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Lenin's Private War: The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  30 ratings  ·  8 reviews
In 1922, Vladimir Lenin personally drew up a list of some 160 "undesirable" intellectuals--mostly philosophers, academics, scientists, and journalists--to be deported from the new Soviet State. "We're going to cleanse Russia once and for all" he wrote to Stalin, whose job it was to oversee the deportation. Two ships sailed from Petrograd that autumn, taking Old Russia's em ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 24th 2008 by Picador (first published January 1st 2006)
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Wow, what a book. It’s a necessary and helpful English digest of the vast Russo-German scholarship that has bloomed from the post-Cold War opening of the Soviet archives, AND a heroic effort to position the intellectual agony of exiled Russian thinkers as one of the representative, even mythic stories of European intellectual history. The first wave of émigré studies had to remind people that the emigration existed in far richer human terms than the Soviet caricature of bitter former landowners ...more
John David
After the fall of the Romanovs, and not too long before he became the first Premier of the Soviet Union, Lenin planned a forced emigration for some of the more ideologically problematic Russian intellectuals. While the Lenin’s efforts were nothing like the later mass purges of Stalin, he did much to ensure that the transition from the monarchy to the USSR and its state capitalism, including making sure that the influence of intellectuals who weren’t wholly sympathetic to Lenin’s new economic ide ...more
Our weak intelligentsia souls are simply incapable of conceiving abominations and horrors on such a Biblical scale and can only fall into a numbed and unconscious state. And there is no way out, because there is no longer a motherland. The West does not need us, nor does Russia, because she no longer exists. You have to retreat into the loneliness of a stoic cosmopolitanism, i.e., start to live and breathe in a vacuum.- Semyon Frank

If history is indeed a nightmare from which we are trying to wak
Sam Schulman
This is an impressionistic, warm, emotional, and complex book about the intellectuals Lenin focussed on after the end of the Civil War as his enemies, how he drove them out of Russia, and their experience as emigres in Berlin and Prague. But there are some things about the book that make me uncomfortable, some of which are forgiveable, others, perplexing. To have given herself to this project, Lesley Chamberlain must be an enthusiast, but from the beginning of the book, I was puzzled by the sign ...more
In September 1922 a steamer with Russian citizens aboard left Petrograd for the West with a group of the "intelligentsia" of Russia, literary critics philosophers and others . This ship and others would eventually carry more than two hundred into exile in what has been chronicled by Lesley Chamberlain in her book, Lenin's Private War. Subtitled 'The Voyage of the Philosophy Steamer and the Exile of the Intelligentsia", the book, a sort of intellectual history and cultural biography, tells the st ...more
Steve Satterwhite
Here's what happens when you throw everybody out of the country who MIGHT disagree with you, excepting, of course, the millions that you plan to murder.

That's what Lenin did, and this is the tale. Plenty of detail, plenty of things you didn't know.

Chamberlain's analysis in the last chapter is terrific, plenty of decent insights without getting preachy.

Smart book.
Interesting but dull. If I had a really in-depth knowledge of Russian philosophers before starting to read it, it might have been more interesting, but as just someone curious about history... yeah, a bit dull.
George Parker
Probably only of real interest to those studying Russian academicians at the time of the October revolution.
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