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George Sand (London)

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Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero
Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero
by Catriona Kelly
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Cultural Deconstriction of a Soviet Myth, 15 Oct. 2007
This is a fascinating work of scholarship which gives a detailed cultural analysis of the Pavlik Morozov legend - the story of the Soviet boy hero who supposedly denounced his kulak father to the authorities, thereby demonstrating that loyalty to the state took precedence over family reklationships.

Analysing the archival evidence and the Soviet press, Kelly manages to unpick the truth in the story from those elements that were fabiracted by the authorities to use the myth for propaganda purposes. She also shows how the myth of Pavlik Morozov changed in meaning over time.

My only reservation about this book is its bias towards literary sources. There is little here about the Pavlik Morozovs who existed in real life. But otherwise this is a fine book.

The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Hardcover

75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Book that will Move and Disturb You, 3 Oct. 2007
This is the most amazing book. Really - it is! I bought it after reading rave reviews in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph and read it almost in two days, totally engrossed and often moved to tears by the stories of ordinary families surviving the Stalin years.

The book is based on several hundred family archives and on interviews with more than a thousand people, the last survivors of the Stalin Terror, in towns across Russia (Figes has done something very important by collecting all these testimonies for posterity). But The Whisperers is not just a book of voices or an oral history in the usual sense. Figes draws on these materials and interweaves a few of the more important family histories to construct a broader narrative that speaks for a whole generation.

I particularly liked the story of the Laskins and the Simonovs which is interwoven through the book. Figes manages to make us understand how educated people like the writer Konstantin Simonov lost themselves in the Stalinist system, how they took part in its repressions and even betrayed friends, without making easy moral judgements about their behaviour.

This is obviously a very important book. It tells us more about the nature of the Soviet regime, about the deep and long-term damage of terror and dictatorship, than any book I know; but it also tells us a great deal about the resilience of human beings.

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