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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Study of a Great Crime
When the Great Terror was published in 1968, it was done so in the knowledge that many required sources were still forbidden for Western scholars (and indeed, plenty of Russian ones). Conquest's great achievement was the astonishing accuracy of his assumptions once the archives were opened up during glasnost, thoroughly vindicating much of his initial thesis. This...
Published on 22 Nov. 2012 by Dr. G. SPORTON

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19 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A great liar
Veteran Sovietologist Roberta Manning of Boston College said of Conquest, "He's terrible at doing research," and, "He misuses sources, he twists everything."
Data from the recently opened Russian archives prove that Robert Conquest hugely inflated figures for deaths and deportations in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Too many writers on the subject, like Stephen...
Published on 18 Aug. 2011 by William Podmore


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Study of a Great Crime, 22 Nov. 2012
By 
Dr. G. SPORTON "groggery1" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
When the Great Terror was published in 1968, it was done so in the knowledge that many required sources were still forbidden for Western scholars (and indeed, plenty of Russian ones). Conquest's great achievement was the astonishing accuracy of his assumptions once the archives were opened up during glasnost, thoroughly vindicating much of his initial thesis. This revision, made in 1990 with a new Introduction from 2007, illustrates just how great an achievement it was, given the regime's penchant for secrecy and self-justification (even after Stalin's death). What Conquest does that is so unique is to give human faces and consequences to the probable 3 milllion direct victims of the Terror. The endless lists of tortures and humiliations that were inflicted on the way to undignified death were indeed an appalling tragedy, but once abstracted, as Stalin once remarked, become statistical rather than human. After building up a picture of the state of the regime in 1934, and linking the horrors to come to Stalin's weakness in power, he makes one of the most cogent extended arguments about power, policy and determination that one is likely to find. Conquest's Stalin is vindictive for sure, but also patient and cunning, able to encourage others to act for him by working away at their fears for their own personal safety. Against the assumptions of sovietologists of the time, his suggestion that the Purge happened precisely because Stalin initially lacked the power to condemn his enemies to death is plausible, and when combined with Stalin's way turning authority into real, practical action proved deadly. This was not merely to the obvious victims, but also to the moral fibre of the Soviet system.

The building of evidence, from the Famine, Kirov's murder, the show trials and then to the military purges demonstrates the systematic deepening in blood of the regime, reflected in the degradation of the gulags and the arbitrary nature of arrest, torture, trial and punishment. This latter emerges precisely because eventually no relationship to either direct or indirect military or political threat can be made, and is done regardless of the economic cost. As Conquest shows, the Terror ceased only with the incapacity of any aspect of society or government to mount even the slightest challenge to the power of Stalin, not the risk to which this opened the nation. Conquest's final section, an indictment of those apologists in the West who refused to believe the evidence, is chilling reading. Their incredulity at Stalin's methods and cruelty was a failure of imagination as much as anything else, given their moral responsibility to the fellow believers that Stalin had murdered, and Conquest thoroughly condemns their denials. Written for the most part in the dispassionate style of empirical, academic history, once Conquest has made his case he prosecutes it with far more evidence and briliance than the rat-featured Vyshinsky ever did. Stalin's guilt, whilst proven, clearly never troubled him for a moment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An uncompromisingly honest historian, 23 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
Why this brilliant work was so successfully side-lined on its first appearance in the immediate post-WWII years is a mystery. Conquest lays out the staggering level of the Stalin's regime brutality in uncompromising detail. Why, one must wonder, did the world not listen to him at the time, preferring instead the thoroughly mendacious lionising of the USSR by the 'useful idiots' who wanted to see the entire civilised world come under the Soviet foot. (Much more than enough of it did.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Conquest's book is a must-have for any historical or political thinker, 30 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
This work is extraordinary in its range and depth. Conquest manages to remain objective throughout the narration and careful documentation of an awful time.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Discussion of the Cause and Long Term Effects, 8 Dec. 2009
By 
zeev wolfe (MetroWest Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
When Lenin died in 1924, he final testament was hushed up. Why? Because he had left the 'Party' to Trotsky and Zinioviev, and told them Stalin was not to be trusted. But by now Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and all the Bureaucracy/Apparatchiks were indebted to him for their positions. With the cunning of a weasel he was able to play the Left (Trotsky) against the Right (Zinoviev and Kamenev) and then eliminate the them both. He then eliminated those in the Center and the Old Bolsheviks (members of the party prior to October 1917).

