Book Review: An Atlas of Soviet Affairs

An Atlas of Soviet Affairs. by Robert N. Taafe and Robert C. Kingsbury (Methuen, 7s. 6d)

This is the latest in a paperback series; others have been Atlases of African and of World affairs

Maps are useful, indeed fascinating, things also be exciting, and can tell a story of more than a country’s physical features.

An Atlas of Soviet Affairs illustrates the growth of the Russian state, from the Great Duchy of Moscow in the late 15th Century. It shows the steady Russian expansion into Europe and the Far East, the spheres of influence which the present great Soviet Union dominates and where it now conflicts with the United States.

There is one map which tells, with its arrows and dotted lines, of the deportations under Stalin of the Volga Germans, the Crimean Tatars and the North Caucasians. The text, in a stunning understatement, says that the deportations took place “. . . often with great loss of life . . .”

There is a lot to be learned from this little book, of the Soviet Union’s physical geography, its history, economy and communications. The idea behind it, if not new, is excellent; but the question is whether a paperback can do proper justice to it.

The authors are University professors in the United States. They are not misled by the all too common delusion that the conflict between Russia and America is one of ideology; they show that it is anything but.

The commentary alongside the maps is balanced and occasionally there is a flash of humour, grim or wry or sardonic: “. . . the abstention of Albania from COMECON is a relatively minor economic problem and is probably compensated for by the recent addition of the Mongolian People’s Republic (Outer Mongolia)”


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