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The Forsaken: From the Great Depression to the Gulags: Hope and Betrayal in Stalin's Russia [Paperback]

Tim Tzouliadis
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Aug 2009
Of all the great movements of population to and from the United States, the least heralded is the migration, in the depths of the Depression of the nineteen-thirties, of thousands of men, women and children to Stalin's Russia. Where capitalism had failed them, Communism promised dignity for the working man, racial equality, and honest labour. What in fact awaited them, however, was the most monstrous betrayal. In a remarkable piece of historical investigation that spans seven decades of political change, Tim Tzouliadis follows these thousands from Pittsburgh and Detroit and Los Angeles, as their numbers dwindle on their epic and terrible journey. Through official records, memoirs, newspaper reports and interviews he searches the most closely guarded archive in modern history to reconstruct their story - one of honesty, vitality and idealism brought up against the brutal machinery of repression. His account exposes the self-serving American diplomats who refused their countrymen sanctuary, it analyses international relations and economic causes but also finds space to retrieve individual acts of kindness and self-sacrifice.

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The Forsaken: From the Great Depression to the Gulags: Hope and Betrayal in Stalin's Russia + Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps + Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (6 Aug 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349117535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349117539
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 273,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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** 'In this spellbinding book, Tim Tzouliadis brings to life an aspect of Stalin's Terror that had been almost completely forgotten (Roger Cox, THE SCOTSMAN)

** 'In THE FORSAKEN, Tim Tzouliadi s' clear, strong narrative discloses the terrible fates which awaited those who wandered into the Soviet sphere (John Lloyd, FINANCIAL TIMES)

** 'This is an extremely impressive book. [Tzouliadis] has done phenomenal research...the writing is crisp and fluent, and the ordinary lives of these Americans come vividly to life; but at the same time the larger political framework is always present, lucidly outlined (Noel Malcolm, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

** 'A fine narrative, full of ironic, sometimes black humour; it is thoroughly researched, sympathetic to the victims and merciless to the perpetrators, and sketches in the now only too familiar background of lies and terror with deadly precision. (LITERARY REVIEW)

Book Description

* An extraordinary work of history that uncovers the story of the Americans lost in Stalinist Russia

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell is a walk in the park 5 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Words fail me after reading this book. It's impossible to exaggerate the nightmare of the Gulags. They make the tortures of hell sound like a picnic in comparison. I've read quite a few books about Stalinism and the Gulags, including Anne Applebaum's excellent Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps and Simon Sebag Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, but neither author manages to tell the terrifying story as well as Tim Tzouliadis. He best captures the mentality of the merciless system and catalogues the unremitting misery of the victims. His scholarship (apparent from the absolutely huge notes section and bibliography at the end of the book) is awesome and meticulous, but above all he tells the story better than any other author. The structure of the book, melding personal testimonies with the wider political and diplomatic machinations, and his excellent, readable prose make this easy and satisfying to read.

I thought that telling this story from the point of view of Americans held in the USSR was a novel, original perspective on the Gulag story. And whilst the book is subtitled "From the Great Depression..." it is not only about emigrants from that period, but also American servicemen captured during the Second World War and the Korean War. I had wondered in the past what became of these unfortunates so it was satisfying to learn of the existence of this book and I bought and devoured it right away. For those who have only read the likes of Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, you could disabuse yourself of the book's many fictions by buying Forsaken.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A SUPERB BOOK. 1 May 2010
I used to wonder what kind of man Stalin must have been to subjugate the Russian people for so long ,well now I know. Anyone was subject to be arrested ,tortured and almost always shot for no reason whatsoever and many Americans mostly communists who went to Russia in the 30s never got the chance to return home when the novelty wore off.They joined their Russian compatriots who were sent to one of the infamous Gulags or were simply liquidated. The executioners were themselves suffered the same fate shortly after and so on it went, even Stalins right hand man who organised much of this insanity was himself executed within a year of Stalins death.The research for this book must have been a huge enterprise and all credit to Tim Tzouliadis for a well written and hard to put down book. If your interested in this period of history, this is the one for you .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating subject 4 Feb 2011
Not knowing much about the gulag this was a great introduction and a different angle on the subject. Well written, highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Forsaken 13 Jan 2009
By Lids
This is a phenomenally well researched book. It brings home with stark clarity the reality of Stalin's regime of terror by detailing the fate suffered by trapped American and other foreign nationals whose own governments were either unable and, in the case of America, unwilling to save them. Tragic and often downright harrowing this is not a book to read at bedtime, at least not if you're planning to get any sleep!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Book 8 Dec 2008
A very good book, very well written about a subject not often broached. The structure and personalities make this a very good read, thoroughly recommended
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I stumbled across this book by chance and, having never heard about any migration of Americans to the USSR, was intrigued by the subject matter.