He then systematically eliminated anyone who might become a danger to him or raise a hand against him. The purpose of the Great Terror was to 'cower' everyone. When your afraid to talk to your own children for fear of exposure, your not thinking about overthrowing the government, your hoping not to be noticed. Stalin then was able to 'create' an autocracy where all great and wonderful things emanated from the Leader (him). Stalin was able to dictate the 'history' of the CPSU, the Revolution and Soviet Russia, where he was all knowing and powerful. (That he had might have been an agent of the Tsar's Okhrana, had been a minor player in the Revolution, and his bumbling during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 cost the loss of Lvov and Warsaw was easily passed over.)

For anyone who wants to know the extent of the "Purge" and what went on during the three Great Trials, this is the answer to all your questions. Conquest does a fabulous job of explaining who was, what was what, and what happened to whom. The dialogue from the trials is alone worth reading the book for. In one case a traitor was accused of meeting foreign spies at a hotel that had been torn down ten years before, and another had a man flying to a city whose airport had been closed for six months during the winter when he flew in.

Well worth the time and effort to read (500+ of densely packed pages).

Zeev BM Halevi
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's just a step to the right......., 8 Jun. 2009
By 
Bloodnock (Melbourne, Aus) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
A totally scary book!
But is it perverse of me to be have been found giggling during some memorably darker passages of Conquest's famous tome? If the Great Terror wasn't such a mounumental disaster that fell upon both citizen and officialdom and of such tragic proportions it would have made a brilliant synopsis for a 'Keystone Cops' caper.
The mind cannot comprehend the awfulness that was life during the 1930's in Russia; when perpetrators became victims and victims became martyrs and families of perpetrators, victims and martyrs became victims and villains at once themselves.
The many twists and turns of Stalin's paranoic rule become confusing admist the maze of sub-plots and sub-sub plots, but Conquest reminds us often of the stories of the ghosts that haunt this masterful book; and so that we need to worry little if we confuse Bukharin with Zarkov, Beria with Yagoda or Yezhov with Rykov. Suffice to say, it is simply the awfulness of the Great Terror and the banality of the oppression within a totalitarian society that concern us most. The almost tragic-comedy of those revolting perpetrators, whose existence straddled every stratum of the regime and who in turn were dragged off to have great horrors inflicted on them in return for their 'confessions' is simply awe-inspiring and almost unbelievable in its scope and reach.
My only criticism would be that Kruschev's role in all this fine mess was still as mysterious to me at the end of this book as it was at the beginning.
A magnificent education.
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harvest of Sorrow, 25 May 2009
This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
This is a story that needs to be told. Conquest masterfully reviews all the evidence on the famines of the 30's in the Soviet Union, as well as details the complicity of journalists and governments in the free world to deny this holocaust. There are tons of material on the tragedies inflicted on the world by the Nazis, but these tragedies pale in the face of the genocides inflicted by the communist regimes of Stalin and Mao. Germans have made admirable efforts to acknowledge their dark history, but Russia and China seem to be pleased to continue the greatest cover-up of genocide in history.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another conquest by Conquest!, 9 Jan. 2014
By 
Mr. M. Herbert "Bowmore" (Scotland uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
This is a very good, detailed account of the. Great Terror. Many Western readers will have little understanding not only of this terrible period in time for the Soviet peoples, but even less understanding of why it all happened. Conquest has nicely addressed both issues. The Terrors under the direct of, and at the behest of, Stalin almost lead to ruination at the outbreak of the German invasion of Russia in 1941. The killings and transportations of many genuine, committed and sincere communists, were often at the personal whim of Stalin. Others were despatched and denounced by others in the hope (often in vain!) of further ingratiating themselves with "the boss". Stalin's mindset at this period is explored and frankly, the author opens up a whole range of reasons for his thinking just at this period. This is a good exposition of Stalin in the late 1930's. I am a student of Soviet Russia and have read many "accounts" of this period, but in all honesty, I think Conquest has summed up the issues very clearly in this book.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New Look at the Soviet Union in the 1930's, 2 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
Josef Stalin, who died 5 March 1953, bears much of the reponsibility for the initiation and conduct of the Great Terror, or Purge ('Chistka' in Russian). In this book, an update of the 1968 original, Conquest takes the view that the Terror began with the murder of Sergei Kirov on 1 December 1934 and ended with the rise of Beria in 1938/39. The intervening period saw the rise and fall of monsters such as Genrikh Yagoda and Nikolai Yezhov. The precise number of victims is unknown; Conquest puts forward a figure of 20 million. Whilst this book is very informative, if depressing, I did feel that thet Conquest might have provided us with more data on the psychology, private lives and physical characteristics of the men in Stalin's entourge in order to bring them to life for the reader. For this I would recommend 'Stalin and his Hangmen' by Donald Rayfield where we learn that Yezhov for instance, shot on 4 Februray 1940 was bisexual, a mere 5ft tall with a penchant for built-up shoes, and went, bizarrely, by the name 'Blackberry!

