The Fall of the Russian Empire

The Atlantic Bookshelf


by Edmund A. Walsh. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. 1928. 8vo. xiii+357 pp. Illus. $3.50.
FATHER WALSH was a member of the American Relief Commission which went through Russia in 1922. He had unusual opportunities for studying conditions and he has embodied his impressions in numerous magazine articles and public addresses before writing the present volume, which is largely historical, and which is to be followed by another, descriptive of ‘The Soviet State’ itself.
Father Walsh proceeds frankly upon the theory that ‘facts are largely useless unless they result in something more lasting than mere entertainment.’ He has a distinct purpose in his work, which is, first of all, to arouse the public to an understanding of the facts concerning the terrific cataclysm which is taking place in Russia, and then— just what these facts mean.
' Bolshevism,’ says Father Walsh, ’is an international reality which only the hopelessly intransigent can ignore. . . . The victors of the second revolution frankly and brutally took the road to the extreme left. That way madness lies, as they have now learned and reluctantly admitted, taught by the inexorable laws of nature operating through economic pressure . . . but it is my deliberate judgment that no lasting peace is possible in Europe or Asia until the breach between Russia and the West is securely bridged.’
It is frankly to the task of erecting that bridge that Father Walsh sets himself, feeling that first of all the facts must be thoroughly investigated. The present volume, therefore, traces the development of the Russian Revolution back through hundreds of years of Russian history, maintaining that ‘Bolshevism is a natural phase in the evolution of a strictly historical process originating in the soil, the culture, and the politics of Russia itself.'
He details with great eloquence and dramatic skill the tragic story of the persecutions and the sufferings the Russian people endured through the tyranny and corruption of the Czarist régime. There is, to be sure, an approximation of sensational journalism in the amount of detailed attention he devotes to the sordid and revolting story of Rasputin and his malign influence upon the Russian Court. Likewise, the book embodies a rather unnecessary amount of detail concerning the interesting and absorbing — yet not historically important - story of the experience of the Czarand his family from the time of his abdication to the ultimate assassination at Ekaterinburg.
Father Walsh is clearly of the opinion that Kerensky’s fall was primarily due, not to cowardice or duplicity, but largely to ‘circumstances which he could neither control nor dominate.’ In brief, the fundamental cause of the collapse of the first Russian revolution was that ‘Kerensky had no lieutenants or counselors capable of matching wits with the Machiavellian cabinet that surrounded Lenin.’
Father Walsh has written an exceedingly interesting volume. Everyone knew that he was a very eloquent speaker. This book shows him to be an extremely able journalist. One question, however, may be raised with reference to the book’s accuracy historically. Father Walsh is obviously of the opinion that the German Government, in very large part, instigated the Bolshevist Revolution. He even goes so far as to intimate that the removal of the Czar and his family from the relatively safe loneliness of Tobolsk to the hazardous exposure of Ekaterinburg was directly instigated and actually arranged in detail by Mirbach, the German Ambassador to Moscow, the intimation being that Mirbach had sought to inveigle Nicholas back to Moscow for the purpose of aligning Russia with the Teutonic Powers and that Nicholas refused to participate in such a plot. The Czar, as Father Walsh suggests, ‘redeeming an inglorious past by one heroic choice, was murdered because of his unshakable loyalty to the cause of the Allies.’ But Mirbach was subsequently assassinated himself and, as Father Walsh very correctly states, ‘only time and the opening up of all European archives can determine’ the truth.