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The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression Hardcover – 8 Oct 1999

3.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (8 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674076087
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674076082
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 473,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

Arguing with the passion of former believers, Ýthe contributors¨ charge that communism was a criminal system. They all make the case well.

A sober and balanced piece of work. Ý"The Black Book of Communism"¨ is particularly good on the origins of the Soviet police state under Lenin and on Stalin's Great Terror. It should be read by anyone who still has illusions that the Bolshevik revolution was a good thing--and anyone who believes that something worthwhile was lost when the Berliners destroyed the Wall 10 years ago. -- Paul Anderson "The Tribune"

In France, this damning reckoning of communism's worldwide legacy was a bestseller that sparked passionate arguments among intellectuals of the Left. Courtois, along with the other distinguished French and European contributors, delivers a fact-based, mostly Russia-centered wallop that will be hard to refute: town burnings, mass deportations, property seizures, family separations, mass murders, planned famines--all chillingly documented from conception to implementation.

A unique attempt by French historians--as important in its way as the works of Solzhenitsyn--to chronicle the crimes of communism wherever it has attained power in the world. Not the least remarkable thing about this book is that this is the first time such a study has been made. For the cumulative toll of victims of communist rule, estimated by the authors at between 85 and 100 million, dwarfs even the crimes of the Nazis...A devastating and important book, already hailed in Europe, and the more harrowing for its sobriety.

"The Black Book of Communism"¨ consists of scholarly yet readable (and superbly translated) essays, some based on recently opened Soviet archives, and covers the communist revolutions in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, including Cuba..."The Black Book" Ýis¨ a most important volume of contemporary history produced by a group of French Sovietologists...On finishing this magnificent volume, it is impossible not to see that in three-quarters of a century Soviet communism had left nothing behind except death and destruction. -- Arnold Beichman "Weekend Post"

Arguing with the passion of former believers, [the contributors] charge that communism was a criminal system. They all make the case well.

When "The Black Book of Communism" appeared in Europe in 1997 detailing communism's crimes, it created a furor. Scrupulously documented and soberly written by several historians, it is a masterful work. It is, in fact, a reckoning. With this translation by Jonathan Murphy and Mark Kramer, English-language readers may now see for themselves what all the commotion was about.--Jacob Heilbrunn "Wall Street Journal "

An 800-page compendium of the crimes of Communist regimes worldwide, recorded and analyzed in ghastly detail by a team of scholars. The facts and figures, some of them well known, others newly confirmed in hitherto inaccessible archives, are irrefutable. The myth of the well-intentioned founders--the good czar Lenin betrayed by his evil heirs--has been laid to rest for good. No one will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of Communism, and those who had begun to forget will be forced to remember anew.--Tony Judt "New York Times "

Most sensible adults are aware of communism's human toll in the Soviet Union and elsewhere--the forced starvations in the Ukraine, the Great Purge of the 1930s, the Gulag, the insanity of China's Great Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot's murder of one in every seven Cambodians, Fidel Castro's firing squads and prisons. All these horrors are now brought together in what the French scholar Martin Mali, in his foreword, calls a 'balance sheet of our current knowledge of communism's human costs, archivally based where possible and elsewhere drawing on the best available secondary evidence'...The book is all the more damning because each of the contributing scholars is either a former communist or close fellow traveler...That "The Black Book" infuriated the French left is a sure mark of its intrinsic worth.--Joseph C. Goulden "Washington Times "

To the extent that the book has a literary style, it is that of the recording angel; this is the body count of a colossal, wholly failed social, economic, political and psychological experiment. It is a criminal indictment, and it rightly reads like one.--Alan Ryan "New York Times Book Review "

"The Black Book" is a groundbreaking effort by a group of French scholars to document the human costs of Communism in the 20th century. Its publication caused a sensation in France when it was first released in 1997, but Americans were not able to see for themselves what the furor was all about until October 1999, when Harvard University Press finally released an English translation. It was worth the wait. Taking advantage of many newly available archives in former Communist states, the authors (many of them former Communists themselves) have meticulously recorded the crimes, terror and repression inflicted by Communist regimes across the world. It is a powerful work.--Mark A. Thiessen "National Review "

Now "The Black Book of Communism" is available in English, thanks to a stellar edition from Harvard University Press that appeared late last year, with an excellent introduction by Martin Malia, professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley.--Stephen Goode "Insight "

"The Black Book of Communism"] consists of scholarly yet readable (and superbly translated) essays, some based on recently opened Soviet archives, and covers the communist revolutions in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, including Cuba..."The Black Book" [is] a most important volume of contemporary history produced by a group of French Sovietologists...On finishing this magnificent volume, it is impossible not to see that in three-quarters of a century Soviet communism had left nothing behind except death and destruction.--Arnold Beichman "Weekend Post "

