Russia in 1914: Reasons for Defeat and the Cost of Future Victories (from a Discussion of British Historians)
In his essay “Russia in 2014: Reasons for Defeat and the Cost of Future Victories (from a discussion of British historians)” Norman Stone, an eminent specialist in Russian history, explores a key period in Russia’s fate and explains the reasons for its infamous defeats during World War I and the disastrous consequences thereof not only for the history of the Russian Empire but, ultimately, for the entire world. The author connects into a complex of factors different aspects such as the state of the country’s industry, the attitude of the imperial ruling elite, the absence of sufficiently qualified military personnel, and the officers’ conservative manner of thinking. According to the scholar, all these existed despite a relatively good state of pre-war Russian economy as a whole.
Apart from a conceptual evaluation the author gives of the war events in some of his works, in the article the reader will find Stone’s recollections of debates caused by his arguing that it was wrong to compare the USSR’s victory in World War II as a result of Stalin’s regime and Russia’s defeat in World War I. Stone’s claims that Stalinism was pointless and antihuman as well as impossible to justify by means of any economic achievements or propaganda, regardless of the scale thereof, or any dystopian dreams, failed to find support of some of the pro-socialist historians of the postwar era. One of them was Stone’s main opponent Edward Carr. Being a recognized sovietologist and author of a fundamental work on the Russian revolution and Soviet history, he became a victim of Stockholm syndrome, i.e. a situation where hostages develop empathy toward the terrorists and are ready to justify their actions. The justification of Stalinism or any other type of dictatorship by any circumstances and an attempt to interpret it as something inevitable was what exasperated the new generation of historians and made them overthrow the existing authorities, and join the “angry young people”. Stone’s essay describes a single issue of academic controversy but it is of great significance for the present day world. The daring character of scholarly thought combined with loyalty to the ideas of humanism are the grounds of research that the modern humanities should be based on. At the end of his essay, Stone wittily quotes George Orwell, a genius that foresaw the collapse of totalitarianism, ‘You are always saying that it’s impossible to make an omelette without breaking eggs. So where’s the omelette?’ The view Stone expresses as a researcher and as a person is one that QR supports and we expect it to be welcomed by our multilingual readers.
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Stone, N. (1983) Grim Eminence, London Review of Books, 5/1, pp. 3–8.