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Sofia Petrovna

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  514 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Sofia Petrovna is Lydia Chukovskaya's fictional account of the Great Purge. Her eponymous heroine is a Soviet Everywoman, a doctor's widow who works as a typist in a Leningrad publishing house.
Paperback, 120 pages
Published August 1st 1988 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1967)
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USSR. 1937. Enemy of the people. These short words might as well be - and often were - a death sentence. For you. For your friends. For your family. For anyone connected with you. For millions and millions of the Soviet people that have perished in the Great Purges, courtesy of the terror state run by paranoid and fanatical Comrade Stalin (*)
(*) Little-known fact: "Joseph Stalin, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922-1953), was nominated for the Nobel Peace Priz
Sep 04, 2013 Brian rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Nataliya

One of (the only, perhaps?) the narratives actually written during the Stalin-era purges, Chukovskaya's long-supressed novel detailing the terror of living in Leningrad in the '30s is a nightmare. The reader feels the State's fist slowly closing over all areas of life - leaving nothing but ground up lives in its clutch.

The author wrote this book in a school exercise book and kept it hidden in a desk drawer - a certain death sentence if it were to be found. Some very real skill in characterizati
Kafka's "The Trial" is almost an allegory, if an unusually powerful one. "Sofia Petrovna", by the Russian writer Lydia Chukovskaya, gives the Kafka story flesh. Sofia Petrovna is cursed by being the mother of an exceptional but conventionally Marxist son and a friend and fellow-typist in a publishing house who has the misfortune of being born to a disgraced middle-class. It is a world in which apparatchiks run publishing houses, where evidence of skill is the mark of being insufficiently proleta ...more
In Kolyma Tales , his memories of life in Stalin's prison camps, Varlam Shalamov wrote that one of the most horrifying aspects of Stalin's rule (and, one suspects, of any autocratic system) is how arbitrary it is. A dictator takes power in the name of the people, makes laws in the name of the people, convinces everyone that what's happening is for the people to protect them from dangerous elements without and within ... Except in reality, it didn't matter what you did. Anyone could be convicted ...more
This book shows the awful realities of Stalin's Great Purge. There are essentially two perspectives you can take in portraying the struggles of the people that were a part of this purge. One aspect is from the people that were exiled and the other is from the wives and mothers that watched their innocent husbands and sons be exiled. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch shows the former while Sofia Petrovna shows the latter. Both are vital in truly understanding the Great Purge and what happen ...more
Sofia Petrovna is a touching novel with its stark tragedies and complexities. The frank tone in which Sofia Petrovna accepts and denies the circumstances within her life brings to life the reality of the Russian mindset during the purges of Stalin. Although the author has repeatedly stated that she does not understand the aesthetics of her piece, only that it portrays the honesty of that period in time, it nevertheless holds the caliber of a written masterpiece.

The reader is bound to feel for th
Olga Tikhonova
Одна из лучших книг на тему сталинских репрессий.
Лидия Чуковская - дочь Корнея Ивановича Чуковского, дважды была замужем, от первого брака у нее осталась дочь Люша (Елена). Второй муж Чуковской, физик Матвей Бронштейн, был арестован в 1937 году и расстрелян в 1938, причем Лидии объявили приговор мужа как "10 лет без права переписки", "освободится - пришлет письмо". Тогда она еще не знала, что этот приговор был синонимом расстрела, а семьям говорили так, чтобы избежать истерик и лишнего шума.
This novel was written in the winter of 1939-1940, and it sheds insight into “ordinary” life under a totalizing Soviet regime. Sofia Petrovna, a staunch Bolshevik, works at the government publishing house while taking care of her beloved son Kolya. She is respected in her senior position, and Kolya’s cogwheel invention is recognized in the Party newspaper.

