TRUE STORIES by Lev Razgon

TRUE STORIES

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An unforgettable memoir of a journalist who survived two incarcerations in the Gulag, filled with his memories of the victims, the executioners, and those who connived with Stalin's genocidal plans. Razgon, born in 1908, a writer and editor connected by marriage to top Stalinist officials, was a Communist who was caught up in the purges of the late 1930s and was finally released only after the Khrushchev reforms of the 1950s. He records the life of the elite both before the purges--he is the last person alive to have attended the Congress of the Communist Party in 1934--and what happened to them afterwards. Most memorable are his vivid portraits of those with whom he came into contact: Roshchakovsky, an aristocratic ÇmigrÇ who had returned to serve the Soviet navy and ``would eat the prison soup with the wooden spoons so beautifully that it was impossible to tear your eyes away''; Boris and Gleb, ages 16 and 18 respectively, who returned from Czechoslovakia to help the Soviet Union, only to find themselves transported to the Gulag; Zaliva, a bluff and honest camp commandant who killed 1,500 people in the course of a single winter by insisting on following his instructions to the letter; and Colonel Tarasyuk, with the profile of a Roman senator, who calmly gave instructions on one occasion that ensured that everyone in his hospital would be dead within a month. Razgon notes that, according to a Ministry of State Security report in 1956, between 1935 and 1941 alone seven million people were shot--a million a year. During Alexander II's reign, by contrast, just over 60 political prisoners were hanged in Russia. But the author's thoughts ultimately turn not just to the victims or their families, but to the tens of thousands who participated in the process of execution and are now living quiet lives somewhere in Russia. A brilliant memoir, by turns harrowing, inspiring, sardonic, and devastating. (20 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 30th, 1997
ISBN: 0-87501-108-X
Page count: 302pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997




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