Norwegian title: Russland og vi
Hello book friends!
This time I’ve finished a REALLY old book! We’re talking 1941 here….My main reason for reading this book is its author, which was a quite known and hated figure in Norway in the 1930s and 1940s. To make this explicitly clear: I’ve read this book out of historical interest, not because I support this man or what he stands for. Should be unnecessary to say, but one never knows in today’s society….
In his book, Vidkun Quisling looks at Soviet society after the revolution. His own standpoint is anti-communist and he warns his reader about a similar revolution within the Norwegian Workers Party. He believed that if this were to happen it would create a chaotic society with high death rates. Through topics such as agriculture, foreign policy, and social classes he presents the horror that the revolution left behind, and he argues for why this has left Russia several steps behind its European counterparts.
First of all, I feel like I have to introduce why this author was so hated and known in Norway. Vidkun Quisling was born in 1887. He was a Norwegian officer educated by the Norwegian Military Acadamy and Military College. Later he worked as a volunteer in Soviet for the Nansen Help in the aftermath of the revolution. He later became active in politics and in 1933 (the same year as Hitler came to power) he created National Romantic Fascist Party, in Norway known as Nasjonal Samling (NS). He later attempted to gain power in Norway through a coup when the Nazis invaded Norway April 9. 1940 but failed. However, he became Minister-President in a Nazi-friendly government in 1942, and thus he was viewed as a traitor to his country. He was executed at Akershus Castle in 1945 after Norway’s liberation for treason.
What I believe Quisling does in this book is that he somewhat «confirmed» the myth about Russia and its government in the period after the revolution. I get the sense that the way he portrayed Russia was the way Western people viewed Russia, and maybe in some ways still do. Sadly, I know too little about this historical period to be able to grasp everything he is talking about, but I can sense that the book is heavily affected by his own views, and he often uses words such as ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘them’. This creates a clear line between, what I assume to be, Norwegians and Russians in Quisling’s view. While reading the book you get a clear sense of which human ‘race’ is on top and who is on the more worthless side. The communists, alongside the Jews, is more towards the worthless side. Quisling also blames several historical events on the Jews, which to me just seems ugh. Ugh is the best word, even though it’s not a word, but I’m out of a good noun to express myself. One can clearly see why Quisling fell in so well with Hitler.
When reading this book I suggest that you look at the bigger picture, unless you’re quite knowledgable about this topic, and don’t care too much about the details. I did the same thing here as when I read Hannah Arendt’s book, Origins of Totalitarianism, in the beginning, and tried to consume everything down to the last detail. That made it impossible to read and comprehend and it is the same with this book, although it’s structure is somewhat simpler. Quisling might have been a military educated man, but he doesn’t strike me as a great writer. If you are a bit unfamiliar with this topic, like me, this book will give you a wider perspective on how people thought about and viewed communism and Russia back in those days. If you paid attention in history class, without knowing how the rest of the world educates its people, you’ll be able to draw lines from history up to later Russian history. However questionable the perspective of Quisling might be, he spent some time in Russia and saw the after effects of the revolution and thus I believe that he knows what he talks about when he expresses himself in this book. It is still important to keep his political viewpoints in mind while reading because I get the impression that this book is created to brand communists as something utterly dangerous. If you’re reading this book with a solid knowledge base I presume you’ll get a clearer picture of the political landscape back in those days, amongst other things.
This is turning out to be a long review, but I have to mention one last thing. Since this book is written in 1941 the Norwegian grammar is quite amusing. The words carry a heavy resemblance to Danish, and they also have a more noble character. There is no slang in this book to put it that way! I had to text my grandma about a word because it did not make any sense, and it seemed so utterly misplaced within its sentence, and she was able to help. She’s born in 1933 so she’s had this more noble Norwegian in school. It’s kinda sad in some ways that we’ve lost that old way of speaking and writing in Norwegian, but all languages evolve so I suppose it’s a natural change that has come about over the years. It’s funny to read none the less, and I enjoyed to be able to really test my Norwegian knowledge.
Russia and Us is a book heavy charged with politics and anti-communist views. It might not carry the same significance as it did back in the 30s and 40s, but it is a historical document none the less and it can give us a glimpse of time lost many years ago. History students, alongside students of politics, might find this to be a very enriching read because of its descriptions of previous historical times.
Theme: Communism, revolution, Russia
– The Book Reader