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Cultivating Their Dachas

Sheila Fitzpatrick: ‘Zhivago’s Children’, 10 September 2009

Zhivago’s Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia 
by Vladislav Zubok.
Harvard, 453 pp., £25.95, May 2009, 978 0 674 03344 3
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... History has its moments of euphoria when people embrace in the streets out of sheer love for their neighbours, police horses are garlanded with flowers, and everyone understands that the old lies and repression are gone for ever. I’m not sure that these moments occur in Britain. Certainly they didn’t in the Australia where I grew up in the 1950s, and as a result I’m always bemused when I hear them spoken about: do such things really happen in the world beyond? I’ll never know because I always missed the moment ...

Vodka + Caesium

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Nostalgia for the USSR, 20 October 2016

Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait.
Penguin, 294 pp., £9.99, April 2016, 978 0 241 27053 0
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Second-Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayevich.
Fitzcarraldo, 694 pp., £14.99, May 2016, 978 1 910695 11 1
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... Svetlana Alexievich​ won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015, but some people still don’t think her books are literature. In fact, they are collective oral histories, of similar genre, though completely different in tone, to those of Studs Terkel in the United States, whom she has probably never read. Her main influence as far as genre is concerned was the Belorussian writer Ales Adamovich, who in the 1970s (with Daniil Granin) collected the testimonies of wartime Leningrad survivors in Blokadnaia kniga, but that’s not very helpful in a Western context since nobody has heard of him ...

Good Communist Homes

Sheila Fitzpatrick, 27 July 2017

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution 
by Yuri Slezkine.
Princeton, 1096 pp., £29.95, August 2017, 978 0 691 17694 9
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... Yuri Slezkine​ , a master stylist as well as a first-class historian, is the least predictable of scholars. Still, it comes as a surprise to find that the book he has now produced, after long gestation, is a Soviet War and Peace. True, Slezkine says he is writing history, whereas Tolstoy’s War and Peace is generally treated, if somewhat gingerly, as a novel; and Slezkine’s subject is not so much war and peace as that curious state between the two that existed in the Soviet Union from the October Revolution of 1917 to the Second World War ...

Which Face?

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Emigrés on the Make, 6 February 2020

Cold War Exiles and the CIA: Plotting to Free Russia 
by Benjamin Tromly.
Oxford, 329 pp., £75, September 2019, 978 0 19 884040 4
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The Dissidents: A Memoir of Working with the Resistance in Russia, 1960-90 
by Peter Reddaway.
Brookings, 337 pp., £25.50, February, 978 0 8157 3773 5
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... The  moment​  the door opens, Russians escape to the West.’ That was the lesson the American anti-communist Soviet-watcher Louis Fischer drew in 1949 from observation of Soviet ‘displaced persons’ (DPs) in Europe after the Second World War. In the context of the burgeoning Cold War, his analysis made sense to a lot of people in the West ...

A Little Swine

Sheila Fitzpatrick: On Snitching, 3 November 2005

Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero 
by Catriona Kelly.
Granta, 352 pp., £17.99, May 2005, 1 86207 747 9
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... Report any suspicious persons,’ the message flashing above the New Jersey turnpike said as I drove south towards Washington a few months after 9/11. I did not respond to the call, but it reminded me of someone who did: Pavlik Morozov, the heroic young Soviet denouncer of the early 1930s whose legend is the subject of Catriona Kelly’s new book ...

Outfox them!

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Stalin v Emigrés, 8 March 2012

Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union 1921-41 
by Michael David-Fox.
Oxford, 396 pp., £35, January 2012, 978 0 19 979457 7
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Moscow, the Fourth Rome: Stalinism, Cosmopolitanism and the Evolution of Soviet Culture, 1931-41 
by Katerina Clark.
Harvard, 420 pp., £25.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05787 6
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Being Soviet: Identity, Rumour and Everyday Life under Stalin 
by Timothy Johnston.
Oxford, 240 pp., £55, August 2011, 978 0 19 960403 6
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Stalin’s Last Generation: Soviet Postwar Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism 
by Juliane Fürst.
Oxford, 391 pp., £63, September 2010, 978 0 19 957506 0
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All This Is Your World: Soviet Tourism at Home and Abroad after Stalin 
by Anne Gorsuch.
Oxford, 222 pp., £60, August 2011, 978 0 19 960994 9
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... The Soviet Union claimed leadership of the world revolution in the 1920s and 1930s – not surprisingly, since of all the European upheavals at the end of the First World War, theirs was the only revolution that succeeded. But the trouble with leading the world revolution, as far as Stalin and his associates were concerned, was that you had to deal with foreigners ...


