From the first publisher granted access to Stalin's personal archive, a provocative and insightful portrait of modern Russia, the most compelling since David Remnick's Lenin's Tomb.
To most Americans, Russia remains as enigmatic today as it was during the Iron Curtain era. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country had an opportunity to face its tortured past. In Inside the Stalin Archives, Jonathan Brent asks, why didn't this happen? Why are the anti-Semitic Protocols of Zion sold openly in the lobby of the State Duma? Why are archivists under surveillance and phones still tapped? Why does Stalin, a man responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people, remain popular enough to appear on boxes of chocolate sold in Moscow's airport? Brent draws on fifteen years of unprecedented access to high-level Soviet Archives to answer these questions. He shows us a Russia where, in 1992, used toothbrushes were sold on the sidewalks, while now shops are filled with luxury goods and the streets are jammed with Mercedes. Stalin's specter hovers throughout, and in the book's crescendo Brent takes us deep into the dictator's personal papers to glimpse the dark heart of the new Russia. Both cultural history and personal memoir, Inside the Stalin Archives is a deeply felt and vivid portrait of Russia in the 21st century.
©2008 Jonathan Brent (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
If you come to this book expecting a discussion of Stalin, how the information in the archives changed our understanding of him, and how he haunts modern Russian history, you will be very disappointed.
This book is, in essence a travelogue about one man's adventures in Russia in the early 90s and his negotiations with the archive director for publishing rights, sprinkled with a few novel insights discovered in the archives. As travelogue, it is only second-rate (the author doesn't speak Russian that well, apparently, and the anecdotes are somewhat stereotyped - I mean come on, do we really need another description of how flying Aeroflot was an unpleasant experience?). As a description of business negotiations - well, its just not that interesting.
That having been said, the writing is not bad and it is read admirable by the narrator.
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