THE UNQUIET GHOST by Adam Hochschild


Russians Remember Stalin
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 Although 20 million people died during Stalin's two-decade reign of terror, Russians have only recently, with the advent of glasnost, begun to confront their memories of that time. In 1991, journalist and memoirist Hochschild (Half the Way Home, 1986; The Mirror at Midnight, 1990) spent six months in Russia talking to prison camp survivors, retired concentration camp guards, and countless others: the result is a riveting and eloquent evocation of a country still haunted by the ghost of Stalin. Hochschild compares Russia to an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has spent years denying ``the elephant in the living room.'' Many of Hochschild's subjects open up to him with the intensity of patients confessing long-repressed secrets to a therapist. In the Siberian town of Kolpashevo, Galina Nikiforova, the daughter of a school principal who was taken away one night in 1937 and executed, reveals her certainty that her father was among those buried in a secret mass grave ripped open by the flooding river Ob in 1979 and immediately destroyed by the KGB. Galina can forgive her country anything but its refusal to grant its dead a decent burial. Meanwhile, Galina's neighbor and childhood friend, Inna Sukhanova, daughter of the chief of Kolpashevo's secret police, struggles with her love for her father--a former doctor who spoke four languages--and the anguish she bears for his having ordered the execution of thousands, including Galina's father, for ``nothing.'' Vladimir Glebov, a philosophy teacher in his 60s and son of Party boss Lev Kamenev, who was shot in 1936, spent his childhood wandering through Siberian orphanages and was sentenced, in 1949, to ten years in the gulag for preferring Emily Dickinson to Mayakovsky--experiences that, miraculously, have not dulled his sense of humor or his passion for anti-Stalin jokes. As sensitive, subtle, and moving as Chekhov: journalism raised to the level of art.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-670-84091-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1994


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