Witness to History: 1929-1969

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Publisher Description

“At the end of the 1920’s the Foreign Service of the United States... introduced a program of regional specialization. It was a fortunate innovation, for, among other things, it provided the Service with a group of well‐trained Russian‐language specialists just at the time when the United States was beginning its new and troubled association with the Soviet Union.

One of the first of these was Charles E. Bohlen, and for the next 40 years he was to be involved in every major development in Soviet American relations, serving under William C. Bullitt in the Moscow embassy in 1934, acting as interpreter and adviser at the wartime conferences at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam, succeeding George F. Kennan as Ambassador to Moscow in 1953, and, in later years, advising Presidents about Russian attitudes at the time of the Cuban missile crisis and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Diplomatic memoirs are generally thin stuff and often mere exercises in self‐inflation. This cannot be said of this absorbing account. Anyone who reads it will understand what George Kennan meant when he described his friend as ‘a man interested... both passionately and dispassionately in everything that concerned the Russian scene.’ It is clear that, from that bright snowy day when he jumped down on the station platform at Negoreloye in March, 1934, until the very end of his career, his hunger to learn all he could about Russia and its rulers was unabated; but it is also apparent that he always strove to remain objective about what he learned and to remember that his role was not to pass judgment on the behavior of the Soviet Government but to understand it and to use that understanding for the good of his country. His memoirs are the record of how he accomplished this... the account of the various phases of the author’s career is rich in circumstantial detail and in anecdote. Particularly effective are Mr. Bohlen’s descriptions of the men he met during his career. These include a shrewd assessment of de Gaulle, whom Bohlen saw frequently during his term as Ambassador to France from 1962 until 1968, and a series of impressions of the Secretaries of State under whom he served. Among these he admired Marshall most and Dulles, who unceremoniously exiled him to Manila in 1957, least.” — Gordon A. Craig, The New York Times

“A fascinating account of a most extraordinary career.” — W. Averell Harriman

“No single person was present at more of the high-level diplomatic encounters of the wartime and immediate post-war periods than Charles Bohlen. And none was better equipped to judge them. His memoirs have, therefore, unique historical value and should go far to answer the questions of those who are now challenging the soundness of American decisions in that time.” — George F. Kennan

“This book is original, reflective, well written, full of new aperçus for the journalist and fresh fuel for the historian... an admirable book.” — The Economist

“Few diplomats covered as much ground, fewer have written so compelling a book... [a] solid, worthy book.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Absorbing throughout... There is much that is amusing, for Bohlen has a bump of irreverence, and much that is new... A definite contribution to history.” — Joseph P. Lash

“The book... is of major historical importance... for its perception and the light which it sheds on the statesmen and the major crises of our time.” — Edward Weeks, The Atlantic Monthly

“[Bohlen was] one of the leading diplomats of his time but also an outstanding connoisseur of Russian history and culture... an important book.” — Adam B. Ulam, Slavic Review

“[An] extraordinary book... a dynamic narrative... for anyone... interested in the ups and downs of American-Soviet policies, this should prove a most useful book.” — Stephen D. Kertesz, The Review of Politics

“[An] important book... I found these memoirs both fascinating and enlightening.” — F. H. Soward, International Journal

Biographies & Memoirs
August 26
Plunkett Lake Press
Patrick Mehr