In this respect the book attempts to reinstate Sorokin’s true position during World War II. It sees Pitirim's creative process in his studies of wars and social calamities as scholarly reflections on his personal experiences. Leaves from A Russian Diary, The Sociology of Revolution, Social and Cultural Dynamics, Russia and the United States, and shorter articles reveal a gradual change in Sorokin’s research agenda towards searching for social mechanisms in a global society that can break vicious circles leading to war and related calamities. In this light, his later initiative to establish the Harvard Research Center for Creative Altruism, although seemingly unrelated to his earlier studies on social structure and social mobility, can be seen as a logical advance in his growth as a social theorist.
Characteristically, Pitirim showed marked ability to relate research findings on wars to the contemporary world. His early warnings against the impending disaster of World War II brought him worldwide recognition afterwards for accurate assessment of global processes and in many countries lead to the reissuing of books and articles he had written during the War. One chapter is specifically devoted to outlining Sorokin's political stance during the war against the Nazis, compared to the positions of other Russian emigres. Unlike most of most these emigrants, he was able to perceive an evolution of the Communist regime in the USSR and to recognize its achievements in certain social and cultural areas. He distinguished creative activities of the people from activities of the political regime, which according to him was leaning from strict Communist ideology towards imperialistic ambitions. Realizing that the major burden of war fell on people and not the government, Sorokin had no hesitation about calling for support of the Soviet Union in its war against the Nazis. He understood Hitler’s invasion of Russia to be a threat to the entire World and to humanity. Therefore, Pitirim put aside his pacifist views and supported a military coalition against the Axis.
Considering the respect accorded Sorokin by American society and the international science community, his support contributed significantly to mobilize aid for Russia. It also demonstrated to other Russian emigrants that ideological disagreements and personal resentments against the Communist regime should be put aside at a time when the survival of the country and its culture was at stake.
As an example of practical assistance many Russian emigres and other Americans provided wartime Russia, details are included about the work Elena Petrovna Sorokin, Pitirim's wife, contributed through the charitable organization Russian War Relief Inc. Elena Petrovna chaired the local Russian War Relief Committee in Winchester and was also on the Board of the Massachusetts branch. A substantial part of the book presents unique archival documents she collected over five years of the Committee’s activities. These enabled a detailed case-study to be made on various kinds of help the local organization actually provided Russian families: 1) It joined nation-wide campaigns to collect family survival kits for 5 million Russian families; 2) held regular drives to collect warm used clothing, as well as sewed and knitted new items to ship to Russia; 3) gathered medical supplies; 4) and raised money in various ways, not least by staging special events. Documents provided in the book show that such efforts by Americans acting locally through the Russian War Relief were indeed helpful and greatly appreciated by many families in the USSR. A few letters are also included to illustrate this. These also show how important the assistance was for building bridges between the two nations.
This book is multidisciplinary. Its discussion of Sorokin’s contribution to sociological analysis of wars makes it a sociological study. Its presentation of historical evidence and artifacts related to activities of The Russian War Relief adds a documentary note. It might also be considered eye-opening for revealing a page in the history of relations between the United States and Russia that both sides tried to cover up during the Cold War. Events described in the book took place at the time when history was at the crossroads and could have taken a path toward mutual understanding and collaboration instead of the one chosen for Cold War and confrontation. In this respect it can be instructive for current events, when history provides another opportunity for two great nations to work together on global issues. Pitirim Sorokin made this attempt over half a century ago.
Publication of the book was financed by the government of the Komi Republic, Russian Federation. To obtain a copy, please address inquiries to Dr. Valery Markov at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots.