The Big Show in Bololand
- Dear friends,
I'd like to recommend a new book published last year that is now available in all major bookstores in the US. It is called The Big Show in Bololand (The American Relief Expedition to Soviet Russia in the Famine of 1921) by Bertrand M. Patenaude, Stanford University Press, Stanford University, 2002.
The book is interesting and relevant to this mailing group because it deals, in part, with Tatars and other minority ethnic groups within Russia. A specialist in modern Russia, Patenaude (history professor at Stanford) narrates the experience of nearly 300 American relief workers in the newly forged Soviet Union, which they called Bololand after the ruling Bolshevik Party. They penetrated through and beyond the Volga valley and encountered Russians of all classes and ethnic groups. The comparisons made by the American relief workers between ethnic Russians, Tatars, Bashkirs and others are fascinating and sometimes startling. It seems that the Americans were especially impressed by Tatars, who struck them as being "intelligent, hard-working, honest and clean" in contrast to some other groups that they describe as "mostly illiterate," "unhygienic," or "lazy." In their diaries and official reports the American relief workers describe in detail their interactions with local party and government officials, often drawing comparisons between "efficient and competent" Tatar officials and local Russian officials whose major trait seems to have been the ability "to talk at length about nothing" instead of getting things done. I highly recommend the book!