The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia

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Penguin Books, 2008 - City and town life - 739 pages
9 Reviews
A landmark account of what private life was like for Russians in the worst years of Soviet repression. We know of the public aspects of Stalin's dictatorship: the arrests and trials, the enslavement and killing in the gulags. No previous book, however, has explored the regime's effect on people's personal lives. Now, drawing on a huge collection of newly discovered documents, this book reveals the inner world of ordinary Soviet citizens amidst the mistrust, fear, compromises, and betrayals that pervaded their existence. Cultural historian Figes re-creates the moral maze in which Russians found themselves, where one wrong turn could destroy a family. He brings us inside cramped communal apartments, where minor squabbles could lead to fatal denunciations; he examines the Communist faithful, who often rationalized even their own arrests; and he casts a humanizing light on informers, demonstrating how, in a repressive system, anyone could easily become a collaborator.--From publisher description.

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Review: The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia

User Review  - Rahime - Goodreads

Loved it. Original research into a fascinating topic, well-written, a great read all around. I especially liked the insights into the psychological aspects of living in such a repressive society, being a victim of repression, or being the instigator of or a participant in the repression. Read full review

Review: The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia

User Review  - John Crane - Goodreads

Loved it. Figes really looks at history through a different lens. I found myself making interesting comparisons to the Holocaust - especially with regard to the lives of those that returned from the gulags. The book does, however, just peter out at the end. Highly recommended. Read full review

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About the author (2008)

Orlando Figes is a professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, and former University Lecturer in History at Cambridge. Born in London in 1959, he graduated with a double-starred first in History from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1982. His first book, Peasant Russia, Civil War, was described by one reviewer as 'one of the most important books ever published on the Russian Revolution'.

His website can be found at

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He was born in 1959 and studied History at Cambridge. Before moving to Birkbeck he was a University Lecturer in History and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He is the author of Peasant Russia, Civil War, A People's Tragedy(which in 1997 was the winner of the Wolfson History Prize, the WH Smith Literary Award, the Longman / History Today Book of the Year Award, the NCR Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize), Natasha's Dance (which was shortlisted for the 2003 Samuel Johnson prize) and The Whisperers (2007).

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