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Publisher's Summary

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the epic story of an enormous apartment building where Communist true believers lived before their destruction.

The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman's Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine's gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin's purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism and ends with their children's loss of faith and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Completed in 1931, The House of Government, later known as The House on the Embankment, was located across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. The largest residential building in Europe, it combined 505 furnished apartments with public spaces that included everything from a movie theater and a library to a tennis court and a shooting range. Slezkine tells the chilling story of how the building's residents lived in their apartments and ruled the Soviet state until some 800 of them were evicted from the house and led, one by one, to prison or their deaths.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and interviews, The House of Government weaves together biography, literary criticism, architectural history, and fascinating new theories of revolutions, millennial prophecies, and reigns of terror. The result is an unforgettable human saga of a building that, like the Soviet Union itself, became a haunted house, forever disturbed by the ghosts of the disappeared.

©2017 Yuri Slezkine (P)2017 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Inside saga of the leaders of Bolshevism & the USSR

What a generous & magisterial book! Basically the story of a wide group of leaders, intellectuals & senior bureaucrats and their families, most of whom lived at one time or other in the House of Govt. From the pre-revolutionary backgrounds thru the Oct Revolution, building the new Communist state, collectivization, the 5 year plans, the Great Terror & then the Great Patriotic War. This is s deep social, cultural & intellectual history of how a Bolshevik sect became the state religion of a great country, but it reads more like Tolstoy of “War & Peace”! Lots of Russian names & families to keep track of. Long, but fascinating, subtle, generous & sympathetic, but never “rose tinted”. Most highly recommended! Reader was easy to listen to, with the right balance of seriousness (& occasionally, irony).

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Fullerton, California, United States
  • 11-23-17

Haunting tour of the temple of the failed deity

Engrossing relatable stories, often in their own words, of the thinkers who envisioned the Soviet state. Story after story illuminate the theories and ideals that led to the tragedy that followed.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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An ultimate history.

Would you listen to The House of Government again? Why?

I would.

What did you like best about this story?

The history it presented, some of which I hadn't heard of.

Which character – as performed by Stefan Rudnicki – was your favorite?

All of them, not bad for a narrator I hadn't heard of before.

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

The fates of some of Stalin's "enemies" made me cry, Bukharin's especially.

Any additional comments?

/A must-have for fans of Soviet history.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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fantastic portrait of the Soviet revolution

a masterpiece. sweeping and grand in scope. a must read for students of Russian/Soviet history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A people's history of the Soviet Union.

I've been reading historical and biographical books on the Soviet Union since I became aware that there was such a thing as history, more than 45 years ago. Nothing I have ever read comes close to painting the day to day struggle of the Soviet people to not only survive but to avoid being exterminated or sent to dissappear in the Gulag.

Disturbingly, the author points out unmistakable simalarities in Western countries that while not as extreme as in the Soviet world, nevertheless destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of "free" and completely innocent people. A tale that should never cease to be told and most importantly, remembered.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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The fallibility of too much close up.

I wanted to like this book and in many ways I did like this book getting to know the story of the government house and the Bolsheviks involved and the tragedy of the Red Terror both right after the Revolution in the 1920s and then later the Stalin Red Terror which karmically bit the Bolsheviks right in the butt. Many of The Executioner's were themselves executed.
Where the author falls down is in his failure to pull back from the close-ups on the individual Bolsheviks in the government house; the book is filled with diary entries letters a lot of that and that's great except that he never shows the larger forces acting on the Soviet Union and other prominent dissidents and Scholars that have laid out much of this story.
This failure to address the other scholarship around the Soviet Union leads to doubt about some of the central Theses of the book that the Bolshevik Revolution was a millenarian movement In some ways it was a millenarian movement but in other ways maybe not and some of these other authors like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Antony Sutton who wrote The Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution and others too numerous to mention suggest that the Soviet Union was part of a much larger picture and that the Bolsheviks themselves were not in as complete control as one might of thought and it was obvious when Stalin was liquidating the old Bolsheviks that it was a blatant power-play the fact that they all thought it was something else just means that they were extremely deluded.

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Epic. Be patient and stay the course.

This is a historical narrative that demands patience. It starts out a bit obscure, and stays that way for the first 5-6 hours. Maybe a little longer. Then it starts to piece together. It’s captivating, engrossing, and extraordinary, once you get past the initial confusion. One thing that would be very helpful is a graph of some sort, as there are so many characters and overlapping storylines. It’s a generational saga, one not to be overlooked. But it will definitely require a second and 3rd listen!!

Stefan Rudnicki is a brilliant narrator, and perfect for the book, with his rich, textured voice. Perfection.

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  • JP
  • 10-26-17

Interminable

I love learning about/reading about all things Russia, including the period of the early 20th century. I gave this book a good 8 hours to get enjoyable and I just don’t have the patience for the 30+ remaining hours. Incoherent and not enjoyable.

4 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-30-18

Well researched but lacks structure or narrative

This is an extremely well researched book about living during the Russian revolution, and it includes hundreds of overlapping stories, following citizens from the start of the Russian revolution on. But unless you are already well-versed with the subject matter, this book remains opaque and shapeless, as the narrator does not take very much time to outline events or explain the reasoning behind what is included, or to draw conclusions from the primary material collected here.

The author jumps from theory to theory – the main thesis being a reading of the Russian revolution as a modern millenarian cult – and while this starts strong, no simple narrative of the revolution is developed on which to hang these theories. Large events, like the details of the revolution itself, are skimmed over or in some places skipped altogether, in favour of detailed extracts from letters, plays, novels et cetera. The book has a funny structure in which about a third is a series of excerpts from poems, plays and novels of the time – interesting as a way of giving flavour to the events, but I think they would make much more sense in text, where you could skim over them, or at least easily distinguish between what is quotation and what the narrator.

There is so much reading of these extracts from primary material that it becomes easy to lose any sense of authorial intention at all – once, about 11 hours into the book, the author reaches the house of government itself, the narrative plunges into several hours of letters between various inhabitants complaining about one another, asking for holiday time or funds for new coats, et cetera – all of which is laudable research but there is no serious effort to shape it into an overall narrative, or to draw strong conclusions about what this primary material adds up to. It's more showing you first-hand what life is like in this situation than a description.

In short this felt more to me like a scholastic exercise than a non-fiction work for a lay reader. Unless you already know the main players and history of the revolution intimately, and are eager for substantial primary material about the day to day lives of those involved, you may not enjoy this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful