The Diary of Ivan Maisky

Soviet Ambassador in London, 1934-1943

Throughout his career Ivan Maisky succeeded in walking a tightrope between maintaining his integrity as a professional diplomat and surviving the vagaries of Stalinís regime. For almost a decade he served as ambassador in London. In this capacity he was able to witness and record the drift to war throughout the 1930s: appeasement, culminating in the Munich Agreement, the negotiations on the signature of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the battle for Britain, Churchillís rise to power and the events leading to the German invasion of Russia, as well as the forging of the Grand Alliance and the major debate between the Allies concerning the opening of the second front and the post war arrangements. Maisky's fluent command of several European languages permitted him to move easily in societal circles and made him highly popular with both the diplomatic communities and top politicians of all persuasions. It was this popularity which spared his life during the Moscow purges, despite the fact that he had been a devout Menshevik before joining the Bolshevik party after the revolution. Maisky laboriously recorded the frequent conversations which he held with a wide range of prominent British politicians among them Neville Chamberlain, Lord Halifax, Anthony Eden and Winston Churchill. He also left candid and insightful records of meetings with Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs and other prominent Soviet diplomats and politicians.  

Through painstaking efforts, Prof. Gabriel Gorodetsky has succeeded in obtaining access to the diary meticulously kept by Ivan Maisky. Comprising over 1,500 pages of dense hand-written entries, it depicts, candidly and in minute detail, the activities, conversations and thoughts of the ubiquitous Soviet ambassador in London. Once translation is complete, the manuscript will be carefully edited and annotated. Maiskyís various records will be juxtaposed against the diaries, memoirs and vast literature which exists on this topic. Further, entries will be checked against various collections of private papers and reports of the Foreign Office.  

A fully edited and annotated selection of the most valuable entries of Maiskyís diaries will be published by Yale University Press. A complete and unabridged version will be available on the internet.