MEMOIRS by Petro Grigorenko
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MEMOIRS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Among Soviet dissidents Major General Grigorenko, now in exile in the US, is remarkable for the trajectory of his journey--more than compensation for the book's wooden prose. Born in 1907, the son of a poor farmer, Grigorenko has early political memories of terror: first by the White Russians, who massacred Soviet sympathizers and Jews during the Civil War; later by the Reds, who shot seven village leaders to establish the new regime's authority at war's end. Grigorenko remembers putting the Red terror out of mind, however, since the ideals it was supposed to serve were his own ideals. Rising within the communist youth groups, he eventually received training as an engineer, and then went on to military training. By this time he was aware of the terrible toll Soviet collectivization had taken, and of the ensuing famine and repression; but he could not bring himself to believe that there was a systemic source to the nation's economic and political ills. The German invasion of the USSR brought his first personal brush with disaster. Noting that the Germans habitually knocked out their opponents' air forces first, Grigorenko sarcastically referred to the ""wise policy"" that had allowed the same thing to happen to the Soviet air force; the remark was interpreted as criticism of Stalin, and Grigorenko was duly interrogated. By the end of the war, the Soviet rebound convinced him that Stalin was indeed a brilliant leader--and that, correspondingly, the terror of the Purges had been carried out on local levels without his direct knowledge. But even before this view was shown to be false by Khrushchev's listing of Stalin's crimes, Grigorenko's skepticism had grown; now, not content to decry the ""cult"" of Stalin, he decided there was something wrong with the Party itself. Grigorenko turned to Lenin, and with like-minded others, began looking for a communist means of criticizing the regime and its party. This resulted in his incarceration in a mental hospital and, in 1961, the loss of his military position. There followed years of scrounging for work (he was also deprived of his pension) and participation in the unstructured dissident movement. Grigorenko eventually shed his Leninist position (represented by Roy Medvedev today) and began agitating for civil rights in samizdat articles and demonstrations; the last third of his memoirs is a dizzying series of protests and renewed psychiatric assaults, leading eventually to his US exile. Colorless in the telling--but dramatic and enlightening all the same.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1982
ISBN: 0393333418
Publisher: Norton