Tzouliadis’s narrative—though rather tuneless—holds the reader’s attention and illuminates an overlooked chapter in...




The Cold War began in the 1930s, to judge by this narrative of strange events within the borders of the old Soviet Union. It’s just that no one thought to tell the Americans.

British TV journalist Tzouliadis turns up an intriguing tale in the undocumented Depression-era migration that took tens of thousands of Americans to the Soviet Union, recruited for their technical skills in a time of widespread joblessness at home. They did not have to be persuaded; a Soviet trade agency in New York advertised 6,000 positions and received more than 100,000 applications, Tzouliadis reports. Few were communists or fellow travelers; most listed disgust with conditions at home as a more powerful reason than “interest in Soviet experiment” for their exodus. One reason for disgust was Jim Crow, and African-Americans fleeing racism figured prominently in the wave of migration. Once in Russia, the Americans lived as Americans do abroad. Some blended in, others banded together, formed baseball teams, searched out their compatriots—and they worried when their children seemed to be “turning out just a little too ‘Red’ ” after a spell in the Soviet school system. Things turned sour, though, after 1936, in the years of Stalinist purges, when all things foreign were suspect and the elite of Russian culture and politics were killed off. The Americans, one by one, started to disappear into the Gulag. Diplomat George Kennan observed that the Soviets justified this by unilaterally making Americans citizens of the Soviet Union, thus negating their rights. “Logically we should refuse to recognize the naturalization of Americans in the Soviet Union as voluntary and valid in the absence of confirmation,” Kennan wrote, but instead the U.S. government did nothing—and would do nothing when, a decade later, Americans taken prisoner during World War II, even though allies, were shipped to the Gulag, joined still later by POWs during the Korean War.

Tzouliadis’s narrative—though rather tuneless—holds the reader’s attention and illuminates an overlooked chapter in 20th-century history, revealing larger trends in relations between Russia and the United States that persist today.

Pub Date: July 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-168-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

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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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