AS A WAY OF LIFE (BOOK REVIEW)
Narrative in Documents.
Robert H. Johnston, McMaster Univ., Hamilton, ON
Yale Univ. (Annals of Communism). Nov. 2000. c.460p. permanent
paper. ed. by Lewis Siegelbaum & Andrei Sokolov. tr. by Thomas
Hoisington & Steven Shabad. illus. index. ISBN 0-300-08480-3.
Though the voices from
below were very faint in the Stalinist Soviet Union, the 157 documents
from that period compiled for the present volume speak very loudly
indeed. Letters, petitions, denunciations, despairing descriptions of
lives and living conditionseach one is "a cry from the heart."
They are taken from the 1930s, the decade of forced collectivization,
the Stalin Constitution, and the dictator's horrific Great Terror. The
tone of the documents is somber, yet there is also evidence of
patriotism as well as pride in Soviet achievements. In uncovering these
primary materials from Soviet archives, editors Siegelbaum (history,
Michigan State Univ.) and Sokolov (history, Inst. of Russian History at
the Russian Academy of Sciences) have given us a treasure trove of great
usefulness to historians of Stalinist Russia. They note that
"initiative, enterprise, [and] personal judgment became extremely
dangerous qualities" in the USSR, qualities that are also in
desperately short supply in contemporary post-Soviet Russia. Strongly
recommended for academic libraries and as a valuable source for students
of communism and Soviet history.