Blogs > Cliopatria > István Deák: Review of Susan Butler's (ed.) My Dear Mr. Stalin: The Complete Correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph V. Stalin

Aug 7, 2006 2:16 am


István Deák: Review of Susan Butler's (ed.) My Dear Mr. Stalin: The Complete Correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph V. Stalin



It was the worst of times. Between 1939 and 1945, fifty million people died a violent death, the absolute majority among them not as soldiers in arms but as defenseless civilians. Yet it was, in one way, also the best of times, because the countries of the world rallied, step by step, against those ultimate rogue states Germany and Japan, and because German Nazism and Japanese militarism suffered total defeat. Moreover, toward the end of the war it appeared to many that the heads of the grand anti-Nazi coalition were firmly set on laying the foundations of a lasting peace and a more humane society.

More particularly, the future seemed to rest in the steady hands of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, the imperial leaders of the two world powers. My Dear Mr. Stalin, the first complete collection of the correspondence between the American leader and the Soviet leader, pays tribute to wartime humanity's hopeful dream--except that Susan Butler, the book's editor and commentator, does not treat it as a dream. She believes that the opportunity for a bright future genuinely existed. Unfortunately, in her rather simplistic view, all of it was undone by Roosevelt's heirs.

Butler is the author of a fine biography of the aviator Amelia Earhart and undoubtedly did much research for this book. She often shows considerable insight, but she also makes factual mistakes that demonstrate that she is not a specialist in this subject. In her detailed notes, Butler points to the many vital issues that, between 1941 and 1945, linked the fates of the two countries. Her message is that if Roosevelt's policy had been followed, the Cold War could have been avoided. Maybe so; but it is also possible that it was the Cold War that saved the world from mutual destruction and hastened the welcome implosion of the Soviet Empire.

This does not mean that the cooperation between Roosevelt and Stalin was not genuine, or that it brought no benefits to the two countries and to the world. (It alone enabled the Grand Coalition to defeat Germany and Japan.) Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who wrote the foreword to this book and who is one of the great New Deal historians, shares Butler's optimistic outlook on Stalin and Roosevelt's wartime cooperation, but he also points out that even before the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Stalin instructed communist leaders in the West to prepare for new confrontations in the postwar era. And after Yalta, the Soviet propaganda offensive intensified. So one cannot agree with Butler when she writes that "Stalin did more than pay attention to what was important to Roosevelt; he followed his lead and made a significant change in Russian society."

What this change consisted of was, according to Butler, Stalin's instructions to the Soviet press that it take notice of Roosevelt's statement according to which the Soviet Constitution granted freedom of conscience and religion. Also, the fact that Stalin, at Roosevelt's urging, re-established the Russian Orthodox Church. Now, Roosevelt no doubt tried his best to persuade the American public to accept the Soviet alliance, but it is wrong to call the publicizing of the Soviet Constitution, which was a sham, a significant change in Russian society. As for the re-establishment of the Russian state church, it had been totally infiltrated by Soviet state security. ...



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Oscar Ramirez - 7/17/2006

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For IP Book Reviewers
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A collection of 14 short stories, all in Spanish and English, based on the author’s experiences of childhood before and after the Communist revolution. Includes Appendix for educators wishing to use the book in Spanish or English foreign language classes. Lots of nostalgia for those who knew Cuba in the 50’s and 60’s and plenty of humor for readers in general. Includes also many period family photographs that illustrate the stories and bring them vividly to life!

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Dr. Oscar M. Ramírez-Orbea, was born in Camagüey, Cuba, in 1955. He emigrated with his family to the US in 1966, after completing elementary school in his home country. He longs one day to return to his native city of Camagüey and to all the fond memories it holds for him. CUBA, I REMEMBER YOU/CUBA, TE RECUERDO is Dr. Ramírez’s first narrative work. More

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Product Details
Paperback: 392 pages
Publisher: Airleaf Publishing; 1st edition (January 10, 2006)
Language: English, Spanish
ISBN: 1594539553

By the same author:

Cuba, Between History and Legend
A collection of short stories based on Cuban legends and unusual histories, all told in thoroughly original and creative ways. All stories are narrated in English and Spanish on facing pages. Includes also substantial background information on the actual events on which the stories are based, as well as references for follow-up reading, and historical illustrations for all the stories. For brief descriptions of the stories, go to www.cubairememberyou.zoomshare.com On the market by year’s end. Cuba … like you’ve never read it before!

Por el mismo autor:

Cuba, Entre la Historia y la Leyenda
Una colección de cuentos cortos basados en leyendas cubanas y en eventos insólitos de la historia de Cuba, todos narrados en un estilo originalísimo y de gran fantasía. Se narran todos los cuentos en inglés y en español, en páginas opuestas. Incluye considerable información adicional sobre el fondo histórico de cada cuento, al igual que sugerencias para otras lecturas sobre la misma temática, y se incluyen ilustraciones históricas de cada uno de los cuentos. Para leer breves descripciones de cada cuento, favor de dirgirse a www.cubairememberyou.zoomshare.com En venta hacia finales del año. Cuba ¡como nunca te la imaginaste!

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