INTIMACY AND TERROR: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s by V‚ronique; Natalia Korenevskaya & Thomas Lahusen--Eds. Garros

INTIMACY AND TERROR: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This is an ambitious attempt at writing Soviet history in a new key. After reading through hundreds of personal, unpublished diaries, the editors chose nine that represent a cross-section of Soviet society during the 1930s. Garros (National Center for Scientific Research), Korenevskaya (Progress Publishers, Moscow), and Lahusen (Slavic Languages and Literature/Duke Univ.) have succeeded in illuminating that complex matrix of the public and the private. The book begins with a fascinating chapter that juxtaposes excerpts from Istvestia, the official newspaper of the regime, with entries from the diary of a peasant on a collective farm. Ironically, nothing could prove better the unbridgeable abyss that separated official Soviet culture from the working class. The political bombast and paeans to Stalin's achievements are sharply contrasted by the daily concerns of the weather, the harvest, and the price of potatoes in the farmer's diary. Curiously, some of the diaries fail even to mention the purge trials that were the defining events of 1937. Instead they focus on the intimate problems confronting ordinary citizens. The diaries include those of a poet, a housewife, an informer for the State Security, and an intellectual resisting the Terror. But perhaps the fate of Andre S. Arzhilovsky is most representative of the period: A farmer who refused to betray his conscience, he was sent to prison, released, organized a peasant cooperative, became editor of a local paper. Arrested again, he was sentenced to a labor camp and released after seven years. Arzhilovsky, unlike the others, signed his diaries; after they were confiscated by the police, he was executed. A rare and extraordinary portrait of Soviet society in a critical decade, comprising fear, bravery, bathos, tragedy, and even humor--in sum, the broad range of human responses to inhumanity.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: New Press