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Hochschild's search for survivors of Stalin's Terror results in a moving historical horror story. He spent half of 1991 in the disintegrating USSR, listening to former prisoners, guards, executioners, and families describe mass murder, imprisonments, interrupted lives, and hopes destroyed. Russian-speaking journalist Hochschild, a founder of Mother Jones , was among the first Americans to enter KGB archives, where he received records of executed Americans. He visited gulag sites and chapters of Memorial, an organization documenting the Terror. He traveled to Kolyma, the frozen final destination for many and a name that resonates among Russians with the power of Auschwitz. Hochschild's questions are disturbing and timeless: Why did the Revolution devour itself? What makes someone an executioner? Hochschild's people, as well as his honesty and passion, make this unforgettable book essential for everyone concerned about history and human rights. Strongly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/93.-- Donna L. Cole, Leeds P.L., Ala.
Hochschild spent the first half of 1991 in the former Soviet Union interviewing gulag survivors, former camp guards and members of the secret police, writers, artists, human rights activists, neo-Stalinists and ordinary citizens about their opinions of Stalin. This haunting and powerful report reveals that the dictator's legacy persists in widespread denial, amnesia, numbness and pervasive fear among people whose lives were scarred by mass arrests, killings and Stalin's spy network. Hochschild ( The Mirror at Midnight ) traveled to Kolyma, site of the deadliest camps; he interviewed Valentin Berezhkov, who was Stalin's English-language interpreter and privy to the regime's inner circle; he visited Moscow's KGB archives and was given files of American victims of the gulag. Comparing Stalin's purges to the witch craze of early medieval Europe, Hochschild attributes this ``self-inflicted genocide'' partly to Russians' age-old habits of scapegoating and passive obedience. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to New York Times Magazine . (Mar.)