Bulgarian Comunism
"Dimitrov & Stalin, 1934-1943: Letters from the Soviet Archives"
AuthorAlexander Dallin and Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov
PublisherAnnals of Communism. New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 2000
Notes, Keywords

Dimitrov & Stalin is a collection of letters from Georgi Dimitrov, the Bulgarian head of the Communist International or Comintern, to I. V. Stalin during the 1930s and early 1940s. There is no correspondence from Stalin; the Soviet General Secretary's replies are limited to a few marginal comments and notes. The documents published in this volume are found at the RTsKhIDNI (now RGASPI), the Comintern and Soviet communist party archives in Moscow. The correspondence covers a number of interesting topics ranging from the "united front" policy (1934-39), to the Spanish civil war, the period of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact (1939-41), and relations with the Chinese and Yugoslav Communist Parties.

The editors, Alexander Dallin, professor emeritus at Stanford University, and F. I. Firsov, a former researcher at RTsKhIDNI, point out in their preface that the Comintern portrayed in these documents, while not "a benign organization of well-meaning paper-pushers," was "a far cry from the worldwide conspiracy of terrorists it was sometimes believed to be" (p. xix). The editors say they unexpectedly found evidence of muddle and confusion in policy-making: "Moscow's strategy and tactics were characterized not so much by clarity, cleverness, or consistency as by dilemmas and ambiguities in decision making. Time and again we observe the tensions between conflicting aims and interests . . . " (p. xx).

Not surprisingly, the reader of this book will encounter a good deal of Dimitrov going to Stalin for approval of this or that policy, sending instructions or advice to foreign communist parties, and mediating policy disputes. According to the editors, Stalin is "something of a sphinx," not deeply involved in Comintern business, though Dimitrov may have been trying to pull him into greater involvement to gain a more important role and more resources for the organization. Stalin seems only casually interested in Dimitrov's correspondence, giving cursory responses, or none at all. "Decide for yourselves," he says, when too busy to turn his mind to Comintern business (pp. xx, 122). This may have been a frightening prospect in the purge-ravaged Soviet Union.


--- Reviewed by Michael Jabara Carley. Canadian Journal of History. Saskatoon: Dec 2001. Vol. 36, Iss. 3; pg. 572


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