" ... (A) bitter attack on what it considers the core of the Russian revolution, — the Jewish International."
"One thing is certain, (it) will surely take Its place as one of the most Important books on the war, and one of the great books of the century."
"The first part of the book is filled with the spirit that makes monarchy possible; and an American, even if he does not sympathize, gets an insight into the meaning to a devoted subject of the worship of a sovereign."
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Friends recently told us about this monumental 800 page novel which they praised effusively as a ripping good story and a thrilling read about the adventures of a Tsarist officer before, during, and after the revolution.
It is primarily a monumental adventure story and detailed tableaux of Russia at the time. A theme running through the story is the conviction of most of the Russian elite that Jewish propaganda played an enormous role in causing the revolution.
The book was a bestseller in England, Germany, and the US when it appeared in the 20s. It is available on Amazon, and can be download in PDF format from the internet.
We found some old American reviews from 1926, including one from The New York Times, of all places, which we reproduce below, together with the Translator's Preface, and the Introduction to the book.
Interesting to see how diverse the American media landscape was back then.
From the reviews below:
"It is as good as Zola; It is as good as Dumaspere and fils, and all the lot of them put together."
"It is rather the very personal, very vivid and graphic account by an eye-witness of the things which really did happen at the Imperial Court (even the names of most of the persons are real : nothing has been hidden), of the intimate life of the officers of the Guards, of the soldiers and people, of the coming Revolution; but chiefly of the glittering life in high quarters."
Great Russian Novel (The Forum, May 1924)
It is a curious anomaly that despite the praise for all things Russian that assails us on every side, perhaps the greatest contemporary Russian novel has, except for a few brief notices, almost escaped the public eye. There are perhaps two reasons for this: first its great length, and secondly its bitter attack on what it considers the core of the Russian revolution, — the Jewish international.
Yet FROM THE TWO-HEADED EAGLE TO THE RED FLAG, by General Krassnoff (Brentano) will surely take its place beside the novels of Dostoevski and Tolstoi as a picture of Russia and Russian life of today. Beginning in 1894, the year in which the ill-fated Nicholas assumed imperial power, the story (divided into four volumes) brings us up to 1921.
What a picture it shows! First the pomp and panoply of court and society circles, with its background of festering wrongs; then the period of war, when Russia stood side by side with the Allies, — the disintegration of the army by German and Jewish propaganda, followed by Bolshevism with all its horrors and, lastly, the pathetic attempts of the White Armies to regain their power.
Out of it all comes a clear mental picture of how the Revolution came about, of how a great country, by means of a few clever, insidious propagandists, who know exactly what they want and how to get it is turned overnight into a ghastly writhing chaos.
Perhaps if those among us who anticipate business dealings with the Bolsheviks would read this book, they might hesitate before signing up with a bunch of murderers whose word means no more than their deeds.
Russia's Red Flag (The Forum, September 1926)
It Is hard to form an estimate of a book like this. The canvas is so Double Eagle gigantic, the subject from a drawing still so terribly topical. The Interminable serial is still unfolding, chapters are still coming to abrupt conclusions at tense moments, and the unexpected Is still happening all the time.
One thing is certain, General Krassnoff's story in two volumes of nearly five hundred pages each will surely take Its place as one of the most Important books on the war, and one of the great books of the century.
In writing It Krassnoff, who saw the whole thing, In the days before the war, all through the war and through the revolution, had access to unlimited material. Moreover, with Russia swept and reswept by tornadoes of change, as a result of which, in thousands of cases, nothing at all was left of the old order, General Krassnoff has felt himself under no obligations to observe those unwritten laws of biographical writing which will restrain an author from using actual names and easily Identified material too freely.
And so the novel though centring around the scion of a noble Russian family, is really a story of Russia, over a period of twenty years or so; with every character, — from the Czar to Trotsky, and from Rasputin to Kerensky, faithfully delineated.
