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Elena Govor

 

Review of: John McNair and Thomas Poole (eds). Russia and the Fifth Continent. Aspects of Russian-Australian Relations. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1992. xiv + 292 pp. $29.95 (paper).

 

In the past decade the University of Queensland has taken a leading role in exploring the history of Australian-Russian relations. Russia and the Fifth Continent is a striking example of its original contributions to this field. Published in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Australian-Soviet diplomatic relations, the book discusses not only the evolution of these relations, but a wide range of political, economic and cultural contacts as well. Symbolic of these evolving relations, the book is the result of successful cooperation between Australian and Russian scholars. This and the fact that many of the book's articles break new ground make the collection especially valuable.

Manning Clark's essay opens the book and ponders the effects of the October Revolution on Australian history. John McNair looks at Russian-Australian contacts through the prism of perceptions, both official and popular, during the past two hundred years and provides a valuable guide to primary sources and other articles in the collection. Kim Malakhovsky, founder and long-time head of the Centre of Australian and Pacific studies in the USSR Academy of Sciences, surveys the fascinating travel accounts of Russian naval and scientific visitors to Australia in the nineteenth century. Nikolai Butinov uncovers the part played by the Russian traveller N. Mikloukho-Maclay in the history of Russian-Australian relations in the 1870s and 1880s. Charles Price presents a unique demographic analysis of Russians in Australia based on the naturalisation records. Boris Christa discusses Russian political and cultural contributions to Australia - from the early naval presence through the five waves of Russian emigration. In their two articles, Eric Fried and Raymond Evans show how Russian emigres influenced Australian politics after the Russian revolution of 1917. Thomas Poole places his study of the first Australian diplomatic mission to the USSR in 1943 within a useful context of Australian-Russian political contacts since the nineteenth century. Russian philologist Alia Petrikovskaya argues that Australian fiction has had a profound impact on Russian readers during the past 180 years. A. Chuyko's article on Soviet-Australian economic ties is of historical interest, but has been overtaken by events. The concluding articles by Malakhovsky and Т.Н. Rigby serve as helpful guides to Australian studies in the former Soviet Union and Russian/Soviet studies in Australia.

Thus, Russia and the Fifth Continent represents a unique encyclopaedia of Russian-Australian contacts and enormously informative guide to Australian and Russian sources in this field, although the absence of an index reduces its usefulness as a reference.

Elena Govor

History Program

Research School of Social Sciences Australian National University

 

Published in Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 47, no. 1, 1993, p. 155.

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