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The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  941 ratings  ·  157 reviews
A remarkable piece of forgotten history- the never-before-told story of Americans lured to Soviet Russia by the promise of jobs and better lives, only to meet tragic ends

In 1934, a photograph was taken of a baseball team. These two rows of young men look like any group of American ballplayers, except perhaps for the Russian lettering on their jerseys. The players have lef
Hardcover, 436 pages
Published July 17th 2008 by The Penguin Press (first published July 17th 2007)
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
The other Joads

Many people will be familiar with the story of the Joad family from John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, the great epic of the Great Depression in America, or from the film of the same name directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. Tom and his family are dirt poor ‘Okies’, who escape from Oklahoma’s ever expanding Dust Bowl, moving west to California in search of a better life. Instead they are met with hostility and exploitation.

The Joads were lucky.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-history
The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis is an important and tragic piece of history.

This is an extremely well researched book and tells the forgotten and relatively unknown story of families who emigrate to Russia from America during the era of the American Depression in the hope of a new life only to become victims of Stalin's terror during his 5 year plan in which millions of Russians and thousands of Americans are brutally interrogated and either assassinated or sent to Gulags in Siberia. We learn of
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My dad, when I was a kid, used to refer to Joseph Davies, America's 2nd Ambassador to the Soviet Union and native of our hometown, as a "communist." As I got older, I used to chalk this up to a latent McCarthyism within him, but Tzouliadis has helped me understand better something I think my dad knew about: American complicity with the rise of Josef Stalin in the 1930s.
Davies, among others, stands out in this book as the poster child for a quiet admiration held by many in the American government
Eugenia Vlasova
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of my friends once asked me, “Why do Russians want Stalin back? He was a mass murderer and killed Russians by the millions. Why do Russian people think he was a good ruler?” All I could say was, “Well, if I knew the answer, I would still live in Russia… I moved to Canada, because I can't justify those sentiments.” Then he continued: “Have you heard about the thousands of Americans who immigrated to the Soviet Union to escape the Great Depression? And they vanished in the Gulag”. Never heard ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
The full title of this excellent book is "The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia". It's a very readable non-fiction account of the lives of the many Americans who emigrated to the USSR during the Great Depression. In the 1930's the US was going through an enormous economic decline and rampant unemployment. The USSR seemed attractive to many Americans: the country was stabilizing after the October Revolution, in the middle of what was considered a grand social experiment - the first ...more
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best, most important books I've ever read. It should be required reading in all US classrooms to explain why we fought the Cold War and why we continue to fight for freedom today. Many people, some avowed communists, some just looking for work ventured to the "Worker's Paradise" the USSR during the Great Depression most never to be seen of or heard from again, worked to death in Stalin's gulags. All but abandoned by the US, their story is truly important, and a vivid lesson as to why ...more
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is a book that every American school student should read. It will show them that their government was complicit with the Soviet Union in the imprisonment, torture and murder of thousands of American citizens. There were many American service members who were captured in Korea during the Korean War who were sent into the Soviet Gulag system and never returned.

Elizabeth Scott
Nov 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I knew I wanted to read this after all those books about Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons, and although it took me a while to find it (someone's TBR pile is, um, a little large), I did!

For some reason, probably because a Motel T is on the cover, I thought it was about Ford workers who moved to the USSR and disappeared during Stalin's decades-long Terror. But instead, Tzouliadias provides a comprehensive overview of the many Americans--some Communists committed to Stalin's cause, some si
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the overlooked story of Americans, particularly African-Americans, who left tinderbox cities like Detroit in the 1920s to work in a Soviet-Ford joint plant. They taught the Russians baseball and some married Russians, and then they got sucked into the storm of purges and gulags after Lenin's death as western agents, or just disposable outsiders. One man's life is a catalog of catastrophe--burned out of his Detroit house, arrested as a spy in 1926, rehabilitiated to work as an engineer, a ...more
Apr 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Reveals the fascinating and little-known phenomenon of Depression-era Americans moving to the Soviet Union and ending up trapped in a Stalinist hell. The author unearths the stories of these forgotten individuals, and lambastes the Americans who facilitated their tortures. Ambassador Joseph Davies actually proclaimed that Stalin's show trials were legitimate. Many Americans were arrested by the secret police literally right outside of the embassy, having been turned away after seeking help. Paul ...more
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
"Their return was often the point at which the prisoners realized it had not been enough to survive . Their essential task was yet harder: to survive and keep one's soul intact."

In early 2020, I had read an HF by Sana Krasikov "The Patriots". I had absolutely no prior knowledge of the number of disillusioned Americans who had been duped into chasing after Stalin's shimmery lure of promised jobs in the Soviet Union - during the US depression of the 30's - only to be deprived of their US citizensh
Excellent book. Well-written, good pacing, a nice mix of personal history and general history. The author is primarily concerned with Americans imprisoned by the Soviet gulag, which probably amounted to thousands of them over a several decades, if not tens of thousands. Many of those Americans unjustly imprisoned freely moved to Russia for work during the Great Depression. Most of them never came back. Other Americans include military personnel from WWII.

But the author also discusses the politi
Rick Hautala
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Like the blurb says: "A remarkable piece of forgotten history ..." How thousandsof Americans were lured to the Soviet Union during the (first) GreatDepression and then how so many of them (including many Finns) were "disappeared" during Stalin's Terror ... Absolutely riveting story! ...more
John Ratliffe
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
“The Forsaken,” a book about the great Soviet/Stalinist purge and murder of millions in the 1930’s and 40’s.

In particular it is about a large number of Americans who fled America during the Great Depression hoping for a better life in what they believed was a workers paradise in the new communist Russia. It is a long and exhaustive recall of the evil which seems to be woven in human DNA and which has led to many repetitions of such inhumanity.

But while the dream lasted some 25 thousand relocat
Howard Olsen
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book about Americans who found themselves caught up in the Soviet Gulag, a phenomenon that has largely been lost to history (although authors like Whittaker Chambers and IB Singer mentioned it). Hard as it might be to believe, thousands of American leftists moved to the Soviet Union in the Thirties, convinced it would be the vanguard of the future. Instead, they found a cruel, paranoid totalitarian state that would eventually arrest and kill them all. There are very few happy endin ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
For those who want their history to be as fast-paced and fasciating as a best seller...

This is a story about a little-known group of emigrants - the thousands of Americans who travelled to the USSR in the 30's to escape the Depression and become part of the first Communist Revolution to build a new society. Although many went for ideological reasons, others went for the promise of guaranteed employment and a new life.

Tzouliadis details the saga of these Americans who became labeled as "Enemies o
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book chronicles a sad portion of American history: the fate of Americans who, desperate for work during the Great Depression, emigrated to the Soviet Union. Although they led productive lives in the beginning, eventually, they were forced to relinquish their American passports, and hundreds of them were among the 19 million + people imprisoned and/or the 7 million + people executed during Stalin's reign of terror. Sadly, sometimes through fear, sometimes through willful denial, and sometime ...more
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book about the great terror in Soviet Russia. It focuses on the fate of the thousands of Americans who emigrated to Russia in search of a better life during the depression of the 1930s. The emigrants were naïve in the extreme, and when Stalin unleashed his murderous purges they were liquidated. Few survived to tell the tale.