Sheila Fitzpatrick: Stalin’s Origins, 1 November 2007

Young Stalin 
by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
Weidenfeld, 397 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 297 85068 7
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... Stalin was a ‘grey blur’ in the opinion of Nikolai Sukhanov, the Menshevik-Internationalist chronicler of the Russian Revolution. Trotsky thought him a faceless ‘creature of the bureaucracy’, even in power. These must be among the most misleading descriptions ever to capture the fancy of generations of historians. There was one notable exception among the scholars: Robert Tucker put a dashing young revolutionary – someone who might have stepped out of the Baader-Meinhof Group or the Weathermen – on the cover of Stalin as Revolutionary (1973 ...

Like a Thunderbolt

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Solzhenitsyn’s Mission, 11 September 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 
by Liudmila Saraskina.
Molodaia gvardiia, 935 pp., €30, April 2008, 978 5 235 03102 9
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... Lives of Remarkable Men’ was a series established by Maxim Gorky in the 1930s so that the Soviet Union might know its heroes. It’s ironic that Liudmila Saraskina’s deeply admiring biography of the David who challenged the Soviet Goliath should now appear under its imprint. As Saraskina tells the story, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Russian patriot and Orthodox Christian, was a man with a mission from the first ...

Partners in Crime

Julie Elkner: Everyday life in Stalinist Russia, 8 March 2007

Tear Off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in Twentieth-Century Russia 
by Sheila Fitzpatrick.
Princeton, 332 pp., £15.95, July 2005, 0 691 12245 8
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... the idea of authenticity. In Tear Off the Masks! Identity and Imposture in 20th-Century Russia, Sheila Fitzpatrick examines these presumptions ‘from below’. Fitzpatrick has a long-standing interest in the ways in which ordinary Russians negotiated everyday life in the 1920s and 1930s. Tear Off the Masks! brings ...

‘All my own relatives are in prison too!’

Yoram Gorlizki: Stalin’s Gang, 11 August 2016

On Stalin’s Team: The Years of Living Dangerously in Soviet Politics 
by Sheila Fitzpatrick.
Princeton, 384 pp., £24.95, September 2015, 978 0 691 14533 4
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... timetables. ‘No doubt this incremental approach was the product of Stalin’s caution,’ Sheila Fitzpatrick observes in On Stalin’s Team, ‘but at the same time it had a tinge of sadism: the defeated hung twisting in the wind for a long time, begging for clemency and reinstatement … until they ended up as total outcasts if not gibbering ...

The Nazis were less harsh

Mark Mazower: Mischka Danos, 7 February 2019

Mischka’s War: A Story of Survival from War-Torn Europe to New York 
by Sheila Fitzpatrick.
I.B. Tauris, 336 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 1 78831 022 2
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... In​ 1989, the Soviet historian Sheila Fitzpatrick, well known to readers of the LRB, was on a plane when the passenger next to her struck up a conversation. She’d been watching him write a letter in French and on that basis assumed he was French. Given her accent he thought at first that she was Danish. Later it seemed appropriate to her that their first conversation had been about language and labels and the confusion of belonging ...

Palaces on Monday

J. Arch Getty: Soviet Russia, 2 March 2000

Everyday Stalinism. Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s 
by Sheila Fitzpatrick.
Oxford, 280 pp., £25, January 1999, 0 19 505000 2
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... which wanted communal farms, sometimes had to settle for private plots and privatised cows. Sheila Fitzpatrick is the most prolific and influential historian of the Soviet Union working today. Her 11 books and numerous articles have guided two generations of scholars eager to prise open the mysteries of the Soviet experiment. It was ...

Comparative Horrors

Timothy Garton Ash: Delatology, 19 March 1998

Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789-1989 
edited by Sheila Fitzpatrick and Robert Gellately.
Chicago, 231 pp., $27.95, September 1997, 0 226 25273 6
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... on the subject.* Comparative delatology is a new subbranch of this larger comparative endeavour. Sheila Fitzpatrick, one of the editors of Accusatory Practices, has collected 200 denunciations from Soviet archives of the Thirties, though she was denied access to those of the KGB. She makes the point that denunciations were made not just to the secret ...

‘Life has been reborn’

Karl Schlögel: Writing Diaries under Stalin, 16 August 2007

Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin 
by Jochen Hellbeck.
Harvard, 436 pp., £19.95, May 2007, 978 0 674 02174 7
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... the proclivity to demonise existing obstacles on the road to socialism became overwhelming. As Sheila Fitzpatrick has shown, when the notion of class no longer makes sense, and class ascription becomes arbitrary, the desire to construct an identity, to make the New Man, becomes powerful. Even such a convinced Communist as Julya Piatnitskaya felt the ...

Days of Reckoning

Orlando Figes, 7 July 1988

Stalin: Man and Ruler 
by Robert McNeal.
Macmillan, 389 pp., £16.95, June 1988, 0 333 37351 0
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... system of party or police dictatorship under Stalin’s personal domination. The revisionists (Sheila Fitzpatrick and J. Arch Getty are perhaps the best known, although Moshe Lewin pioneered the social history of Soviet Russia in the interwar period) have questioned how far Stalin was able, in practice, to exercise such autocratic powers. ...

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