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Inside the Stalin Archives: Discovering the New Russia

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  71 ratings  ·  12 reviews
To most Americans, Russia remains as enigmatic today as it was during the Iron Curtain era. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country had an opportunity to face its tortured past. In Inside the Stalin Archives, Jonathan Brent asks, why didn't this happen? Why are the anti-Semitic Protocols of Zion sold openly in the lobby of the State Duma? Why are archivists unde ...more
Hardcover, 335 pages
Published December 17th 2008 by Atlas (first published November 3rd 2008)
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Agreeing with the other reviews that this book didn't quite seem to know what it wanted to be: history, travelogue, a book about the manuscript publishing process, a work of literary detection and criticism, or something else. The good parts are very good; the middling parts are forgettable. But I'd recommend it to someone who wanted to see a slightly different take on late Soviet/modern Russian history and politics.
Sometimes he tries to get a little fancy and you have to cringe. But the rest of the time there's the perfect balance between totalitarian mass murder and getting lost on trolleys.
Feb 06, 2014 Thomas marked it as unfinished
Shelves: abandoned
I didn't make it very far into this book. Whereas the title led me to believe that it covered the material in the Stalin archives, what I got through mostly seems to be tedious travelogue about the author going to Russian IN ORDER TO INSPECT the Stalin archives. Whether he ever gets around to relating the new material is unclear to me, because I gave up after reading perhaps a fifth of the book. There are far more amusing travelogues of Russia than this one, and I'm not that interested in contem ...more
An interesting book that doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be. At times, it's the story of how Yale University Press got its hands on valuable Soviet-era archives. At other times, it's a not-so-compelling travel piece about Moscow. All that is interspersed with new narratives from, presumably, those valuable Soviet archives, such as the ordeal of Russian writer Isaac Babel. At the end, the author wraps it all up with a discourse on Stalin himself. There is a lot of good information in ...more
Well this isn't the story I thought it would be based on the title. I never read the blurb, which might have stopped me, and I'm glad I didn't. This was more about the journey to the Stalin (and other) archives than about what was in the archives themselves, which is only hinted at. Still, the author's travels to Russia and his descriptions of Moscow's inhabitants and its rapidly changing 'landscape' were revealing.
A crucial book for anyone interested in the fall of communism and the cult of Stalin (and simply the cult of personality). Brent takes the reader along on his trips to the archives in Moscow and one becomes aware of the sheer depth of such an archival undertaking. His analysis was particularly fascinating to me.
What starts out as a book about the author's experience in starting Yale's "Annals of Communism" series turns into a unique look at a historic period of time when Russia finally had an opportunity to go down a path toward democratization but instead chose a different route.
A good portion of this book is the story of how Yale University Press - through the author - managed to make a deal with the Russian achival units to research and print information about the Stalin years from the Stalin Archives in Moscow and other cities in Russia.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish. Not only was it historically relevant and factually interesting; but the author successfully intertwined personal narrative and story throughout. I would definitely read this book again.

The legacy of Stalin, not man, but Soviet power - the secret, conspiratorial, violent nature of all Russian governments continuing today reaching back to Czarist times, but especially the legacy of the government of the Soviet Union.
More of a story about traveling in Russia than about archives or Stalin, but there were some juicy tidbits about both.
Quite interesting at the beginning and end.
A must read for coming to terms with the 20th century, a coming to terms all too rare today.
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