As ever, highly readable and of tremendous interest to students not just of Russian history, but also of modern...

REVOLUTIONARY RUSSIA, 1891-1991

A HISTORY

The dean of contemporary Russian studies—and a gifted popularizer—ventures a refreshing thesis that joins the fondest dreams of the Bolsheviks to the full-circle collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Figes (History/Birkbeck Coll., Univ. of London; Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag, 2012, etc.) delivers the welcome insight that “red Russia” really began in a time of widespread famine in 1891, when Russians of various classes and regions realized that the czarist regime was of no help—so helpless, in fact, that it called on the people themselves for solutions, which “opened the door to a powerful new wave of public activity and debate which the government could not control and which quickly turned from the philanthropic to the political.” With the bloodletting of the Russo-Japanese War, thanks to an inept general command, the die was cast, proving Trotsky’s observation that a human crisis needed a match of human agency to bring about revolution. Figes carefully reminds readers that the revolution happened in stages: first in 1905, then again in 1917—twice, the first when the czar was overthrown, the second when the Bolsheviks wrestled power away from a coalition that would likely have proved more humane, and certainly more democratic, had it remained in government. The result was the grim regime of Stalin, which was not inevitable but instead hinged on the accident of Lenin’s weakness in illness and Trotsky’s talent for making enemies. Figes ably explains the subsequent Nazi-Soviet pact, which Stalin parsed as “Leninist,” and the slow thawing that came about after the dictator’s death in 1953. The author then joins the developments of the final four decades of Soviet power to the earlier era, writing that Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms were proposed much earlier—decades, in some cases—than they were enacted.

As ever, highly readable and of tremendous interest to students not just of Russian history, but also of modern geopolitics—and not least due to the fact that Soviet heir Vladimir Putin remains in power.

Pub Date: April 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9131-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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

NIGHT

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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