An almost unprecedented look into life at the top of the former USSR, by a former speechwriter and adviser to Khrushchev, Andropov, Brezhnev, Kosygin, and Gorbachev. A strong backer of Khrushchev's efforts to rid the Soviet Union of Stalinism, Burlatsky fell from power shortly after Khrushchev himself, and regained prominence only under Gorbachev. Still, he retains strong opinions on Soviet leaders who served during the interim—e.g., Brezhnev's ``incompetence was a blessing; it gave wide opportunities to the apparatchiks.'' But it is his portrait of Khrushchev that is unforgettable: Son of a peasant, with minimal education, Khrushchev had a ``wide face with its two warts and his enormous bald head, large upturned nose and very protruding ears''—but also ``an austere and penetrating political mind.'' The Soviet leader, Burlatsky says, was anything but guiltless of the deeds he later condemned: His signature rests next to Stalin's on many documents sentencing people to death; he agreed to the suppression of the 1956 uprising in Hungary; and he never reappraised Stalin's policy of forced collectivization of agriculture, even after witnessing firsthand agriculture's successes in the US. But Burlatsky contends that Khrushchev's ``humanity, kindness and sincerity...were not erased despite his involvement in many of the terrible affairs of that time,'' and that no other post-Stalin leader would have taken the risk of exposing Stalin's crimes. Above all, the author offers a revealing glimpse of life within a totalitarian system: He quotes Khrushchev as saying, after Stalin died: ``Mikoyan said to me, `[KGB head] Beria has gone to Moscow to seize power.' I answered, `While this bastard is around none of us can feel safe.' '' And Khrushchev went on to describe how he arranged for army officers to seize Beria at a Presidium meeting—after which the KGB chief was executed. Burlatsky's candor—modified only by a short and unrevealing chapter about Gorbachev—makes this one of the most fascinating works ever about the inner workings of the Soviet system.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-684-19419-8

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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