The Second Installment of Eugenia Ginzburg’s “Whirlwind” #WITMonth

Book review: Within the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Ginzburg (Amazon / Book Depository) The most fearful thing is that evil becomes ordinary, part of a normal daily routine extending over decades. It’s hard to believe, considering the popularity over time and general excellence of Eugenia Ginzburg’s first memoir, Journey into the Whirlwind, that her second one is less widely read and somewhat difficult to come by. … Continue reading The Second Installment of Eugenia Ginzburg’s “Whirlwind” #WITMonth

Voices of the Second World War’s Children, Curated by Svetlana Alexievich

Book review: Last Witnesses, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon / Book Depository) These pictures, these lights. My riches. The treasure of what I lived through… Last Witnesses is the latest work from incomparable Belarusian journalist and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich to be translated from Russian to English. In the vein of her other books, this oral history collects stories told from one of Russia’s immense twentieth … Continue reading Voices of the Second World War’s Children, Curated by Svetlana Alexievich

Scenes from a House in Ekaterinburg in July, 100 Years Ago

Book review: Last Days of the Romanovs, by Helen Rappaport Book Depository Russian historian Helen Rappaport writes a tightly focused, streamlined account of the last two weeks that the family of Nicholas Romanov was alive, held captive at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in Siberia, a building known by its very Soviet name as the “House of Special Purpose”. 100 years ago last month, the … Continue reading Scenes from a House in Ekaterinburg in July, 100 Years Ago

Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Book review: Stalin’s Daughter, by Rosemary Sullivan (Amazon / Book Depository) “What would it mean to be born Stalin’s daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it?” “I want to explain to you, he broke my life.” Even writing a biography showing the many sides of Svetlana Alliluyeva often ignored by media, multiple governments, and history, … Continue reading Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After

Book review: Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich (Amazon / Book Depository) Sometimes it’s as though I hear his voice. Alive. Even photographs don’t have the same effect on me as that voice. But he never calls out to me . . . not even in my dreams. I’m the one who calls to him. After reading Svetlana Alexievich’s incredible Unwomanly Face of War, I couldn’t … Continue reading Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After

A Voice from the Gulag

Book review: The Day Will Pass Away, by Ivan Chistyakov (Amazon / Book Depository) So even my inner word recedes day by day into eternity until it reaches freezing point. You start believing they can make you lose all emotion. Yet every day brings you nearer to freedom. Only, what kind of path are you walking to get there? A path of defeats, misery and rage. A path that … Continue reading A Voice from the Gulag

What Makes the Russians Tick

Book review: Russians, by Gregory Feifer “Russia has no need of sermons (she has heard too many), nor of prayers (she has mumbled them too often), but of the awakening in the people a feeling of human dignity, lost for so many ages in mud and filth.” – Vissarion Belinsky on the Russian Orthodox Church in a letter to Nikolai Gogol, 1847 This quote opens a chapter of Russians titled “Cold … Continue reading What Makes the Russians Tick

Rest in peace. You are not forgotten.

Book review: History of a Disappearance, by Filip Springer “‘Our memories of the town keep getting more beautiful as the years go by,’ they laugh, because that’s how human memory is – it sifts out the bad and only holds on to beautiful images.” It’s a strange but true facet of history that for several periods of many years, Poland didn’t exist. Situated between Germany and Russia, … Continue reading Rest in peace. You are not forgotten.

Trekking the Urals for a Soviet Mystery

Book review: Dead Mountain, by Donnie Eichar Book Depository In February 1959, nine experienced hikers died under mysterious circumstances on a cross-country ski trip in the Ural Mountains. They were university students, longtime friends, and accustomed to the harsh conditions and remote, exerting atmosphere of hiking and skiing during winter at the border of Siberia. When search parties were dispatched to the region, some distance from … Continue reading Trekking the Urals for a Soviet Mystery

Vignettes from a Communist Childhood

Book review: The Girl from the Metropol Hotel, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya Book Depository Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is one of contemporary Russia’s most loved and accoladed author/playwrights, famous for her books of “scary fairytales”(There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby) and “love stories” (There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband and He Killed Himself) with a distinctly Russian twist. In her memoir, The … Continue reading Vignettes from a Communist Childhood

Outsiders Bearing Witness to Revolution

Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge by Helen Rappaport (Amazon / Book Depository) Helen Rappaport, author of 2014’s popular history The Romanov Sisters, among other titles on history and royals both Russian and otherwise, explains in her acknowledgments for Caught in the Revolution that while working as a historian she was struck by “…how much seemed to have been written about … Continue reading Outsiders Bearing Witness to Revolution

A Serial Killer and the Sickness of the Soviet Union

Bridge across the River Don in Rostov-on-Don, Russia; one of many cities that were the scenes of the grisly crimes of Soviet serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, also known as the Rostov Ripper or the Red Ripper. Photo credit: Zhanett.b, Wikimedia Commons. Book review: The Red Ripper: Inside the Mind of Russia’s Most Brutal Serial Killer, by Peter Conradi (Amazon / Book Depository) A few years ago I … Continue reading A Serial Killer and the Sickness of the Soviet Union