NB: Amazon - please give my full name as reviewer - Ken Burnett
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satisfied, 26 Feb. 2013
By 
J. Adair - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
Bought it as a present and the person was gushing over how good a book it was, cant say its my cup of tea.
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19 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A great liar, 18 Aug. 2011
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Terror: A Reassessment (Paperback)
Veteran Sovietologist Roberta Manning of Boston College said of Conquest, "He's terrible at doing research," and, "He misuses sources, he twists everything."
Data from the recently opened Russian archives prove that Robert Conquest hugely inflated figures for deaths and deportations in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Too many writers on the subject, like Stephen Cohen, Alan Bullock and Martin Malia, relied on what Pofessor R. W. Davies called, `Conquest's very high figures for deaths from political causes under Stalin'.
They all claimed that the opened archives would prove their figures true, but when the archives were opened, they went very quiet.
As Professor Richard Overy, Professor of History at King's College London, writes, "For years the figures circulating in the West for Soviet repression were greatly inflated. ... The archive shows a very different picture." Victor Zemskov, who Conquest called `a thoroughly reliable researcher', said the figure of 7 million executed in 1935-41 was `overestimated by a factor of ten'. Archive figures are 799,257 between 1921 and 1952.
The number of those sentenced to prison in those years was 3.85 million. Prisoners in 1939, Conquest said 9 million, a figure again repeated by Cohen. The camp and prison population in January 1939 was two million, not the 15 million that Robert Conquest alleged, which would have been half the adult male population. Alec Nove wrote that Conquest's figures `are indeed incredible'. Conquest alleged that 12 million were political prisoners; the NKVD figure was under 500,000. D. J. Dallin claimed that there were 10-12 million in the camps, 30-40 per cent of whom, that is 3-4 million, died yearly (this from an adult male population of 50 million). Wheatcroft and Davies point out that recent Russian estimates for the numbers in the camps are `far lower than those by Robert Conquest'. Conquest claimed that there were 12 million people in the camps in 1950: the real figure was 578,912. 166,424 died in the labour camps in 1937-39, not 3 million. Conquest's figure of 13 million exiled or sent to the camps during collectivisation was `four times the true figure'. The highest number in the camps was 2,417,468 in 1941, 2.4 per cent of the adult population. Compare the USA in 1996, 5.5 million, a record high, 2.8 per cent of the adult population. Gabor Rittersporn agreed that Alexander Solzhenitsyn's figures for deportations during the 1930s in the Soviet Union were `grossly exaggerated'.

Conquest wrote in 1969 `Great Terror' that 5-6 million died in the famine; by 1986, 14-15 million.
There were 17 million excess deaths in 1930-38, according to Conquest.
As Davies pointed out about excess deaths and the numbers in camps, "Extreme (and untenable) figures often prevailed." Zemskov claims that "the statistical data adduced by Robert Conquest and Stephen Cohen are exaggerated by almost 500 per cent."

Conquest alleged that in 1937-38, 35,000 of the Red Army's 70,000 officers were arrested. The archive showed indeed that 35,000 officers were arrested or discharged, but also that 10,994 were reinstated. It also showed that there were 178,000 officers in 1938, not 70,000, so the arrest rate was about 15 per cent, not 50 per cent. After the war, returning POWs were not `either executed or sent to the Gulag' as Malia claimed. 6.5 per cent went to the NKVD's `special contingent', 58 per cent were sent home, and 33 per cent returned to the army.

Davies summed up, "Russian historians who have worked in the formerly secret archives peremptorily reject the high estimates of Conquest and others. ... The archival data are entirely incompatible with such very high figures, which continue to be cited as firm fact in both the Russian and the Western media."
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