Under the light of fresh evidence, it is remarkable how many of Conquest's most disturbing conclusions have been verified. Many details have also been added, including hitherto secret information on the three great "Moscow Trials", the purge of writers and other members of the intelligentsia, life in the labor camps, and many other key matters.
Both a leading Sovietologist and a highly respected poet, Conquest blends profound research with evocative prose to create a compelling and eloquent chronicle of one of the 20th century's most tragic events.
©1990 Robert Conquest; (P)1992 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[A] terrifying record from the best of all commentators on Stalin's USSR." (Star-Ledger, Newark)
"[A] broad, well-documented portrayal....This remains an essential source." (Library Journal)
It is hard for anyone who has grown up in fortunate circumstances in the West to grasp on a gut level the full horror of the Soviet Union under Stalin. This book lays bare in excruciating detail the workings of an unscrupulous leader who was crude, vicious, vile and ruthless. Unfortunately, he was also clever and resourceful enough to achieve near absolute power in the Soviet Union by 1938. Stalin and those he advanced in the Communist Party knew no bounds. He ordered the murders of former close associates; directed his secret police to extract false confessions from prisoners by torture in order to persecute them in “show trials” or to justify their summary execution after review by a corrupted kangaroo court. On a broader scale his program in the early ‘30s to collectivize agriculture led to massive famines, terrorist shootings and deportations that caused the deaths of millions. Later in the ‘30s the arbitrary arrests and forced confessions of his purges and campaigns against so-called “diversionists, spies, and Trotskyites” led to prison and death for further millions in the now infamous “archipelago” of labor camps.
The aim in all this was two-fold: eliminate all possible rivals to Stalin for supreme power in the Soviet Union and to force the public into compliance with directives from above through a regime of terror. Apparently, Stalin as well as others in the top echelons of the Bolshevik Party justified these methods to themselves, at least in part, as necessary for the greater good of moving society toward the ideal state envisioned by Marxist-Leninist theory. A criminal clique with vast political power who can justify their murders and cruelties by means of an extremist creed that squelches all qualms of conscience or moral restraint is a dangerous and fearful prospect. That certainly was the case in the Soviet Union from the 1930’s until Stalin’s death in 1953.
That said, this book reads more like an encyclopedia or a catalogue of crimes rather than a vivid account of individual horror stories. It does a good job of describing and documenting the overall scope of the horrors perpetrated by the Stalin regime and to some extent continued by his successors. It is not, however, great literature in the sense of graphically depicting life under these regimes. “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” does that far better.
Robert Conquest fought a guerilla war against totalitatian communism in the halls of acedemia after the Second Word War. The academinc establishment was giving a free pass to monstrous regimes because they happened to seated on the correct side of the aisle. In the first edition this book was seen as blatantly slanted and misguided. His sources suspect. After the fall of the Soviet and access to the KGB material and other secret archives was available, Mr. Conquest was vindicated, but the event was marked by mostly silence from the left.
This is an updated edition, taking full advantage of all the material that came to ligtht when the KGB archives were opened. You owe it to yourself to read this book. Remember what can happen when you lose trust in your neighbors and the State holds all the cards. Remember what results when madmen are allowed free reign in the name of 'progress'.
This is a big book. It needs to be. The sheer scale of what happened is difficult to comprehend, even today.
Frederick Davidson gives a clear and crisp reading. I can hear Conquest's humanity come through. Nicely done!
It's easy to dismiss cold war mindset as "unreasoning paranoia" on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Middle America and opportunistic politicians like Joe McCarthy, but there was a reason why every President from Truman through Reagan regarded the Soviet Union with great suspicion, and that was its own demonstrated cruelty to its own people. Stalin's successors, to their credit, did much to dismantle the terror machine that Stalin and Lenin built, but its shadow still looms over the Russians today.
Superb account of one of the most disturbing events of the 20th century
Conquest's combination of research and writing are unsurpassed.
Terrific reader, Davidson is one of the greats. His slightly acerbic, sardonic tone was perfect for this important work.
The Great Terror's strength is it's exhaustive detail. However, if I was attempting to read this book, I expect I would get bogged down. Listening to it carries me along
Andrey Vyshinsky, Stalin's chief prosecutor. Exemplar of the banality of evil.
His mimicking of voices
Stunned...I had no idea
The new information it gave.
I'm afraid I can't pick one.
I hadn't before.
Let the Truth be Revealed.
I must have for anyone studying Stalin and the USSR in general.
I would recommend this book with reservations. It does a very god job of explaining things that I saw and heard while I lived in Russia. Jokes finally made sense! On the other hand, as a librarian and a scholar, I had major problems with this work. It lacked objectivity and several facts have since been proven to be false.
The narrator mispronounced a lot of words. I found it very difficult to stay in the "story" because I frequently missed pieces while I mentally translated the words into Russian.
This book inspired me to look for the primary source materials and to learn more about the various people mentioned.
This book is strongest when it presents the bare facts of different events and when it quotes official documents. For now I recommend the book, but I am looking for something better.
CADRE: It's pronounced CODRAY not CODDER. I had to find the print edition to find out what the narrator was saying. The author used the word cadre on almost every page and it was maddeningly mispronounced every time. Minor quibble but it was grating.
They original subtitle Robert Conquest facetiously suggested for the revision was, "I told you so, you F'ing fools." Despite this, at the end of the book, he's avoids naming all but a handful of the most egregious western co-conspirators in denying the purge. He particularly avoids naming Western academics despite going in to details on their specific denials. He was far less reserved in naming western media figures that assisted Stalin. Professional courtesy perhaps. Overall, well written and detailed. There are other more modern books (e.g. those by Simon Sebag Montefiore) that include details from the Soviet archives that are just as detailed. The Great Terror has a unique angle in that it documents the Communist apologist equivalent of Holocaust deniers.
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