many papers are suppressed, others arerninaccurate, and some are even doctoredrnor otherwise falsified. What is worse,rntheir contents are seldom properly eyaluatedrnor interpreted by historians. Thisrnvolume is an example.rnIt comprises 79 letters written by Stalinrnto Molotov from 1925 to 1935 (includingrnonly three brief notes fromrn1936) and presented by the recipient tornthe Central Party Archive in 1969. In recentrnyears, some of these letters werernpublished in Russian periodicals. Werncannot know why Molotov chose to donaternthese and not others, but it is plausiblernto conclude that he believed themrnto be “safe.” He was right: they are safernbecause they are unimportant, even insignificant.rnWhat about the years of thernStalin purges; of the crucial years 1939-rn1941 when Stalin chose to be a partnerrnof Hitler’s Germany; or indeed of the entirernperiod of the war and thereafter—rnthe ten years when Molotov was thernForeign Minister of the Soviet Union?rnLetters from these times would be interesting,rneven though Molotov was onlyrnStalin’s toady, an unimpressive bureaucrat,rna wooden dolt (whom John FosterrnDulles once called the most formidablernof diplomats). It is the habit of strongrnmen to rely on subservient people to administerrntheir foreign policy. There arernmany examples of this, including Hitler’srnRibbentrop, and also that of some AmericanrnPresidents, but I know of no one lessrnindependent and more subservient thanrnMolotov.rnThe epistolary language is vulgar andrnmarked, here and there, by communistrnterminology: a terminology that, in Stalin’srncase, sometimes conceals rather thanrnreveals. The very tone suggests what sornfew people have recognized and still dornnot: that the victory of the Bolsheviks reduced,rnrather than strengthened, the importancernof Russia in the world; a giantrnmuddy state isolating itself from the restrnof the world, administered by people ofrncramped characters and cramped minds.rnOf course Stalin was an exception—sortrnof: a cunning peasant boss, instinctivelyrngood at intrigues, among a crowd ofrnfourth-rate men.rnThere is one, perhaps telling, matter:rnthat concerning Lenin’s so-called “Testament.”rnIt is now obvious that the textrnof this was doctored, if not altogetherrnfalsified, by Trotsky, who gave it to thernAmerican communist Max Eastman.rnConsequently Eastman, who of coursernsympathized with Trotsky, published arnversion more complimentary to Trotskyrnthan to Stalin. And when Stalin raisedrnhell about this, Trotsky reacted in a cowardlyrnand weak fashion. How many peoplernin the West have loudly regretted forrn60 years that the unspeakable Stalin,rnrather than Trotsky, should have beenrnfated to bear the legacy of the greatrnLenin! Yet, if Trotsky or Zinoviev orrnBukharin had governed Russia in thern1930’s, Hitler would have had little or norntrouble in upsetting any of them, and finallyrnin conquering the Soviet Union.rnSuch is the irony of history.rnThe importance attributed to thesernletters b)^ their American editors is vastlyrnoverstated. Stalin’s occasional remarksrnabout “imperialists” were essentially thernemanations of a suspicious isolationistrnwho, while he did pay some attention tornmatters of world revolution and to thernactivities of communists abroad, treatedrnthem as definitely secondary elements inrnhis considerations. Alas, commendablernscholars such as Robert Conquest keeprninsisting that Stalin was a consummaternMarxist. But this is utter nonsense, believedrnand stated by people who, fromrndecades devoted to the study of the So’ietrnUnion, have every reason to know better.rnIt is not their factual knowledge butrntheir understanding of human naturernthat is regrettably deficient. Yet Conquest’srnpraise for this volume seemsrnmodest when compared to that pouredrnout in endorsements by Alan Bullock,rnAlexander Dallin, and others. Robert C.rnTucker, in his otherwise reasonable foreword,rnasks: “Did Stalin dismiss worldrnrevolution in favor of building up the Sovietrnstate (as Trotsky, for one, alleged atrnthe time), or did he remain dedicated tornworld revolution?” Lih’s answer, basedrnon the letters, is that in Stalin’s mindrn”the Soviet state and international revolutionrncoalesced.” Coalesced? Perhaps.rnBut which of the two really mattered tornhim? Stalin was crude, callous, cunning,rnand ignorant of much of the world; butrnhe was no fool, and he eventually provedrnto be a great statesman, though no revolutionary.rnThere is nothing in these lettersrnto suggest the contrary.rnJohn Lukacs’s latest book is The End ofrnthe Twentieth Century and the End ofrnthe Modern Age.rnBrief MentionsrnAnnotations. By ]ohn Keene. New York:rnNew Directions; 85 pp., $8.95rnAnnotations is broad in scope, dealingrnwith the experience of a few generationsrnof poor blacks, though Keene focuses onrnhis own family. A native of St. Louis,rnKeene draws on his past to depict the travailsrnof ghetto life: the brutality of whiternpolice, the violence of young criminals,rnthe temptation to adopt a “gangsta” wayrnof life. This might sound like an exercisernin complaining, but to Keene, St. Louisrnis “a minefield of myth and memory,” arnplace rich in urban folklore and blessedrnwith a soiled charm. Even here, life isrnnot without dignity. Faced with severernpoverty, the family survives through arnnative resourcefulness and elan: Keene’srngrandfather draws on his experience as arnfarmboy in Mississippi, where he learnedrn”how to keep bugs from devouring potatoesrnwithout pesticide, [and] how to sowrnokra seed.” In the end, Keene’s familyrnleaves St. Louis for a rustic suburb populatedrnby working-class Irish. The years ofrnhardship leave their psychological mark,rnbut this memoir is surprisingly free fromrnbitterness. Despite the racial enmity thatrncrops up in the 1965 Watts riots and inrnhis own day-to-day experiences, Keenernrarely indulges in racial polemics. Instead,rnhe focuses on his story, allowingrnthe reader to appreciate the sheer aliennessrnof people and place. Keene’s St.rnLouis is the site of strange junction ofrnFrench and Negro culture. Conversing inrna mixture of street slang and Creole, therncharacters impart many new terms to thernreader, such as “rudiproots,” “AleikamrnSalaam,” and “La Ba-Kair” (Keene furnishesrna glossary). Even more memorablernis Keene’s flashing, fragmentedrnprose, which combines evocative slangrnwith an eloquence worthy of Thoreau,rnKeene points to Faulkner and Joyce asrnmentors, and the book is filled withrnstrange projections from his past experience.rn(“Several liquor stores sat in walkingrndistance of that narrow, Negro crossroads,rnhaving raised and reared the menrnwho owned them.”) The author’s clevernessrnand sheer narrative energy lendrnhis style a dazzling quality, like a fireworksrndisplay. The result is a short bookrnthat lingers indefinitel}’ in the reader’srnmind.rn—Michael WashburnrnMARCH 1996/37rnrnrn