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The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia

 
 
 
 
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia
Author: Orlando Figes
ISBN 13: 9780312428037
ISBN 10: 312428030
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: 2008-11-25
Format: Paperback
Pages: 784
List Price: $26.00
 
 

From the award-winning author of A People's Tragedy and Natasha's Dance, a landmark account of what private life was like for Russians in the worst years of Soviet repression

There have been many accounts of the public aspects of Stalin's dictatorship: the arrests and trials, the enslavement and killing in the gulags. No previous book, however, has explored the regime's effect on people's personal lives, what one historian called "the Stalinism that entered into all of us." Now, drawing on a huge collection of newly discovered documents, The Whisperers reveals for the first time the inner world of ordinary Soviet citizens as they struggled to survive amidst the mistrust, fear, compromises, and betrayals that pervaded their existence.

Moving from the Revolution of 1917 to the death of Stalin and beyond, Orlando Figes re-creates the moral maze in which Russians found themselves, where one wrong turn could destroy a family or, perversely, end up saving it. He brings us inside cramped communal apartments, where minor squabbles could lead to fatal denunciations; he examines the Communist faithful, who often rationalized even their own arrest as a case of mistaken identity; and he casts a humanizing light on informers, demonstrating how, in a repressive system, anyone could easily become a collaborator.

A vast panoramic portrait of a society in which everyone spoke in whispers—whether to protect their families and friends, or to inform upon them—The Whisperers is a gripping account of lives lived in impossible times.

The Barnes & Noble Review

"How could human feelings and emotions retain any force in the moral vacuum of the Stalinist regime?" That's the question with which Orlando Figes begins The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia. The answer is revealed in spellbinding, often harrowing tales of endurance, love, idealism, betrayal, and grief. Eschewing published memoirs in favor of personal testimony, the author of A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 draws from countless letters, journals, documents, and interviews with ordinary Russians to capture life under the evolving Soviet regime from the period just after the revolution through the tumult of the "Five Year Plan," the living nightmare of the Great Terror, the Second World War, and the cycles of reform and repression which characterized Soviet life in the postwar period.

These stories don't merely record the horror of purges, denunciations, and mass arrests; Figes also portrays the idealistic fervor of the revolutionary generation, and the tragic beauty of simple family life under the shadow of an implacable power. His painstaking and inclusive method yields a majestic -- at times overwhelming -- profusion of narrative truth.
--Bill Tipper