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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave

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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Back to Bokhara

In one of my frequent trawls through a second hand bookshop, I came across 'Back to Bokhara' by Fitzroy Maclean. I have of course read his memoirs in 'Eastern Approaches', largely for his WW2 activities with Tito in Yugoslavia. 


This book was written in 1959 and covers his return to the Soviet Union, six years after Nikita Khrushchev had taken over from Stalin. Twenty years earlier, Maclean had spent two years in the British Embassy in Moscow during the height of the Stalin purges. A point often forgotten by his critics, who argue that he was duped by Tito. Maclean was a Tory MP, no fan of communism!

This book is something of a travelogue, as he revisits parts of the Soviet Union, including what are now central asian states like Uzbekistan.  He compares the Soviet Union of this period positively compared with the Stalin era. Khrushchev introduced wide ranging reforms and less oppressive government, denouncing the Stalin purges. 

His struggles with the Soviet bureaucracy are mildly entertaining, as he seeks permission to visit places tourists rarely went to. His description of the sites in Samarkand, Tashkent and Bokhara are particularly vivid, as are his black and white photographs. However, like many memoirs by soldiers of his class, he inexplicably feels the need to describe his meals in some detail. It's obviously a public school thing!

This is a slim volume, a period piece that is interesting, but not a page turner. Perhaps not an objective view of the Soviet Union during this period of change, but not a particularly hostile one either.

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