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Yanks for Stalin
Interview Transcript

Stephen Kotkin    (cont)

Q.   Fill in the blanks.

A. Thousands and thousands of foreigners went to Stalins's Soviet Union for many different reasons.  Some stayed for only a few days, some stayed for many, many years.  Some stayed for their whole lives and never came back.  Many of them went unconvinced that the political system and economic system were viable and changed their minds and became sympathetic.  Many went convinced that the economic and political system were the future and changed their minds the other way.  What you see is people projecting their dreams onto the Soviet Union.  In the 1920's many immigrants from Russia to the United States tried to go back to their country and tried to participate in the new world, in the Revolution.  There was a project way out in the middle of Syberia known as the (Russian) Basin, where a group of foreigners, most of whom had American citizenship, tried to create a new world in a kind of commune or community based upon coal and industrialization of westen Syberia.  They came up against the Communist party, they came up against jealousy, they came up against misunderstanding, they came up against bureacracy and their community was crushed, destroyed , defeated and by the end of the 1920's disappeared.  These kinds of lessons were not assimilated.  The difficulties of not only getting inside the Soviet Union, but realizing that on your own terms the building of the new world.  This experience in western Syberia was not assimilated, or was in fact, not very well known or forgotten. All the problems that we saw with the original groups of people who went into the Soviet Union in the 1920's were repeated on a larger scale with much more people in the 1930's.  They couldn't understand why it was there was so much bureacracy.  They couldn't understand why it was that people would get arrested for no particular reason.  They couldn't understand all the (mumble) intrigues and the politics.  They couldn't understand why things couldn't be done in a straightford manner.  There was tremendous misunderstanding, on both sides in fact and the archival documents show you a clash of cultures and a clash of political understanding and a clash of political systems.  Even among groups who are both on the left side of the political spectrum, people from the Soviet bureaucracy and people from leftist parties in the West, including the United States.  In the end, perhaps it is predictable that the collaboration wouldn't work. That most people would be disillusioned, that most people would leave the Soviet Union.  That most would leave and either remain disillusioned or become activitists or fighters against Communism. Perhaps it was predicable that disillusion would set in and many people would be goaded into resisting the Soviet Union in the post war period, but, you must understand that in the beginning the dreams were great, the horizons were very wide.  People thought for sure that this was the new world and they wanted to participate in it and they were the envy of their collegues who didn't go or couldnt go , or, had less of a sense of adventure, who were more at risk to leave behind than those who went, like John Scott.  He left behind many, many priviledges and many possibilities to go the Soviet Union to try to live his dream, to try to participate in their dream only to be disillusioned and only to convert that disillusion into mobilization against the Soviet Union in the post war period.

 

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