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Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  716 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Most popular books about the Stalin era feature the big names and a firm narrative shape: Robert Conquest's The Great Terror; Alan Bullock's Hitler and Stalin. Some books yield their revelations at a glance, like the stunning The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin's Russia.

But scholar Sheila Fitzpatrick is famous for letting the common

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Published March 4th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian historians, History students, Those with strong opinions about Communism
Recommended to Michael by: John Braun
This book was written both at the height of the openness of former Soviet archives in Russia and at the height of interest in “Alltagsgeschichte” or the History of Everyday Life. Although this term was new in the 1990s, Fitzpatrick herself had long been interested in examining the social history of Soviet Russia “from below,” as against those historians who insisted that all aspects of Soviet life were decided at the level of the State, making the State the only aspect worth studying. This book ...more
May 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Confession: I am only two-thirds of the way through this book. But I've been reading it almost without a break for the last 12 hours. Because from the first page, I have felt as if I were reading some kind of thriller written about daily life in Stalinist Russia by a very talented writer & scholar who has researched everything thoroughly and only included the most interesting and/or pertinent bits in her narrative…. "Extraordinary times," indeed! Utterly fantastic, horrible, gut-wrenching ti ...more
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Written by a liberal american historian, it's no surprise this book has lots of stereotypical anti-communist terms or phrases, which includes but is not limited to: Regime, Slavery comparisons, comparisons to fascism, Totalitarian(i think), and obviously Stalinist/Stalinism. It may be odd to say Stalinism is this context is a buzzword, considering the book seems like one that would actually discuss it, but it still feels a buzzword thrown around at times. Their comments about Marxism or more so ...more
Judith Killen
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book by one of the grande dames of Russian and Soviet history. It captures the texture of daily life for ordinary people in Stalinist USSR. Many books recount the dramatic horrors of living during the Civil War, collectivization of the peasants, the great purges--but this focuses on how "small" people went about their days--confronting scarcity, propaganda, zealots, work politics, errant spouses, and their revolts through jokes, accidents, drinking and suicide. This is well researched- ...more
John Daly
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the book, but knew what I was getting into. This is a book about everyday life of people in Russia, informed by their diaries and post World War II interviews with refugees from the USSR. The author is an expert on Russian history, but I am not and had to do some background searches on Wikipedia to feel comfortable reading the book. I have posted a couple of things on my blog discussing the book in more detail:
Apr 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My only complaint about this book is that the type is so small. The content is great, how did citizens of the Soviet Union survive? I had no idea about the hardships these people faced, and what kept them going. Yet for all of communism's shortfalls, there were also some truly amazing human achievements accomplished during Stalin's reign. The mix of terror, nationalism, and modernization at any cost truly created a new type of soviet person.
Derek Lewis
Jul 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's another great textbook, but I have to dock one star because of that. It is not something to pick up for pleasurable reading... that is unless you are a sadist who enjoys reading about the literal and figurative destruction of a entire nation of people by Stalin. Fitzpatrick's offering is a must read for this era in history.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sheila Fitzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism, like many of her works, is concerned with the experiences of society under the Soviet regime rather than the state, but here she takes her research a step further and seeks to uncover what everyday life was like for the urban Soviet citizen in the 1930s. This is no easy task for any era of Soviet history, but is particularly difficult for a population that was living under a Stalinist administration wherein one could be sent to prison for even imagined di ...more
Metodi Pachev
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very strong and important history text. Narrating the history of a time of great political change through the prism of the lives of ordinary people clearly stems from two assumptions that I admire: first, in order to fully understand political order and its change, one has to both zoom in and zoom out in the big picture; second, the everyday life of people remains the truest measurement tool for what exactly is developing in the high stages of political power. In the conclusion, S. Fitzpatrick ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book!!
Stephen Coates
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Conquest, in “The Great Terror” gave us a history of Stalin’s rule including the mass arrests, show trials and purges and in “Gulag”, Anne Applebaum gave us a history of the system of gulags from the Russian Revolution through to the Gorbachev era. In this work, Fitzpatrick presents life under Stalin as it was for the everyday person, living with shortages, queuing for hours at shops rumoured to be receiving a delivery, living with informers and being careful what to discuss, even with on ...more
This is one I've had on my bookshelf for several years, ever since a Stalinist Russia history class I signed up for and then dropped back in college. It was really enlightening as far as providing a look into how common people lived their lives day to day under Stalin - most of the information I've gotten in the past about the Soviet Union has concerned the upper classes/intelligentsia or those specifically targeted as enemies of the regime (kulaks, etc).

