From 1917 to 1921
This period saw the Revolution in all its stages. There was the initial abdication of the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and the formation of a provisional government under Prince Lvov and then Kerensky followed by the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks under Lenin, resulting in the execution of Nicholas II and most of the former Imperial Family. There was then civil war and foreign (mainly British and French) intervention and the brief existence of non-Bolshevik governments (in North Russia, the Urals and Siberia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and South Russia) before Russia was re-united under the Bolsheviks.
From 1921 to 1929
These years saw the consolidation of Bolshevik rule in the whole of Russia with the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the formal adoption of a new constitution. They also saw renewed contacts between the new Bolshevik government in Russia and the British government. A British Commercial Mission under Mr R.M. Hodgson arrived in Moscow on 17 July 1921 to discuss the resumption of trade and the possibility of renewing full diplomatic relations. Diplomatic relations were not officially restored and Hodgson and his Mission returned to London in 1924. There were no British representatives in Moscow for the next five years. The British Foreign Office relied for information on the Norwegians who looked after British interests in the Soviet Union and that dearth of information is reflected in these volumes – no Annual Reports or regular summaries of events were produced – all that is available in these years is a short summary of events from February 1924 to December 1927.
From 1930 to 1945
Sir Esmond Ovey was appointed as the first British ambassador to the USSR at the end of 1929, and from 1930 onwards there was always a British embassy in the USSR.
From 1946 to 1955
The years after the end of the Second World War saw Soviet forces in military occupation of part of Germany and Austria as well as Soviet forces based in other countries of Eastern Europe. The formation of communist governments in these countries of eastern Europe and in much of the Balkans led to increased tension with the western democracies and the formation, by the countries of western Europe with Canada and the USA, of NATO to counteract this perceived threat. It was the period of the Iron Curtain (a phrase that was used by Churchill in 1946 to describe the division of Europe into Communist and non-Communist states) and of the Cold War. Such conditions led the Foreign Office in London to demand more information about the Soviet leadership and their policies and about the internal situation of the Soviet Union; and this need continued even after Stalin’s death in 1953.
From 1955 to 1970
These years saw the rise and fall of Khrushchev and then the rule of Kosygin and Brezhnev. The beginning of the period saw the process of de-Stalinisation begin in Russia with a consequent softening of Communist rule internally. With regard to relations with the West, the period started with the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, then the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and ended with the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 – but overall, there was a lessening of tension compared with the darkest days in the decade after the ending of the Second World War.
From the Editor’s Introduction to the Collection
ARRANGEMENT OF VOLUMES