Novikov, Aleksandr Pavlovich.
If Bertram D. Wolfe had added a fourth protagonist to his classic Three Who Made a Revolution, it arguably should have been Viktor Mikhailovich Chernov (1873 1952), a passionate revolutionary and gifted intellectual rightly known as the leading theorist of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (PSR). Despite the broad popularity of the PSR and the promising alternative it posed to the Bolshevik dictatorship, no published biography of Chernov exists that examines all periods of his life, including the thirty-odd years he spent in exile after 1920. The volume under review represents the first confident step in what promises to become the most authoritative account available of Viktor Chernov's life and career.
Chernov: Chelovek i politik belongs to a historical genre-materials for a biography - that is not practiced in Anglo-American scholarship, but perhaps should be. The book comprises four sections. The first presents a meaty biographical essay of Chernov that provides new details about his birth, formative experiences, and the years he spent in exile after the Russian Civil War. Section 2 consists of fourteen revealing letters Chernov addressed to key political players and to organizations after 1920. Ten of these letters, published for the first time, are stored in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Nicolaevsky Collection at the Hoover Institute, and the International Institute of Social History. The third section features personal sketches and historical assessments of Chernov made by his friends and comrades, including obituaries by Boris Nicolaevsky and fellow SRs. The final section offers the most complete bibliography available of Chernov's writings, organized by year of publication.
The author has made Stakhanovite efforts to tap all archival data on Chernov as well as major works written in Russia and abroad, producing an indispensable volume (albeit one with a woefully small press run of 120) that heralds his forthcoming doctoral (not candidate) dissertation-and book. For the remaining stage of this project, Novikov, who teaches at Saratov State Technical University, has to turn his talents from that of careful chronicler and compiler to interpreter and storyteller. The field needs a wide-ranging, historically accurate, psychologically compelling, and interpretively persuasive full-scale biography that engages the voluminous literature on the Russian Revolution, speaks to the emerging sub-discipline of Russian emigre studies, and appreciates the pathos of populist patriots such as Chernov who, from foreign shores, sought to understand Stalin's Russia and to shape its destiny. The author's remaining task is a daunting one, yet he is off to a strong start as this, and related publications he authored and coauthored with A.I. Avrus, indicate.
One final point. Those in need of this volume may order it on interlibrary loan from my home institution, or contact the author, who has given me permission to post his e-mail address: email@example.com.
The Russian Review. January, 2005. Vol. 6. No. 1. P. 146-147.