Isaiah Berlin's response to the Soviet Union was central to his identity, both personally and intellectually. Born a Russian subject in Riga in 1909, he spoke Russian as a child and witnessed both revolutions in St. Petersburg in 1917, emigrating to the West in 1921. He first returned to Russia in 1945, when he met the writers Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak. These formative encounters helped shape his later work, especially his defense of political freedom and his studies of pre-Soviet Russian thinkers. Never before collected, Berlin's writings about the USSR include his accounts of his famous meetings with Russian writers shortly after the Second World War; the celebrated 1945 Foreign Office memorandum on the state of the arts under Stalin; his account of Stalin's manipulative 'artificial dialectic'; portraits of Osip Mandel´shtam and Boris Pasternak; his survey of Soviet Russian culture written after a visit in 1956; a postscript stimulated by the events of 1989; and more. This collection includes essays that have never been published before, as well as works that are not widely known because they were published under pseudonyms to protect relatives living in Russia. The contents of this book were discussed at a seminar in Oxford in 2003, held under the auspices of the Brookings Institution. Berlin's editor, Henry Hardy, had prepared the essays for collective publication and here recounts their history. In his foreword, Brookings president Strobe Talbott, an expert on the Soviet Union, relates the essays to Berlin's other work. The Soviet Mind will assume its rightful place among Berlin's works and will prove invaluable for policymakers, students, and those interested in Russian politics, past, present and future.
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Isaiah Berlin (1909–1997) taught for most of his life at Oxford University, where he was successively professor of social and political theory and founding president of Wolfson College. Thereafter he served as president of the British Academy. Henry Hardy is a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford University. He is one of Isaiah Berlin's literary trustees and has edited a number of other collections of Berlin's essays. Strobe Talbott is president of the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books on Russia and the Soviet Union.Review:
"This remarkable volume is superb. Berlin's great powers of observation combine with his great knowledge and literary gifts to provide us with a fascinating series of insghts.... Even a reader who is only casually interested in the history of Russia will be fascinated. Every day the media present us with lumps of coal, and to find a real diamond is a delight." —Geoffrey Riklin, IntellectualConservative.com, 4/20/2004
"...a useful compilation of Isaiah Berlin's writings about Russian and Soviet culture and history. His narratives of his encounters with Akhmatova...and Pasternak are included and offer intimate and thoughtful portraits of these great writers." —Paul Richardson, Russian Life, 5/1/2004
"This is an excellent resource for those interested in 20th-century Russian history." —P. E. Heineman, Choice, 3/1/2005
"This collection of essays, some never published before and some not well known because they were published under pseudonyms to protect his remaining relatives living in Russia, are a remarkable group....For the committed reader, Berlin is the most congenial of writers. His writing style is inimitable, deriving as it does seamlessly from his style of speaking--pellucid yet labyrinthine, drawing the reader to the top of a conversational wave, and holding him there effortlessly, and allowing him to glide down the other side to a momentary calm, before the next wave carries him forward." —Patricia Anderson, Quadrant, 4/15/2005
"As always, Berlin's writings are as engaging as they are informative. Framed between Hardy's preface and Rappaport's glossary, however, The Soviet Mind is a distinguished collection." —Jason Ferrell, McGill University, Slavic and East European Journal
"...a collection of Berlin's essays on Russia, Czarist and Stalinist, is a welcome arrival...What makes this book essential reading for Berlinophiles is that it contains essays never before published and some originally published under pseudonyms to protect relatives living in the Soviet Union. And they are as readable as when they were first composed." —Arnold Beichman, The Washington Times, 5/2/2004
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