Gulag Lite

Book review of To Build a Castle by Vladimir Bukovsky

There’s an unofficial trilogy about Russia’s prison camps.

The first, The House of the Dead, is Dostoevsky’s fictionalized memoir of his years in a Siberian labour camp during the days of the Tsar.

The second, Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn, documents through secretly collected personal accounts the massive expansion of this system for supposed political prisoners during the dark years of the early Soviet state. I’m partway through and it’s clear that at this stage the camps are far worse, and far less logical, than in Dostoevsky’s time.

Today I’ll review the third: Bukovsky’s testimony about the Soviet imprisonment of dissidents during the post-Stalin era.

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A Big Fat Man With a Big Fat Bomb

Khrushchev_Shoe

Book review of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, by William Taubman

An event in 1962 was probably the most important in world history but it is rarely discussed today. Perhaps this is because the occurrence concluded without nuclear war – had it turned out differently, any surviving children in any remaining schools would most certainly be studying it with rigour.

The strengths and foibles of the American protagonist, John F. Kennedy, are well known, but what of his Soviet counterpart? Most Westerners who have any image of Nikita Khrushchev remember the fat little man who banged his shoe on the table at the UN. In his definitive biography, Taubman guides the reader through the career of this complex individual in such thorough detail that one feels one has vicariously lived the man’s life and, unlike Khrushchev himself, deeply learned from the experience.

It is frightening to think that a man of Khrushchev’s boorishness and impetuousness controlled nuclear weapons. His reaction to Read More