ment. Though not a member of any political party at the time, his widespread connexions throughout the Socialist movement, as an editor of Maxim Gorky's paper and a friend of Kerensky's, made him an intimate spectator of the life of the revolutionary capital, and his passionate concern with politics, combined with his freedom from any party discipline, make him in many ways an ideal witness for posterity. His work, in fact, constitutes the sole full-length eye-witness account of the entire revolutionary period. His memoir must be one of the most completely forgotten books in contemporary history. When published in the Soviet Union in 1922 it created a great stir;it was required readingfor party circles and considered an indispensable source-book for the study of the revolution. By the end of the twenties, however, Soviet public life was already taking such a turn towards the stereotype that Sukhanov's memoirs, representing a highly per­ sonal viewpoint which was not only hostile to the Bolshevik Party assuch but was, more particularly, wildlyout of harmony with the official theories of the revolution then being elaborated by Stalin's faction, swiftly achieved oblivion, and Sukhanov's name was not to be found in any Soviet encyclopaedia. Vl THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION I 9 I 7 Sukhanov began his politicalcareer at the age of twenty-oneas a Socialist-Revolutionary, a member of a non-Marxist Socialist party that believed in 'going to the people': in 1904 he was im­ prisoned in Moscow for his part in running an underground Socialist-Revolutionary printing-shop. He was released in the amnesty that followed the abortive revolution of 1905, and in 1906 left the Socialist-Revolutionaries, to remain outside all parties until the middle of 1917, when he joined the SocialDemocratic Party. Between the two revolutions of 1905 and 1917 he specialized in research into economic and agrarian affairs, on which he be­ came an authority, and was at the same time very active as a political journalist. One of the entertaining oddities of this period, with its char­ acteristic Tsarist combination of oppression, mildness, and in­ efficiency, is illustrated by his employment during the First World War in the Tsarist Government itself, in a section dealing with the irrigation of Turkestan, while at the same time he was being looked for by the police because of his subversive activi­ ties. His superior knew quite well who Sukhanov was, but in ac­ cordance with theWitte tradition of employing political suspects because of their ability he willingly protected him.The desire to eliminate suspect elements emanated chiefly from the Ministry of the Interior, and because of the classical interdepartmental rivalry common to all governments it gave other departments special pleasure to conceal those wanted by the police. Thus, whileSukhanov was signing hisown articles'Sukhanov' in Gorky's paper Letopis, he was dodging the police at home and reporting for work regularly to the irrigation department under his real name of Himmer. Upon the outbreak of the revolution in February Sukhanov automatically found himself at the centre of events, in so far as they were given political expression. He was, indeed, the prin­ cipal Soviet figure in the negotiations with 'bourgeois elements' that led to the formation of the Provisional Government, and as soon as the unbridled turbulence of the movement in the streets of St.Petersburg had subsided into relatively conventional forms —his lack of organizational contact with the masses had made him feel helpless—Sukhanov, with what Kerensky has called his P R E F A C E vii Dostoyevskyan quality of circumspection against a background of violent upheaval, had found his medium. An obliqueexampleof Sukhanov'sdetachment may beseen in the fact that hehad his memoir printedat all.Published inig2223 —i.e., when Lenin and Trotsky were paramount figures and Stalin was in course of absorbing the party apparatus—it calls Lenin a dictator...


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