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Publisher's Summary

The definitive work on Stalin's purges, The Great Terror was universally acclaimed when it first appeared in 1968. While the original volume had relied heavily on unofficial sources, later developments within the Soviet Union provided an avalanche of new material, which Conquest has mined to write this revised and updated edition of his classic work.

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.

Critic Reviews

"[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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Stalin's Gangster State

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.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Compelling and Devestating

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.

26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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A voice in the Wilderness

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!

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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An Excellent Piece of Research

Superb account of one of the most disturbing events of the 20th century

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant in every way

What made the experience of listening to The Great Terror the most enjoyable?

Conquest's combination of research and writing are unsurpassed.

What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?

Terrific reader, Davidson is one of the greats. His slightly acerbic, sardonic tone was perfect for this important work.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Need re-sensitizing to reports of U.S.torture?

Would you consider the audio edition of The Great Terror to be better than the print version?

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

Who was your favorite character and why?

Andrey Vyshinsky, Stalin's chief prosecutor. Exemplar of the banality of evil.

What does Frederick Davidson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His mimicking of voices

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Stunned...I had no idea

Any additional comments?

No

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Long but pretty good

Very important and epic story. That being said you'd better have some background before you read this and be prepared for a very long haul.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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The Extent Revealed.

What did you love best about The Great Terror?

The new information it gave.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Great Terror?

I'm afraid I can't pick one.

Have you listened to any of Frederick Davidson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I hadn't before.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Let the Truth be Revealed.

Any additional comments?

I must have for anyone studying Stalin and the USSR in general.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Cadre

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.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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One of the worst narrators

It feels like you're sitting through a bad BBC Radio Production. I'm fascinated by this subject but I'm struggling to get past the first hour as the narrator is quite horrible.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful