Monday, March 15, 2010

An Acknowledgement Page That Tells Us Something of the Time in Which it was Written

Robert K. Massie ends his biography of Peter the Great with an acknowledgement page of historical interest in of itself. Peter the Great: His Life and World was published in 1980 so it is a product of the 1970s Cold War. Massie offers his thanks to his friends and collaborators in the Soviet Union:

In writing this book, I made many trips to the Soviet Union. In museums, libraries and at historical sites, I was always made to feel welcome. This was particularly true in Leningrad when people learned that my subject was the founder of their beloved city. For reasons that would seem exaggerated to most Western readers, but that Soviet citizens will abundantly understand, I prefer not to give the names of those who helped me. They know who they are and I thank them.
I ask my readers to try to comprehend what it meant for it to be dangerous enough for a Soviet citizen to help a Westerner write a book about Czarist Russia that one could not risk being openly acknowledged. Keep in mind that this was the “liberal” Soviet Union of Détente, when the Soviet Union finally became open to Western scholarship.

1 comment:

Clarissa said...

The dangerous thing was just associating with a foreigner in any way and for any reason. Basically, if a foreign tourist stopped you in the street to ask for directions, the best thing you could do would be to leave as fast as you could, hoping that no one had noticed.

My childhood friend's father was imprisoned for 7 years for talking to 2 American tourists. That happened in 1978 or 79. Of course, he also had relatives in Israel, which made him suspect by definition in the eyes of the authorities.