I Wanna Be Literated #274

I Wanna Be Literated #274

Wednesday, 21 February 2024

Six Weeks in Russia, 1919
by Arthur Ransome

I look at Arthur Ransome’s Six Weeks in Russia, 1919 with both awe and disdain. It’s a thin book, definitely, and it’s also probably the last book I’ll be completing for a long time. After getting sick to the point of hospitalization and realizing I’ve taken on a new job which has very little interest in providing work/life balance, I’ve come to the realization that any opportunities to relax and “read a book” will be non-existent. Certainly not one which would allow me to complete a book in any capacity. So, it’s sitting at home and recuperating from my hospitalization, uninterrupted, that I felt like Six Weeks in Russia, 1919 would be my best bet at completing a book, until the powers that be hurl me into a new job where one can read a book in private during lunch hour and not be judged negatively.

I love Soviet Russia history, and especially baby Soviet Russia, when it all (depending on who you ask) starts crumbling down. All the major players are present and alive, and (relatively) equal in power, where one can feel comfortable judging the leadership at their best. This is also right before the Civil War started, so a little less complicated.

Six Weeks in Russia, 1919 is considered one of the big guns, because it does just that, put life in baby soviet Russia into perspective.

The first part The Truth About Russia is Ransome’s attempt to explain what instigated the revolution and how the Soviets were organized. Also, how the government was set up with its systems of checks and balances, what the assemblies are meant to accomplish, and the different governing bodies. It appears to all be sort of arbitrary since the Politburo seems to have all the power. Ransome also defends the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly since, according to him, it’s been trying to boycott the Bolsheviks from the beginning. So be it. Ransome also is happy to proclaim that the minority should decide for the majority because the majority simply doesn’t care about politics. A bold and elitist statement. I don’t love that.

The rest reads like diary entries. Ransome goes to several meetings and interacts with a number of people, including higher ups like Radek and Kamenev, and the take-away message is that everyone is hungry, their quality of life is worse, but they feel happy. Are they just delusional? One wonders. There are also explanations of how the tax system, the education system, and other social structures work. Also, a breakdown of the opposition i.e. SRs and Mensheviks.

It’s nice getting someone’s first-hand account of such a crucial time in the life of Soviet Russia. I like reading about that world and gaining new insights. Is Ransome biased? Possibly.

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