What did Khrushchev say?

Miriam Dobson

  • Moscow 1956: The Silenced Spring by Kathleen E. Smith
    Harvard, 448 pp, £23.95, April, ISBN 978 0 674 97200 1

Dressed in a shapeless black skirt and blouse and shod in ageing boots she might have worn since her days in the revolutionary underground, the 82-year-old Old Bolshevik Elena Stasova clutches the arm of Mátyás Rákosi, leader of the Hungarian Communist Party. She leans in as if whispering the latest political gossip. The pair stand in a Kremlin hallway waiting for the next session of the 20th Party Congress to begin, other delegates smoking nearby. Rákosi, his own dark suit to a contemporary eye baggy and ill-fitting, seems fascinated. Perhaps Stasova was telling this inveterate Stalinist about her work helping victims of terror gain rehabilitation.

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