The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia

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Macmillan, Nov 13, 2007 - History - 739 pages
15 Reviews
From the award-winning author of A People's Tragedy and Natasha's Dance, a landmark account of what private life was like for Russians in the worst years of Soviet repression
There have been many accounts 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, what one historian called "the Stalinism that entered into all of us." Now, drawing on a huge collection of newly discovered documents, The Whisperers reveals for the first time the inner world of ordinary Soviet citizens as they struggled to survive amidst the mistrust, fear, compromises, and betrayals that pervaded their existence.
 Moving from the Revolution of 1917 to the death of Stalin and beyond, Orlando Figes re-creates the moral maze in which Russians found themselves, where one wrong turn could destroy a family or, perversely, end up saving it. 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 arrest as a case of mistaken identity; and he casts a humanizing light on informers, demonstrating how, in a repressive system, anyone could easily become a collaborator.
A vast panoramic portrait of a society in which everyone spoke in whispers--whether to protect their families and friends, or to inform upon them--The Whisperers is a gripping account of lives lived in impossible times.

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

User Review  - Goodreads

Fascinating, devastating, and continually inspiring in its picture of sheer human resilience. An extraordinary book. I couldn't put it down. Read full review

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

All 9 reviews »


Children of 1917 191728
The Great Break 192832 76
The Pursuit of Happiness 19326
The Great Fear 19378
Remnants of Terror 193841
Wait For Me19415
Ordinary Stalinists 194553
Return 19536
Memory 19562006
Afterword and Acknowledgements

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About the author (2007)

Orlando Figes is the author of Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia and A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924, which received the Wolfson Prize for History and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A frequent contributor to The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, among other publications, Figes is a professor of history at Birbeck College, University of London.

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