In the course of his varied experiences, innumerable biographies, most of them terrible and shot through with tragedy must have come Krassnoff's way. He had material enough to write a dozen books of this description, and so In the days of his exile in a distant Cossack village when he had fled from the face of the Soviet, and, later on, at Batumi he simply selected and martialed the facts he had at hand in such quantity. He has done it with incomparable skill, and has produced a quite incomparable book.
Those who read It may think that at times it teems too much with horror. They will be reminded, again and again, of such books as Zola's Debacle; they will accuse the writer of almost fiendish invention In describing some of the seldom alluded to horrors of a campaign. But those whose business it was, through the great war, to struggle through the blue books and yellow books and the red books of the various combatants and read the descriptions of atrocities committed by their opponents, will see that, here again, Krassnoff had not to appeal to his imagination.
One point that emerges with extraordinary clarity from the story is the fact that, In spite of all the change that has swept over Russia, the fundamental polity of the Empire remains unchanged. The tyranny of the Czars has been exchanged for the tyranny of the Soviet; the tyranny of the noble for the tyranny of the Commissar; the tyranny of the private employer for the tyranny of the State; while, in its outlook on the world, the historic Slavic advance in all directions "to the greater glory of the Little Father" willed two hundred years ago by Peter the Great, has simply been replaced by a Soviet advance in all directions for the "liberation of the proletariat".
The effect, both national and international, is the same.
HUGH A. STUDDERT KENNEDY.
From the New York Times, May, 1926
A Panorama of Russia FROM DOUBLE EAGLE TO RED FLAG. By P. N. KRASSNOFF. With an introduction by William Gerhardi. (Translated from the second Russian edition by Erik Law-Gisiko). In two volumes. New York: Duffield & Co. 1926. $7.50. Reviewed by MALCOLM W . DAVIS
THE SATURDAY REVIEW OF LITERATURE, APRIL 24, 1926
THIS is not simply another book about Russia. It is literally a book of Russia, that only a Russian could have written. In the sweeping panorama of this novel, the Empire of the Tsars, the court and the army before the war, the war itself, and then the revolution, the chaotic period of the Provisional Government under Kerensky, the rise of the Soviets and the establishment of the Bolshevist dictatorship, are recreated as they were known by a former Ataman of the Don Cossacks. It is not a special case, but a story from the life of a people. Yet it is more than fiction,—or rather, perhaps, what fiction should aim to achieve, a commentary on life more telling than any other sort of study.
These two volumes offer more than a compelling narrative. They offer a better explanation than ten volumes of political discussion of why things happened as they did in Russia. In the original it caused an immense amount of argument among Russians. But it is less a book to argue about than to receive as one man's account of life as he saw it. Much of the material is obviously autobiographical.
The hero of General Krassnoff's story is Sablin, and you follow him from his youth as an officer in the Tsar's favorite guard regiment to his death, in the grip of the Soviet secret service, at the hands of his own son. Around him throng an amazing array of the people of Russia,—soldiers and officers, peasants, prostitutes, the Tsar and Tsaritsa and their children, Rasputin the monk and his degenerate followers of the court, Grand Dukes and Duchesses, student revolutionaries and Red Commissars.
You are taken to army reviews, carousals, court functions, to the fighting front, to Soviet prisons, to Communist meetings. In the midst is Sablin, always struggling with the mystery of living as he follows his career; and when he is dead, Russia goes on past his body, callous, indifferent, absorbed in its own turbulent and passionate existence of which he has been a victim. The whole of his life is there, in all its fine and gross aspects. His story is told directly without affectation of style, with the naive Slavic sophistication which accepts and depicts everything.—not in order to shock or sneer, nor in a self-conscious effort to be frank, but because things are as they are. It is a book full of a curious wistful wisdom.
The explanation of the Russian revolution embodied in it consists less in what it tells of the sufferings of the people than in what it reveals of the minds of their former rulers. Naturally, General Krassnoff sees from the point of Tiew of a Cossack officer; and despite the breadth and depth of the author's thought, to complete the account of Russia we should need another novel from the pen of a peasant soldier. The first part of the book is filled with the spirit that makes monarchy possible; and an American, even if he does not sympathize, gets an insight into the meaning to a devoted subject of the worship of a sovereign. Superficially considered, the conclusion from the book might be seen to be that all the trouble in Russia could have been avoided if the officers had been a little more the soldiers.
