The Maisky Diaries The Wartime Revelations of Stalin's Ambassador in London Ivan Maisky, Gabriel Gorodetsky

Publication date:
01 Jul 2016
Yale University Press
632 pages: 235 x 156mm
72 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Buy this eBook

You can purchase this title from a number of online retailers:

Highlights of the extraordinary wartime diaries of Ivan Maisky, Soviet ambassador to London

The terror and purges of Stalin’s Russia in the 1930s discouraged Soviet officials from leaving documentary records let alone keeping personal diaries. A remarkable exception is the unique diary assiduously kept by Ivan Maisky, the Soviet ambassador to London between 1932 and 1943. This selection from Maisky's diary, never before published in English, grippingly documents Britain’s drift to war during the 1930s, appeasement in the Munich era, negotiations leading to the signature of the Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact, Churchill’s rise to power, the German invasion of Russia, and the intense debate over the opening of the second front.
Maisky was distinguished by his great sociability and access to the key players in British public life. Among his range of regular contacts were politicians (including Churchill, Chamberlain, Eden, and Halifax), press barons (Beaverbrook), ambassadors (Joseph Kennedy), intellectuals (Keynes, Sidney and Beatrice Webb), writers (George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells), and indeed royalty. His diary further reveals the role personal rivalries within the Kremlin played in the formulation of Soviet policy at the time. Scrupulously edited and checked against a vast range of Russian and Western archival evidence, this extraordinary narrative diary offers a fascinating revision of the events surrounding the Second World War.

More about this title

Author Website:

Gabriel Gorodetsky is a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and emeritus professor of history at Tel Aviv University.

"[Maisky's] vast diary is a fascinating and invaluable source on wartime relations between Moscow and London. . . . A triumph of meticulous scholarship and enlightened publishing."—David Reynolds, Times Literary Supplement

"Its candid depictions of the British political and social scene . . . are a find of historic importance and fascination."—Nicholas Shakespeare, The Daily Telegraph

"Maisky’s wonderful diary offers refreshing insights into the turbulent 1930s. . . . Sparkled amid his fascinating observations of momentous developments is some delightful gossip, to which Maisky was addicted. . . . Maisky’s painful reflections on the British character remind one of Samuel Pepys or Dr. Johnson."—Gerard DeGroot, The Times

"Maisky was . . . clever, cultured, an exceptionally shrewd observer of Britain during his 11 years as ambassador in London from 1932. . . . Maisky’s diaries make a significant new contribution to the historiography of his time, for which their editor deserves congratulations."—Max Hastings, Sunday Times

"Deftly edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky. . . . This is a must-read for aficionados of diplomatic history and especially of interwar British high society."—Stephen Kotkin, The Wall Street Journal

"A gripping mixture of scholarship and gossip, filled with uncensored sketches of Churchill, Eden, Chamberlain and Lloyd George."—Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph

"These diaries throw new light from a fresh angle on the lead-up to 1939 and the subsequent course of the war . . . this is an exceptionally readable, as well as important, story."—John Joliffe, Spectator

". . . an extraordinary document left by an extraordinary man."—Andy McSmith, The Independent

". . . easily the most important diary of the Second World War period since Fringes of Power, Jack Colville’s records of working for Churchill, were published more than 30 years ago. Like Colville, Maisky had genuine literary talent as well as the ability constantly to be at the right place at the right time . . . All new accounts of the period will have to quote them in future . . . intensely readable, highly revelatory and well edited."—Andrew Roberts, Evening Standard

". . . may turn out to be the most important contribution of 21st-century historical scholarship to our understanding of the causes, courses and consequences of the Second World War. . . . It will be read—it will be metaphorically devoured—by anyone remotely interested in understanding the history of humanity’s darkest century."—S.J.D Green, Standpoint

"Gorodetsky’s clear and precise commentary reminds us that Stalinist terror discouraged Soviet diplomats from writing too much, especially from keeping a diary, in the 1930s. This makes Maisky’s diaries, on which Gorodetsky has worked for the last 15 years, all the more precious – in fact a unique document."—La Monde diplomatique

"This chronicle of his embassy before and during the Second World War abounds in interest. It not only sheds fresh light on Anglo-Soviet relations but also contains fascinating accounts of prominent British figures . . . [Gorodetsky] deserves all credit for a masterly feat of original research and scholarly exposition."— Piers Brendon, Literary Review

"With their dramatized accounts of British policies and society in the pre-war world and later, his diaries are a feast . . ."—George Walden, New Statesman

"A marvellous find."—Marcus Tanner, The Independent

"Anyone interested in this country’s attempts to appease then defeat Nazi Germany now has a treasure trove in the secret diaries of Ivan Maisky, Stalin’s ambassador to London. . . . Maisky was brilliantly effective in forming relationships with leading British politicians, such as Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George, so the diaries are full of unforgettable personal insights into these giants."—Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

Received a special mention as an outstanding contribution for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize

"A fascinating, rich volume, brimming over with insights into two radically different worlds. It only whets the reader's appetite for the full three-volume edition . . . which will surely stand as one of the great achievements of twenty-first century historical scholarship."—Niall Ferguson

"Maisky’s diary, impeccably edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky, is not only a work of major historical importance. It also provides an utterly fascinating view of Anglo-Soviet relations and British politics during the critical period of 1932 to 1943."—Antony Beevor

"Astonishing! Really remarkable. . . . Perhaps the greatest political diary of the twentieth century."—Paul Kennedy

"It is a book that makes us understand the period of appeasement afresh, tells the human story of an un-Bolshevik character teetering on the edge of Stalinist disaster, and reminds us just how important great diplomats have been in dangerous times."—Andrew Marr, New Statesman

"These diaries throw new light from a fresh angle on the lead-up to 1939 and the subsequent course of the war . . . this is an exceptionally readable, as well as important, story."—John Joliffe, Spectator

‘Recently discovered diaries by the Soviet ambassador to the UK from 1932 give fascinating insights into Britain before and during the war.’  - The Sunday Times