a truly staggering account of the horrors of Stalin's orchestrated vendetta against each and everyone who he either took exception too or were no longer considered 150% loyal. Whether the number of victims of the various purges is entirely accurate, as some people have questioned, is beside the point; the fact remains that countless men women and children were shot or sent to die in camps. The sheer scale of the cruelty and the injustice is horrendous. Most people know of the horrors of Auschwitz but comparatively few are equally aware of what went on at the Kolyma camps and elsewhere in the Soviet wilderness. The reign of terror that Stalin created was as evil as Hitler's Reich and longer lasting
Reading this book you have to remind yourself this involves real people in a real place and really happened. It is a difficult read as there is no light here: an abomination carries out abominal acts with the help of this abominal cronies. The Western Left has done a good job of keeping this out of the public domain: no endless Stalin documentaries on the History Channel and Yesterday. It would have been good if the numbers for the victims of the Stalin murder machine had been gathered in an appendix, rather than having to mark their places in the text. Could have done with more on the civilian victims and the gulags and less on the trials of Party members who after all sort of deserved what they got, or at least got so so hoist by their petards.
The book offers a detailed examination of The Great Terror in the 1930s. Although there are very different and more 'structuralist' views of its causation, this stands as a detailed 'intentionalist' interpretation of why it occurred. The high rating is due to the detail of its coverage and the fact that it provides a very clear example of this particular way of interpreting The Great Terror. To balance it, look at other views such as those expressed by J. Arch Getty (eg 'Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives', or 'Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938' )