But an upheaval like the revolution can not be attributed easily to the fact that Russian officers used to strike their orderlies or that probably few soldiers in the world ever were more brutally driven than Russian privates. And it is to be doubted whether General Krassnoff intended to suggest such an inference.
The deeper causes which he exposes are two-fold, —one the real inability of the old superiors to perceive and understand the lives and aspirations of the people, much less to enter into them and advance them, and the other the impulsive and passionate nature of the Russians themselves, a strange blend of mystical idealism and crude sensuality.
So comprehended, the movement of life in Russia appears as inevitable as the rising of a tide whipped by a storm. It is so that it is seen through the experience of General Krassnoff's hero. It is a book for any reader who cares to know what Russia has been and is and is likely to be.
From the novel:
BEFORE presenting the translation of General Krassnoff's book "From Double Eagle to Red Flag" to the English-speaking public, the translators would like to introduce the author and his work.
The well-known Russian writer Kouprin expresses his opinion of this book in the Paris newspaper "La Cause Commune" in the following terms:
"General Krassnoff has much to narrate. He has witnessed and himself taken part in many events during these terrible years, events so horrible and great, gruesome and heroic, that they would have sufficed for at least ten ordinary lives . And one must admit, judging by the first volume, that the author describes vividly and with real talent all the facts he is acquainted with and the events he has personally witnessed and experienced."
The author has had indeed exceptional opportunities for observation. A Don Cossack by birth, he began his military career as a Lieutenant in the Atamansky Guard Cossack regiment at St. Petersburg, and soon became known as a dashing cavalry officer and sportsman, and as a writer on military subjects. During the Japanese war he was at the front as a military correspondent. On his return he served in various parts of European Russia and in Siberia . The Great War found him in command of a Cossack cavalry regiment in Poland, at the head of which he won by a brilliant charge his St . George's cross . He successively commanded a cavalry brigade, a division and the famous 3rd Cavalry Corps.
When the Bolshevik revolution broke out, General Krassnoff left the North and reached the Don region after many adventures and narrow escapes . In the spring of 1918 the Don Cossacks rose against the Bolshevik rule, and the Don Parliament in its first session elected General Krassnoff Ataman of the Don . He filled this post during nine months. The situation he had to face was an extremely difficult one. The Region had suffered greatly from the anarchical rule of the Bolsheviks, but in spite of this he organized a regular Don army and freed the whole of the Don Region. In the spring of 1919 he resigned under the pressure of influences foreign to the Cossacks and left South Russia. He lived for some time at Batoum, where he continued to work on the first volume of his book, which he had begun while living in seclusion in a distant Cossack village before his election as Ataman.
During his full and interesting life General Krassnoff has had the opportunity of coming into closest touch with the various classes of Russian society, and of meeting the most prominent and interesting personalities of the time. We believe that he has succeeded in giving an exact picture of the events which preceded and caused the Revolution, as well as of the chaos of ideas in Russia during the tragic reign of the Emperor Nicholas II, which was the chief cause of the terrible catastrophe . "General Krassnoff tells us in his book many straight-forward and painful truths," writes Kouprin.
It is necessary to note, that because of this, his book has already provoked indignation in certain circles . We would like to emphasize once more, that the chief interest of the book consists in its being a vivid picture of the mentality of various classes of society of the period, which led to the fall of one of the greatest Empires of the world . It is most valuable as an historical chronicle of its time . The book was originally published in Russia in four volumes, the first of which embraced the period from 1894 till the beginning of the Great War, the second described the war itself and the first months of the revolution up to the seizing of power by the Bolsheviks, the third, entitled "The Martyrs" dealt with the Civil war, and the fourth described life under the rule of the Bolsheviks . We trust that the translation of this book into English will help many to gain a clearer insight into the events of the past few years in Russia.