A generally even-toned and informative book, and one that will serve as a healthy dose of medication for those still afflicted by a wish to treat the Bolshevik revolution as a mistake, however monumental, or something that 'had to happen'..."The Black Book"'s guiding purpose is to cut through the dense tissue of apologetics that has been deployed in the communist interest, both those devised in the thick of repression and those added after the collapse.--Ben Webb "New Times "

A serious, scholarly history of Communist crimes in the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, China, North Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Africa, and Latin America..."The Black Book" does indeed surpass many of its predecessors in conveying the grand scale of the Communist tragedy, thanks to its authors' extensive use of the newly opened archives of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.--Anne Applebaum "Weekly Standard "

This black book has been a best seller across Europe. It details all the misery inflicted by Communism throughout the world: 25 million dead in the Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia...Not a pleasant book, a necessary one.--David Sexton "Evening Standard "

A sober and balanced piece of work. ["The Black Book of Communism"] is particularly good on the origins of the Soviet police state under Lenin and on Stalin's Great Terror. It should be read by anyone who still has illusions that the Bolshevik revolution was a good thing--and anyone who believes that something worthwhile was lost when the Berliners destroyed the Wall 10 years ago.--Paul Anderson "The Tribune "

The heart of the "Black Book" is a compilation and description--in mesmerizing objective prose-- of the slaughters visited upon populations around the world by communist dictators in the 20th century..."The Black Book" is an elegantly simple and valuable record of a time many would like to forget--but will have to deal with.--John Omicinski "Scottsdale Tribune "

The authors of "The Black Book of Communism" are part of a welcome change in the moral-philosophical landscape in Paris, and one hopes elsewhere, as a result of which liberal and left-of-center intellectuals, scholars and politicians judge the crimes of communist regimes with the same severity they've applied to those of Nazism and fascism.--Jeffrey Herf "Washington Post Book World "

An important scholarly achievement of exhaustive breadth based on new archival material from the Stalin era...This impressive and important book is well worth the price.--Zachary T. Irwin "Library Journal "

In the end, the "Black Book"'s body counts--necessary as they are--are less important than the soul-destroying connections between Marxist idealism and the violence committed in its name.--Lawrence Osborne "salon.com "

"The Black Book of Communism", which is finally appearing in English, is an extraordinary and almost unspeakably chilling book. It is a major study that deepens our understanding of communism and poses a philosophical and political challenge that cannot be ignored. The book's central argument, copiously documented and repeated in upwards of a dozen different essays, is that the history of communism should be read above all as the history of an all-out assault on society by a series of conspiratorial cliques led by cruel dictators (Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim II Sung, Pol Pot, and dozens of imitators) who were murderously drunk on their own ideology and power...Courtois and his collaborators have performed a signal service by gathering in one volume a global history of communism's crimes from the Soviet Union to China, from the satellite countries of Eastern-Europe to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and North Korea, and to a lesser degree in Latin America and Africa..."The Black Book" is enormously impressive and utterly convincing.--Michael Scammell "New Republic "

"The Black Book of Communism," which is finally appearing in English, is an extraordinary and almost unspeakably chilling book. It is a major study that deepens our understanding of communism and poses a philosophical and political challenge that cannot be ignored. The book's central argument, copiously documented and repeated in upwards of a dozen different essays, is that the history of communism should be read above all as the history of an all-out assault on society by a series of conspiratorial cliques led by cruel dictators (Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim II Sung, Pol Pot, and dozens of imitators) who were murderously drunk on their own ideology and power...Courtois and his collaborators have performed a signal service by gathering in one volume a global history of communism's crimes from the Soviet Union to China, from the satellite countries of Eastern-Europe to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and North Korea, and to a lesser degree in Latin America and Africa..."The Black Book" is enormously impressive and utterly convincing.--Michael Scammell "New Republic "

I can't think of any book that would be more important for Americans to read. If you are going to read only one book this year, make it "The Black Book of Communism." This is an 800-page history of the terror, repression and killings of communism stretching from the Bolshevik Revolution to the present. Written by scholars who are ex-communists or former fellow travelers, the book establishes beyond doubt that communism is the greatest crime against humanity in the 20th century.--Charley Reese "The Sentine "

The publishing sensation in France this winter (1999) has been an austere academic tome, "Le Livre Noir du Communisme," detailing Communism's crimes from Russia in 1917 to Afghanistan in 1989...["The Black Book of Communism"] gives a balance sheet of our present knowledge of Communism's human costs, archivally based where possible, and otherwise drawing on the best secondary works, and with due allowance for the difficulties of quantification. Yet austere though this inventory is, its cumulative impact is overwhelming. At the same time, the book advances a number of important analytical points.--Martin Malia "Times Literary Supplement "

From the Inside Flap

Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.

"Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit", Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience -- in the China of "the Great Helmsman", Kim II Sung's Korea, Vietnam under "Uncle Ho" and Cuba under Castro, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Angola under Neto, and Afghanistan under Najibullah. The authors, all distinguished scholars based in Europe, document Communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin's destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu's leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the wide-scale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao's Red Guards.

As the death toll mounts -- as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on -- the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.

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Format: Hardcover
This book is a very interesting and detailed annalisys of the communist system. The authors, leanding french researchers made here a good work and were able to expose the inherent perversity of a totalitary system that murdered millions of trustful of their own citizens. This book, although not as exaustive as it could be, namely on Asia, is essential to destroy the myth of communism as a peaceful and normal society,able to work within the democratic system.
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By A Customer on 29 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
It may be that aspects of this book have been seized on by the likes of Berlusconi, but that is the unfortunate thing about facts, and history: they can be interpreted according to people's own agenda.

This book stands on its own as a piece of monumental research, and a debunking of the various pious myths (of the sort that Robert Conquest had long made his stock-in-trade) about what actually happened in Communist regimes, whether in the Soviet states, China, South East Asia or Latin America. The get-outs that Communism was, in practice, i) well-intentioned; ii) a perversion of the "pure" Marxism of the Communist Manifestos, are the special pleading of true believers. Comparisons with Dubya and the ills of capitalism would be quite amusing were it not for the millions of dead in, to take two instances, China and Cambodia.

Most Marxist governments were not _intentionally_ evil (perhaps not even Stalin and Mao, at least at the beginning), but they were something perhaps even worse than that: well-intentioned, unreflective, ruthless and cunning leaders who would use any form of brutality to support a higher cause that all too often morphed into the self-preservation of their new elite. What they did to human beings really does not bear thinking about.

Should we care that Communists killed astronomically more people than the Nazis (another group, as it happens, opposed in the strongest terms to Anglo-American-Jewish capitalism)? Yes, we should. This book explains why. That fact that Berlusconi's advisors noted that this was a good way of bating the useful idiot Italian fellow-travellers should not get in the way of the fact. Guilt by association is, after all, a staple of totalitarian regimes.
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Most of the western "intellectuals", especially those making a fat salary in the media, ought to read it before going to bed: each night, like monks used to read the New Testament.
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By A Customer on 15 Jun. 2000
Format: Hardcover
The tolerance of the world to it's most murderous regime is incredible. For too long historians have chosen to pardon selected groups of mass murderers and even portray them as heroes of the people.
It's now time to clear the bookshelves of the works of Lenin and his murderous cronies, and put this excellent book in their place.
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Format: Hardcover
Don't be fooled by some of the reviews of this excellent book. Some people have a politically vested interest in ensuring that you do not discover the true human rights legacy of communism. The truth cannot be allowed to be hidden by deceiving revisionists. This book graphically exposes the abuses of communist regimes throughout the world in great detail. It often makes for depressing reading, but like similar works on the brutal rule of the Nazis during World War Two, it is important that we learn from these terrible historic examples.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the most comprehensive and candid study of Communism yet to be written , the authors with brutal honesty lay bare the extent of the horror of the system called 'Communism' which has spread its tentacles across the globe , at its height ruling over a third of mankind, and still continues its reign of terror in some countries - 84 years after the Bolsheviks siezed power in Russia.As Martin Malia pints out in his forward what makes this book remarkable is unlike the previous studies which have been of Communist tyrannies in specific countries or regions whether in the Soviet Union , Eastern Europe , China , Cambodia , Ethiopia or elsewhere this work provides the totality of this system of total terror In his introduction Stephane Courtois gives a rough approximation of the more then 100 million people butchered by Communism USSR : 20 million deaths China : 65 million deaths Vietnam : 1 million deaths North Korea : 2 million deaths Cambodia : 2 million deaths Eastern Europe : 1 million deaths Latin America : 150 000 deaths Africa : 1.7 million deaths Afghanistan : 1.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The scourge of communism is well documented in this long and detailed account of its impact upon the hundreds of millions of lives who barely survived and the excess of 100-million who did not. It is incredible that after such an appalling result, a fellow reviewer, and communist sympathiser, considers Stalin's excesses to be somewhat forgivable because he hastened the introduction of electrification into the USSR. The Soviets could have struggled on with oil lamps given the choice, I would have thought. But, under communism, only a special few had a choice.

The fundamental flaw in communism is that it integrates economics with political power, which, ironically for the communist critics of capitalism, achieves exactly what they maintain to be the shortcomings of capitalism vis-à-vis the little guy.
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