Yet her simple life starts unraveling when a family friend, Dr. Kiparisov, is arrested. Then the director of the publishing house is arrested.
Bob Wake
Powerful Russian novella written almost in real-time about the intensification of Stalin’s purges during 1937-1938. Lydia Chukovskaya wrote her book in 1939-1940, secreted the text away, not to be published until the 1960s (and not in the Soviet Union until 1988). Sofia Petrovna is a despairing mother whose son, and soon her friends and co-workers, are arrested on specious political charges. As the author writes in a later memoir, excerpted as an afterword to this Northwestern University Press e ...more
Utkarsh Narayan
Chukovskaya’s novel is a touching tragedy that highlights several important themes that were experienced by a soviet citizen in the purge of the 1930s. This fictional account provides a look into the unfortunate and helpless state of suspected enemies of the state, who in many cases were ordinary people that were victims of mass paranoia. It is truly a gift that this novel was miraculously preserved during and through the great purges. All this said, I feel that the novel started to become lazy ...more
Gives you a real vision of what life would be like in a nonsensical dictatorial society where reason and justice are thrown out the window. Cause and effect do not apply. This is apparently the only book about the Great Purge or Great Terror that was written while it was still in progress.
**Spoiler** For the sake of her sanity, Sofia Petrovna doubts everything, including her best friends and family, for the sake of preserving her trust in the societal and governmental system, because if she dou
Pedro García
Una novela corta e intensa sobre las purgas estalinistas de finales de los 30, que la autora conoció de primera mano. Muy interesante.
Forgot about this- had to read it in college; it was quite depressing, but great. Sadly it reminds me of the modern American workplace, abstractly but strongly.
I'm currently reading all the most significant Russian literature and Sofia Petrovna is the most easiest to read. In a word, it's sad. The book is very honest and considered to be courageous thus, it was a book meant for the drawer. Not till the 60's I believe, it was released. The book paralleled between theagonizing angst due to the absence of Chukovskaya's husband and her main character, Sofia Petrovna's absence of her son. There were a lot of similiarities and was an accurate portrayal purge ...more
Me ha encantado. Este libro es una joya para conocer un poco mejor las purgas estalinistas.
Mike Gould
One of the best novels about Stalin's purges.
Erma Odrach
I enjoyed this slim book for its spare and unadorned prose. It's about the Great Purge in Russia in 1938 and follows the life of an everyday woman named Sofia Petrovna, who works in an office as head typist. Petrovna at first cannot understand what's going on around her, especially when her son suddenly gets arrested. Ultimately, she falls into despair, loneliness and madness.

It's a moving account of Soviet life during the Stalinist era, but what I liked most was that it was written from a woman
Bleak and depressing novella of Stalinist times.
I did not realize this was the very same story as The Deserted House. Halfway through this book, it started sounding familiar and then I went to my shelves to retrieve my college copy of The Deserted House. The first sentences are identical except for the name change. It's Sofia Petrovna in one and Olga Petrovna in the other.
A good book, but not a great book. At times it verges into the conventional or the melodramatic, but as one of the few novels about the Great Purge written during the period it's an important cultural document.

Also worth reading is the afterword, extracted from Chukovskaya's memoir The Process of Expulsion when Sofia Petrovna was only available via Samizdat in her home country, that describes how the book almost saw print during the Khrushchev Thaw.
Includes stories such as "Sofia Petrovna" and "Descent under water" and poems.
When Sofia's son is detained by the NKVD in late 1930s Leningrad she goes from career woman to one who waits: it may be about Stalin's Soviet Union but could just as easily be about those who wait in Argentina, or for news from Guantanamo Bay, or countless others whose loved one's are victims of absurd, irrational systems of control. Elegant, exceptional.
This book contained a sentence that I still, years after reading it, haven't been able to get out of my head. It's right before her son leaves, and she says, "For a long time his departure was a week away, and then suddenly it was tomorrow." That's always how time works, isn't it?

And then, such a heart-rendingly sad book about such horrrific tragedy.
Katie Brady
I don't want to give this book a very high rating because it was so disgustingly depressing, but it certainly was a good book. I was captivated throughout the story. Reading it can really help put things in perspective for people in the western world who can't understand why 'they' "just let it happen."
But it's seriously incredibly depressing.
This is a great book about the nature of Stalin's "great terror" and his purges of the late 40's and 50's. I definitely reccomend it to anyone who's interested in Soviet history or how people can be terrorized and deceived by propoganda.
Kris McCracken
a fascinating rendering of the effect of Stalin’s Great Purge on one woman, written at the time by an author who similarly suffered. A decent read and a fascinating historical document. Well worth your time.
For some reason I don't usually cry at Russian literature ... you won't find me weeping over a Chekhov story, not matter how tragic.

However, this account of the USSR in Stalin's time changed all that.
A great look at the Russian culture and how crimes were committed against the people with their blessing. Applicable today in our own blind trust of the government and the power we give them.
A sad, beautiful story about life during the Soviet Purges. More people need to read stuff like this to understand what REALLY went on over in Russia during the Cold War.
Dee W.
Another cheery Soviet novel, this one more of a window into life in the 1930's. This novel absoloutley guts you, but is a good read.
read it for my russian history class, gives a great insight into the great purges and what made them possible
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Lydia Chukovskaya wrote 'Sofia Petrovna', a harrowing story about life during the Great Purges. But it was a while before this story would achieve widespread recognition. Out of favour with the authorities, yet principled and uncompromising, Chukovskaya was unable to hold down any kind of steady employment. But gradually, she started to get published again: an introduction to the works of Taras Sh ...more
More about Lydia Chukovskaya...
The Akhmatova Journals, Volume I: 1938-1941 Софья Петровна. Спуск под воду. Повести Going Under To the Memory of Childhood Vajoaminen

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