marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Whisperers

The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes

This is not a light book.

True, there are much more severe books about the Soviet Union; this one only brushes on the labor camps and Gulag.  But there's plenty enough grim in the things that aren't so bad as the Gulag.

Forging records to hide your kulak background -- especially when your village had to produce 17 such families, and well, you were the one picked.  The way that people would confess such backgrounds to children only after decades.

The problem that the kulaks were in fact the hardest workers, making the collective farms that much worse.

A daughter going up to a father -- having seen him for the first time in twelve years -- and asking for some money for a meal.  She got it -- comrade -- she was pretty sure that in his exhaustion it hadn't registered that she had said she was his daughter.  An anecdote that Lenin greatly approved of, having heard it from the daughter.  That was a Communist's proper family relations.  Also severely ascetic homes and strictly limited salaries.  One effect was that the grandmothers had a counter-revolutionary effect on their grandchildren, with both parents working.

Romantic poetry getting an airing in World War II when a lot of things went by the wayside in the war.  The poet who wrote it had, in fact, a rather stormy relationship with the woman who inspired it.  And his mother chided him for it because it said his mother had lost hope.

Children pressured to renounce their parents.  Sometimes at the parent's command.  The overhyped children who denounced their parents.

The crowded dwelling places as the government forced borderers on people to encourage communal living.

The about-face where suddenly not being a good parent or spouse was grounds to denounce a Party member, with the toughening up of divorce and other things.  Apparently the attempt to tear down family to keep it from interfering with the communal life was too much.

The pressure to inform.

And much more.
Tags: history reviews: communism

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