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Books in brief

Notes on Current Books, Winter 2002

This collection of never-before-published documents from the former Soviet Union reveals the startling fact that—contrary to long-standing belief—the Soviet Union did not support the Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War (1936—1939) to the degree previously thought. In fact, many of these documents show that Stalin undermined Spanish Republican goals for his own purposes. In Homage to Catalonia Orwell had already laid out the basis of the suspicion that the Soviets were both disorganized and subversive in their conduct during and after the war, but these papers from the Russian State Military Archives in Moscow, discovered in 1990, lay out how the Soviet Union sought to manipulate and dominate events in Spain from the beginning (for example, they "eliminated" Republican soldiers and politicians who opposed them, and encouraged the famous street fight in Barcelona that Orwell, and later Ken Loach in his film Land and Freedom, portrayed). These 81 documents are likely to provoke even more controversy among Russian scholars and students of the Spanish Civil War.