Intimate Letters from Petrograd

Pauline S. Crosley, Edited and annotated by Lee A. Farrow
xx + 149

In April 1917, Walter Crosley assumed the position of naval attaché to Petrograd and brought his wife, Pauline, with him. Over the next eleven months, the Crosleys witnessed the last gasps of the Russian Empire and the emergence of the new Bolshevik-led communist regime. Throughout this period, Pauline wrote letters describing the changing political landscape and the challenges of daily life in a city in the midst (and in the wake) of revolution. Though her letters were written primarily to family members, when she chose to publish in them in 1920 she recognized their potential value and the interest they might hold for a larger audience. In the foreword to her book, Crosley wrote, “May these letters now serve to interest and enlighten those others who would know what has not before been published!”

Crosley’s book of published letters is an important and fascinating addition to the body of first-hand literature on the Russian Revolution. It is particularly important as the product of a female author. Pauline Crosley’s role and experience in Russia in 1917 was much the same as the diplomatic wives of the US Foreign Service. She was largely responsible for their social calendar and the day-to-day operations of their home. Her letters tend to focus on the details of everyday life, particularly the assessment of their fuel and food supplies, as well as the changing cultural scene and growing violence in the city. Crosley’s letters give us a sense of what life was like during these tumultuous months, and serve as a fascinating companion to some of the more politically detailed accounts of the revolutionary period.