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Children of the Arbat

(Arbat Tetralogy #1)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  3,907 ratings  ·  128 reviews
On a street called the Arbat in Moscow's intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper. Reissue. ...more
Paperback, 737 pages
Published April 27th 1994 by Arrow Books Ltd (first published 1987)
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Sarah I would NOT recommend this book for a teenager. I say that as a 30 year old who was myself a very precocious reader all through my youth; I read many …moreI would NOT recommend this book for a teenager. I say that as a 30 year old who was myself a very precocious reader all through my youth; I read many books that at the time I thought I understood, because I could understand the vocabulary. But in reality those books went way over my head; I couldn't begin to grasp the sorrow, pain, and life choices of the characters.

In addition, I agree with the previous answer. Without a pretty thorough knowledge of Soviet history and a good grasp on Russian culture, a reader would be lost. I am very glad I waited to read this book in adulthood, after I had majored in Russian/Soviet history and studied abroad there. (less)

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Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russian history fans
Shelves: historical, 2019, russian
To the two people among my goodreads friends, who are interested in Russian history and culture - this novel (first in a trilogy) covers the era of Stalin's reign of terror and is both riveting and historically accurate. It is mostly about a group of young people caught up in the workings of Stalin's totalitarian machine; but it also presents Stalin's POV, walking readers through his delusions of grandeur and fears of losing power, that ultimately lead him down the path of totalitarianism.

I lis
Mar 08, 2016 rated it liked it
“The night outside was freezing, the room was warm and cozy, the girls were wearing lisle stockings and high-heeled shoes. The planet was spinning on its relentless orbit, the stars in the universe were in permanent motion, they had vodka and port and white wine and roast goose, there was mustard sauce for the herring and store-bought ham, and they were seeing in 1934, just as they had seen in 1933, and would see in 1935 and ’36 and ’37 and many more years to come. They were young, with no thoug ...more
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in the early 1990s, and it had a huge impact on me. Once I finished it, I had to get my hands on the other two books in the trilogy. After I finished those, I had to get my hands on everything else by Rybakov (too bad I only took two semesters of Russian in college). After that, I had to find every other piece of Russian historical fiction in the greater Chicago area (though none quite matched up to this). Obviously I am obsessed, but this book is so well written, with character ...more

Description: On a street called the Arbat in Moscow's intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper.

Opening: Between Nikolsky and Denezhny streets (today they are called Plotnikov and Vesnin) stood the biggest apartment block in the Arbat - three eight-storey buildings, one close behind the other, the front one glazed with a facade of white tiles.

It is the early '30s and we a
Suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years, Anatoli Rybakov's Children of the Arbat is destined to rank with Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago as a classic of historical fiction. Set in 1934, Children of the Arbat presents a masterful and chilling psychological portrait of Stalin and details the beginning of its reign of terror and its impact on a generation - represented by a circle of young friends living in Moscow's intellectual and artistic centre, the Arbat.

Sasha Pankratov, a you
Ksenia Anske
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m stunned. After reading this book. Stunned, and blown away, and sad. Growing up in Russia, as a little girl, I didn’t understand much about politics, and am only now discovering how Stalin’s regime came into being. This story is like the other side of the coin, the other The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Same time, two completely different stories. And yet they are the same. Told through the eyes of those who lived through The Russian Revolution, who believed into the bright proletariat f ...more
Jan 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most prominent novels of the years of terror in the Soviet Russia. A must-read for those who are becoming interested in this particular period.
Paul Ataua
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found it so powerful when I first read this in the late eighties, so much so that when I went to Moscow in the following winter, we made a deal with the obligatory guide, and he left us to spend a whole afternoon walking along the Arbat, just soaking up the atmosphere. If I am to be honest, though, the district was not really anything special at that time. Of course, since then, there have been many more novels and most have been even more critical of Stalin and the thirties in the Soviet Unio ...more
"Children of the Arbat" is in the long Russian tradition of critical (as distinct from socialist) realism. It deals with the teenage and young adult lives of a group of children who grow up in Moscow's Arbat district, beginning in 1934, when Stalin's paranoia was beginning to ripen into political terror.[return][return]The novel explores the lives of those exiled by the secret police, and those who reach varying levels of accommodation by a regime which is tightening its grip on Russian society. ...more
Aug 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If someone wants in Stalin's darkest thoughts to look
I recommend to read this brilliant, amazing book
It's hardly possible for reader to remain to be aloof, cool, calm, unmoved spectator
While learning how horrible and treacherous and sick was crazy mind of fearsome and yet so fearful dictator

1. Memorable 5
2. Social Relevance 5
3. Informative 5
4. Originality 5
5. Thought Provoking 5
6. Expressiveness 5
7. Entertaining 5
8. Visualization 1
9. Sparks Emotion 5
10. Life Changing (Pivotal, crucial, determin
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it
This was a hard book to read because the translation and editing was bad. I loved the parts about the "children" of Arbat and wish the book focused more on them instead of spending so much time internalizing Stalin's thinking. The parts about Stalin tended to drag out and I found myself skimming through them. I always heard that this was a very powerful book but I don't know if it was the translation or the writing itself but through out most of the book I could not really connect and feel for t ...more
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A breathtaking and fascinating book, set in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the height of Stalinist suppression. Very informative, very moving, it follows a group of young students - who were also Komsomol members - their belief in their country and the fact that they were "building socialism", and the inevitable disillusionment. The Arbat area in Moscow is known as being the bohemian, intellectual quarter (kind of like the Quartier Latin in Paris). A must for anyone interested in historical fict ...more
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am still under the spell of this engaging novel about young adults living on the Arbat in the 1930s and being caught up in the purges. However, it is not only about that topic, but about humans living, loving, fighting, and working. Interestingly, it also gets inside the head of Stalin, which is kind of an icky place to visit.
Looking forward to reading the second one.
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
There are few great novels to read about people and life in Soviet Russia. This is one of them. It's the story of the lives of a group of young Moscow intellectuals/ artists...during the beginning of Stalin's reign of terror.... ...more
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Children of the Arbat was a sensation when it first became available to Soviet readers in 1987. A landmark text of glasnost, it was written between 1966 and 1983 but had been suppressed as anti-Stalinist and was therefore distributed only via very risky underground means known in the USSR as samizdat. But during the Perestroika era the novel was released in serial form in newspapers and its sequels 1935 and Other Years (1989), Fear (1990) and Dust & Ashes (1994) became available too. Children of ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Oct 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
‘A man is still alive as long as he breathes and hopes, and at the age of twenty-two, life is all hope.’

Arbat, Moscow, 1930s. Sasha Pankratov is an engineering student and a member of the Young Communist League. Sasha and his friends are of the generation born in hope, after the Russian Revolution. But Sasha is accused of subversion and arrested (surely a mistake, for he has done nothing wrong). Imprisonment is followed by exile just as Joseph Stalin moves towards his Reign of Terror.

This is the
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I thought this book would never end and I didn’t want it to. This book was incredibly thought provoking and did an excellent job meticulously walking the reader through Stalin’s madness and the lives of young and old muscovites under his brutal dictatorship. I think this book should be up there with crime and punishment and I’m shocked I’d never heard of it before. Can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.
Marc Gerstein
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
This is an amazing work and it’s easy to see why it took as long as it did for it to be published in Russia. And it stands as a strong example of the way fiction can serve to illuminate separate and apart from history, sociology, etc.

The context is by now well known, the Stalinist era in the former USSR, the extreme authoritarianism, repressions, purges, etc. Solzhenitsyn gave us a hefty dose of that but Rybakov’s contribution is completely different. Instead of a borderline documentary of the w
Dec 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, favorites
Brilliant. Although “1930s Russia” could sound like a difficult setting, it’s a very easy read and Rybakov creates this setting very well. The rotation of main characters and amount of Russian names require some extra attention when reading (as well as some Stalin parts) but the book’s a lot faster than it looks nonetheless.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book documents the horrors of the Stalinist reign of terror in the old Soviet Union from a uniquely Russian perspective .It is in fact written in a very similar style to Tolstoys 'War and Peace' The epic develops at just the right pace with well developed characters who are very real.The hero of the story Sasha Pankratov,a loyal Communinst Party member who falls victim to the rotten machinations of the party,the rebellious and strong yet vulnerable Varya Ivaova,the scheming and ruthless Yur ...more
Miles Kelly
Mar 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
An immense work which gives an absorbing picture of life in the Soviet Union in the 1930's. A number of prominent historical characters feature, including Stalin, but the story is of a group of young people from the Arbat district of Moscow as the country is about to be engulfed in the Purges and the show trials. ...more
Kaju Janowski
Would make much more an impact if I'd read it in my school days. It reminded me of the "Adventures of Werner Holt" - book showing the reality of the young when faced with times of political upheaval. The history of the two books is different, but the idea the same: gullibility of the young, innocent minds; inevitability of individualism in times of unanimous political revolution. Scary as shit ...more
Sep 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book to read, if you are Russian and if you want to understand your great and grand parents.
The book to read to see what made Stalins period such. The book to understand how people fight or not with their destiny.
Richard Thompson
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Young people growing up in Stalin's Russia in the 30s were in a world filled with possibility and contradiction. The characters in this story were not wealthy and not highly educated, but they were certainly part of the country's elite, living relatively privileged and culturally sophisticated lives in one of the most desirable neighborhoods of the nation's capital. They could feel the vitality of their country surging ahead with industrialization, the building of the subway, the ending of food ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A truly beautiful book. It conveys the human condition at so many levels, and in so many ways. From a despotic, 'total' ruler of hundreds of millions, to the 'ordinary', hard working, generally well meaning and kind people, who are increasingly forced to live within the tightening boundaries of his own self-sustaining vision.
Most of all, this book is exceptionally 'human', packed with the details, worries, thoughts and asides of 'real people'. As such, it gives one an intimately truthful sense
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I finished this feeling frustrated--so many plot lines left hanging. Then I discovered--with both consternation and delight--that it is the first volume of a tetralogy. Looks as if I will spend the next few months in the company of Stalin!

The book is in the mode of the great a 19th century social novels. The action all takes place in 1934 and alternates between political history and the stories of a group of school friends in Moscow from different backgrounds and social classes. Rybatov uses the
There are things about this book, many things, which are utterly incomprehensible to me. It was definitely a page-turner. I could not put it down, but the plot is . . . messy. The common criticism about Russian literature: "there are too many characters, too many names, can't understand the names;" I never understood those gripes in the context of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Pasternak. Over the course of this 647 page novel, I found myself many times getting lost in the blizzard of chara ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
The blurb on the front cover of my battered second hand paperback copy says: ‘the most important work of fiction by a Soviet author since Dr Zhivago’. Well, I disagree. I think it’s a much better piece of literature in every respect. I certainly enjoyed it a lot more.

Banned for over 20 years by the Soviets for a reason, it’s an examination of Stalin’s USSR in the 1930s as experienced by a small group of young people from the Arbat, a district in Moscow, as they navigate their way through an incr
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a few failed attempts to finish this one. It's not like Rybakov writes in a difficult style, but like most Russian writers he adds such an insane amount of characters to the story that it is difficult to keep track of who is who, especially since Russians tend to use more than one name for the same person. But the way Rybakov describes life under the terror of Stalin.. amazing and so captivating! The bureaucracy, the struggle for power, the struggle for survival, Stalin's paranoia.. i ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a social history of the Soviet Union in 1933, this gives fascinating insights into the morally somewhat ambiguous lives of young people in Moscow, their interaction with the older generation, the trials of those sent into exile to Siberian villages (not the camps), the convoluted thinking of the apparatchiks. The long monologues purporting to be Stalin's thoughts and reasons are interesting but we can't ever know how accurate they might be, and the details of the party in-fighting and manipul ...more
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Anatoly Naumovich Rybakov (Russian: Анатолий Наумович Рыбаков; January 14, 1911 – December 23, 1998) was a Soviet and Russian writer, the author of the anti-Stalinist Children of the Arbat tetralogy, novel Heavy Sand, and many popular children books including Adventures of Krosh, Dirk, Bronze Bird, etc. One of the last of his works was his memoir The Novel of Memoirs (Роман-Воспоминание) telling a ...more

Other books in the series

Arbat Tetralogy (4 books)
  • 1935 en volgende jaren (Arbat tetralogy, #2)
  • Страх (Дети Арбата #2)
  • Dust and Ashes (Arbat tetralogy, #4)

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