There's some really interesting stuff in
Feb 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
This book falls between Research and Popular History but does neither justice. The writing style is hard to hold onto at times and can be difficult to understand. I found that the chapters jumped around a bit and that their was no real focus as I had hoped. She left out work(though she explained why) and I found that odd for a book about ordinary life. And at times I felt that the book wasn't even about everyday life. In the end it can be a good secondary source, and has excellent research notes ...more
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this for my Stalinism class but this wasn't too bad. As far as a history book goes, Fitzpatrick kind of veered off the path of traditional history texts, forgoing the application of theory and instead presenting more of an anthropological look into the daily lives of people in Stalinist Russia. By using personal stories and other anecdotes as her main source, Fitzpatrick delivers a far more engaging, personalized account of the average person in urban 1930s Russia. Everyday Stalini ...more
It seems like I've been reading this book for years, mainly because once I got a few pages done, my eyelids grew heavy and I wanted to take a nap.

This is not the most exciting or engaging book on the Soviet Union, but it is informative if you can get past the long dense paragraphs. The author lets the Russians speak for themeselves, which is good, but she doesn't let them carry the narrative, which isn't so good.

I did like her conclusion, in which she uses some interesting metaphors to illustr
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sheila Fitzpatrick is a genius.I've actually a few social histories on Stalinist Russia for my degree and this by far the most detailed, coherent and incredibly concise account of lives under the Stalinist system. She uses almost a narrative style to, very vividly depict, the abject living conditions of USSR during 1930's along with a great insight into the tools of propaganda utilized and not to mention its immense bureaucratic power apparatus, along with of course the shocking years Terror tow ...more
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and enlightening account of everyday life in 1930s Russia. This book makes excellent reading alongside more grand narratives of Stalinism and early 20th century Russian history. My main criticism would be Fitzpatrick's occasional heavy-handedness in pitching the 1930s experience of Russians under Stalin to an American audience.

The print in the book is very poor. Not only is the typeface cramped and too small to be comfortable, but in my copy is also distorted on practically every p
May 13, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Have to knock the rating down some because of some inexcusable spelling errors. I mean, "Comunist" is not a word, people. Run spellcheck, at least!! There were a lot of really noticeable errors.

Other than that, this was a somewhat interesting, very well-researched book about what it was like to live in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The book covered topics such as food shortages, family life, the class system, etc. Some parts were more interesting than others, I thought.
Dec 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book contains an awful lot of data, but the author tries to pull it all together. It's a bit dryer than The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia by Orlando Figes. It presents a pretty clear picture of what urban life was like in the 1930s under Stalin.
Ashley Simpson
Read this as a class assigned reading. The book is very hard to follow and jumps around from year to year out of order. It is arranged by category or subject so there is not really any chronological order to it. It is a difficult read, sometimes hard to grasp exactly what Fitzpatrick is trying to convey, however if you can make it through the muck, there is some interesting history of the Soviet Citizen's experience under 1930s Stalinist rule.
Rachael MacLean
This is a very well researched book and it's interesting material. It does get a little repetitive, though, so if you read too much at once it becomes a bit of a slog. Definitely a book I would recommend reading in increments.
Sep 30, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comps
It is an excellent introductory book on Stalinism. Although it is not the most original book in Soviet history, nor does it provide a new information nor a genuine theoretical discussion, it provides good overall picture of the life of ordinary people in Soviet Union in 1930s.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the brilliance of this historical study lies in the balanced examination of 'humanity' in a specific period of time in human history, rather than creating the dichotomy of 'victims' and '(state) power'.

powerful and beautifully written.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a very fascinating and broad account of the lives of "everyday" Russians during the Stalinist years. The author draws from a large resource of sources such as letters, cartoons, and interviews in this account.
Kenghis Khan
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised at how balanced it was, and how really ordinary life in the USSR was. On balance Kirkpatrick does her subject justice, although there is plenty of underhanded political commentary against the Soviet system that seems a little tongue in cheek.
Vasil Kolev
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It was nice, but covers only a part of Stallinism (up to around the end of the great purges), and isn't able to go into enough depth (like when talking about some complaints from people, there's no follow-up on what happened to them or their problems).
Stanislav Fedorov
Живой классик изучения советской повседневности 1930-х.
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
excellent description of stalisnism and its impact
Sep 23, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this book four stars if the font wasn't so tiny.
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful about the lives of those in the time period. It was quite exciting. Perhaps it is just because I find Totalitarian governments to be intriguing.
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Sheila Fitzpatrick (born June 4, 1941, Melbourne) is an Australian-American historian. She teaches Soviet History at the University of Chicago.

Fitzpatrick's research focuses on the social and cultural history of the Stalinist period, particularly on aspects of social identity and daily life. She is currently concentrating on the social and cultural changes in Soviet Russia of the 1950s and 1960s.

More about Sheila Fitzpatrick...
“This was an age of utopianism. Political leaders had utopian visions, and so did many citizens, especially the younger generation. The spirit is hard to capture in an age of skepticism, since utopianism, like revolution, is so unreasonable.” 1 likes
“The Communists’ sense of mission and intellectual superiority was far too great to allow them to be swayed by mere majority opinion. In this, they were like all other revolutionaries, for what revolutionary worth his salt has ever conceded that “the people’s will” is something different from the mission he has undertaken to carry out on the people’s behalf?” 1 likes
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