What is sickening is that the US Government did next to nothing to help its erstwhile citizens. Many of the functionaries dealing with the increasingly desperate pl
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. It is a history book about the thousands of Americans who immigrated to the USSR during the great depression and what happened to them along with the blind eyes of the American government. These people were viewed as "flotsam and jetsam" and were unimportant in WW2 or the beginnings of the cold war, not that many had survived the Terror of the late 1930's. Tzouliadis' book covers from the beginnings of the depression to the end of the USSR with a high focus on the area bet ...more
May 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this book highly enough. For as much as we think we may know or be aware of regaring the Stalinist period (which was so long and so deadly), lovers of freedom are going to feel the heartbreak of the fate that awaited the sincerely optimistic and forward-looking Americans who believed that the way forward for mankind was to build the "workers' paradise". What is tragic is that they and their ideals were betrayed by the very place that they believed would uphold freedom. The clas ...more
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who tries to defend the policies and history of Trotsky, Lenin, or Stalin has no credibility and doesn't know what they are talking about. Trust me, I've done my homework on these things. Don't believe me--take a look at my reading list. Soviet Communism is just like the modern day Republican Party--it had principles that aren't practical, it was full of illusions and broken dreams, it was full of talking heads like Glen Beck, Rush Bimbaugh, and inevitably Soviet Communism led to a crisis ...more
Alexandra Popoff
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This fascinating book tells about three generations of Americans in the Gulag. I was impressed with the author's original archival research and courage in speaking out about uncomfortable facts, e.g., failure by the American government to rescue thousands of their own citizens. Some naive Americans went to the USSR during the Depression in the 1930s, in search of jobs; others, the Allied soldiers and officers were captured by the Nazis during WWII and, upon the liberation of the Nazi camps, were ...more
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Professor Harvey Klehr has chosen to discuss Tim Tzouliadis’s The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia , on FiveBooks  as one of the top five on his subject - Communism in America, saying that:

"This is a fairly recent book which is wonderful and very depressing. It is an account of a large number of Americans who were living in Russia in the 1930s. Many of these people were caught up in the purge trials and hundreds of them were killed..."

The full interview is available here: http://
Apr 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
This should be required reading! I did not learn about this in any of my history classes, but most likely because it hasn't been known -- or rather accepted -- until recently. I knew Stalin was evil; I just didn't understand the depth and breadth of it until reading this book. It was difficult to read at times and very difficult to understand how this could have happened. Hitler and his concentration camps killed 6 million people. Stalin and his gulag "labor camps" killed nearly 3 times that
Thomas Clark
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was an eye-opener for me. I was amazed that nearly 10,000 depression-era autoworkers became expatriates to Stalin's Russia, following political idealism in order to establish automotive plants and worker communities in the Soviet Union, yet becoming political pawns completely abandoned by the U.S. as nearly all were consumed by Stalin's gulags. This is the most fascinating book I've read in years, with remarkable parallels to modern political-industrial situations. ...more
Molly Southwick
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
So that prisons should vanish forever, we built new prisons...So that work should become a rest and a pleasure, we introduced forced labor. So that not one drop of blood be shed any more, we killed and killed and killed.
Andrei Sinyavsky, On Socialist Realism.

This book was eye opening as was this quote, which sheds a TRUE light on socialism.
C Manuel Contente
Nov 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF- I hate to admit it, but the writing in this book was simply too poor to be enjoyable. The research is there and the subject matter definitely has the potential to be turned into a fascinating book- this, unfortunately, is not that book. Tzouliadis writes in broad, general statements, instead of utilizing individual tales to tell the overall story of the men and women who left their lives behind in Depression-era America to begin anew in Soviet Russia. Very disappointing.

I will; however, st
Andrew Tollemache
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A haunting book recounting the tragic fate of thousands of Americans who moved to the Soviet Union in early 1930s.
In the depths of the Great Depression from 1930-35 thousands of Americans moved to the USSR desparate to find work in a country that promised a brave new world a decade or so after the Bolshevik Revolution. At the time some even thought that immigration to the USSR would rival the great immigration waves to the US in the 19th Century. Many of the American's moving to the USSR were
Diane Depew
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional account of Americans in Stalin’s USSR, most who were lured to the country during the depression with promises of employment. Sadly, it is also a history of the gulags, where most Americans ended up, and abandoned by the U.S. government - a government which had Americans spying for the Russians. A must read for those interested in the U.S.S.R.
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Oh my gosh! This is a heavily documented book telling of the well-concealed history of the fate of thousands of American families who were lured Eastward, to Russia, during the Great Depression. Henry Ford set up shop there and that industry, along with many others, brought jobless Americans eagerly anticipating a good job at the least, and an Utopian Society at the most in this new order under the mighty Joseph Stalin. (Stalin actually ran adds in American newspapers enticing people to come to ...more
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