There is a notion abroad that a preface must needs be unreservedly laudatory. An unhealthy delusion! A preface should, for the most part, be critical and explanative. Here is a book, a provocative document that cannot be launched into a complacent Anglo-Saxon world without some sort of an explanation. Then let me attempt one. "From Double Eagle to Red Flag" was born of the debris of Imperial Russia, conceived in the shadow of Leo Tolstoy's historical narrative, by a Russian General with exceptional opportunities, an expert on his subject (and that is what makes it so interesting), possessed of keen observation and uncommon literary skill. It is, in the nature of things, monumental; not unlike the London Albert Memorial. And withal the book has a stark, a naked, a terrible fascination. I confess I could not put it down .
What is its hold? Some will say it is art : the grandiose, leisurely novel dealing with Russian reality true to type : "War and Peace" brought up to date. Others will say it's photography. Others again, that it is Victor Hugo at his best. Never mind what they say-start at the beginning, read twenty pages, and you will not stop till you have come to the end.
This, say what you will, is an achievement o f which the author, the meditative Don Cossack General, Peter Krassnoff, may be justly proud. I venture to prophesy a large public for this epic historical novel covering a quarter of a century - our quarter. And who will deny historical magnitude to our days?
Oh, the great Russian soul! Oh, the colossal Russian mind! It is overwhelming. It is like some gigantic machine of marvelous design and construction - with a hitch that prevents it from working; like a born orator, with an impediment in his speech. Russia will not change. There will arise some new Peter the Great, who will conceive a new plan, let us say, for electrifying the whole of Russia, with a stroke of the pen. On the margin of the ministerial report he will write the words : "Electrify Russia at once ." And the contractors will duly bribe the authorities and supply rotten material, get rich, and'the scheme will be crippled at birth.
In this lies the humor and genius of the race. It needed a Chekhov to see it, a Chekhov who seemed a little weary of people knocking at the window of his bedroom at about half past two in the morning, anxious for a "soul-to-soul" talk . A Chekhov who walked a little outside and beside life. Here you get it all-the unashamed, frank, childish account of it, with a perfect absence of guile, by a nice, well-meaning military gentleman who indeed has never stepped outside it. An officer who is trying to tell you how different it would have been had the other officers of the Guards been a little different to the soldiers. I don't know.
I have a sneaking feeling that it becomes so gross and low-brow a thing as an army to have low-brow ruffians to direct it. If the officers turned philosophers, poets, or scholars, they might find themselves questioning their objective and losing interest in their work. You may entirely disregard, as I do, the political implications of this book and still feel its relative truth, as I feel it.
The General has been moderate and honest-to the full capacity of his own interpretation of these terms. And who can be more! There runs through his work a doleful note, a sense of frustration and melancholy at the emptiness of "la gloire"- together with a slight irritation at the constant delay of its coming. You read and feel sorry.
A new Tolstoy! A new Dostoevski! No, no; spare us that. It is rather the very personal, very vivid and graphic account by an eye-witness of the things which really did happen at the Imperial Court (even the names of most of the persons are real : nothing has been hidden), of the intimate life of the officers of the Guards, of the soldiers and people, of the coming Revolution; but chiefly of the glittering life in high quarters.
The central figure is the leisured aristocrat, Sablin, the dashing young guardsman par Excellence, whose life is involved, from the time of his seduction by a demi-mondaine to the day of his death at the hand of his own son. The Emperor and Empress of Russia walk the pages again and again, looking, for all the world, thoroughly alive. The Russian Army stands before you in all its gregarious variety ; the military manaouvres are painted to the life. Court functions, balls, grand dukes and foreign ambassadors, funerals, banquets, coronations, dissipations, all the resplendid regimental displays. What pomp! What descriptions! Well done, General! Moreover, there is Rasputin.
There are intrigues, love of the sacred and profane variety . . . It is as good as Zola; It is as good as Dumaspere and fils, and all the lot of them put together . -William Gerhardi.
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