Each autobiography here transforms the story of a private life into the story of the country and the times: a volume sure to...



A collection of life stories of Russian women, accompanied by an analytical introduction and edited by scholars Fitzpatrick (History/Univ. of Chicago) and Slezkine (History/Univ. of California), from the perspective of direct participants in the unfolding historical drama begun in 1917.

Contributing to the completeness of the picture, the documents selected for this publication vary in genre from literary autobiographies to edited interviews to formal letters and speeches, and their authors are just as diverse in social class, experience, age, and occupation. The objectivity of the narrative is bolstered because events are assessed from opposite points of view (from that of both the victims and the beneficiaries of the Revolution). These antagonistic positions merge in camp memoirs written by those who were at first strong supporters of the Bolshevik cause, but later fell from grace. One principle unifying almost all the narratives is the suppression of personal information. Instead of the traditional focus on marriage, childbirth, and family life, these women defined themselves in terms of historical and public events. The Revolution, civil war, collectivization, and industrialization were the major milestones of their lives. These personal accounts differ significantly in length and style. From Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaia, for instance, we have a brief, dry, and extremely factual third-person account of her political activities. Princess Sofia Volkonskaia, on the other hand, produced a highly emotional story of her return to Russia from emigration in order to rescue her husband from jail. But even here, private circumstances are viewed against the broader background of disarray and brutality that reigned in post-revolutionary Russia. Yet another patriotic and upbeat narrative filled with praise of Stalin can be found in the autobiography of the Soviet Union’s most decorated labor hero, tractor driver and Supreme Soviet Deputy Pasha Angelina.

Each autobiography here transforms the story of a private life into the story of the country and the times: a volume sure to attract early Soviet history buffs.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-691-01949-5

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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