Baltic accent

2018 Vol. 9 №1

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«Which Side are You on, Boy?» Roman Jakobson in the Interwar Pragu



The author describes the private life of Roman Jakobson between 1920 and 1939 when he lived in the former Czechoslovakia, first as a Soviet diplomat and later as a scholar caught in a thick web of political intrigues. Using archival documents, the author illustrates Roman Jakobson’s complex and often contradictory relations with the trio of political institutions within whose orbits he was moving: 1) the Ministry of Interior; 2) the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 3) and the Soviet Red Cross Mission/Political Representation in Prague. The reader is invited to assess Jakobson’s loyalties: whether to concur with Georgii Chicherin’s opinion that Jakobson is perhaps “an unreliable but absolutely indispensable” because, as the chief of the Soviet delegation, Antonov-Ovseenko, put it, “a good half of our information comes from him,” or to give credence to the Prague Police Directorate’s portrayal of Jakobson as the resident of “the Third International… charged… with a political mission,” or to accept as fact a testimonial letter by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to which Jakobson not only “wished to help our nation and did help” but “will be able to render very good services to our state also in the future.”


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