Tzouliadis' meticulously researched book begins with accounts of American migrants forming their own baseball teams in the USSR and, in the case of the Moscow Foreign Workers' Club, playing baseball in Moscow's Gorky Park. Not surprisingly, these relatively positive early experiences are soon eclipsed. By focusing on the fate of a number of individual American citizens - most notably Victor Herman and Thomas Sgovio - Tzouliadis describes how the American migrants, once welcomed to the Soviet Union, quickly found themselves under suspicion and subject to oppression.

Recognising the nefariousness of the Soviet system and its enforcers, in the form of the NKVD, many of the American émigrés seek to return to the US. Having naively relinquished their American passports to the authorities, and in many cases unknowingly and involuntarily taken Soviet citizenship, these ex-Americans find themselves denied any assistance to return to the US by their own embassy in Moscow. As the persecution of American immigrants greatly intensifies, the US embassy remains almost entirely devoid of empathy for the people they view as Bolsheviks who simply abandoned America. The US officials' blissful ignorance of the mass arrests and executions taking place under their eyes combined with a good measure of apathy and incompetence means that barely a finger was lifted to ensure the safety of ordinary Americans in the USSR. Tzouliadis also introduces a number of high-profile Westerners who, spending time in the USSR during this period, turned a blind eye to the reality that surrounded them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely jaw-dropping.
If this was fiction, it'd be roundly condemned by the left as a right-wing exercise in demonising (even further) the Stalin years. Read more
Published 1 month ago by SL-N/1973
4.0 out of 5 stars Hidden truths
Growing up during the late 40"s and 50's I was unaware that this appalling, barbaric and unforgiving regime was in place. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr. BR Lucas
3.0 out of 5 stars An Important Subject with Misleading Analysis
Tim Tzouliadis has written a welcome and important book that addresses the Soviet reality of Bolshevik Communism and its perception in the West from 1917 to the present day. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Baraniecki Mark Stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars sad
I have not read the book yet but glancing at a few pages it seems to have been a sad episode at a time when the world was falling apart for the ordinary people while the rich still... Read more
Published 7 months ago by phantom
5.0 out of 5 stars wow, what a read!!!
This book for me was brilliant, I could not put it down, it told me a great deal about things I did not know. Read more
Published 13 months ago by davidaves
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener
An astonishing book on a subject I had never realised existed. Migration from USA to Russia. Neither the Russian nor the American Government have anything to be proud of. Read more
Published 15 months ago by scones
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A gripping and tragic tale of American migrants and servicemen trapped in Stalin's USSR. Very well written and researched and utterly heart wrenching. Read more
Published 18 months ago by fergus
4.0 out of 5 stars A new slant on a familiar historical period
This is a very thoroughly researched work. It is written in a readable and accessible tone, which works covering this period often are not. Read more
Published on 13 Mar 2012 by Chris Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely fantastic
The Forsakens uncovers an unknown chapter of american history - the story of thousands of americans who went to russian during the great depression in serach of a better life, only... Read more
Published on 7 July 2011 by C. Nielsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Forsaken but not forgotten
This is a landmark book, full of powerful stories set against the ever escalating violence and tyranny of Stalin's Soviet Union. The research is extensive and authoritative. Read more
Published on 7 Jun 2011 by TerryPa
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