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The Whisperers

Private Life in Stalin's Russia

Orlando Figes

Picador

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

There have been many accounts of the public aspects of Stalin’s dictatorship: the arrests and trials, the enslavement and killing in the gulags. No previous book, however, has explored the regime’s effect on people’s personal lives, what one historian called “the Stalinism that entered into all of us.” Now, drawing on a collection of newly discovered documents, The Whisperers reveals for the first time the inner world of ordinary Soviet citizens as they struggled to survive amidst the mistrust, fear, compromises, and betrayals that pervaded their existence.
 
Moving from the Revolution of 1917 to the death of Stalin and beyond, Orlando Figes re-creates the moral maze in which Russians found themselves, where one wrong turn could destroy a family or, perversely, end up saving it. He brings us inside cramped communal apartments, where minor squabbles could lead to fatal denunciations; he examines the Communist faithful, who often rationalized even their own arrest as a case of mistaken identity; and he casts a humanizing light on informers, demonstrating how, in a repressive system, anyone could easily become a collaborator.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Whisperers

"Its importance cannot be overestimated. . . . This book should be made compulsory reading in Russia today."--The Times (London)

"Extraordinary . . . Victims do not always make good witnesses. But thanks to Figes, these survivors overcame their silence and have lifted their voices above a whisper."--The New York Times Book Review

"A profound service . . . Figes redeems the gloom by demonstrating compassion for flawed human beings and revealing compelling examples of moral courage and kindness."--The Christian Science Monitor

"An extraordinary work of synthesis and insight . . . an awfully good read . . . Figes is both a prodigious researcher and a gifted writer."--St. Petersburg Times

"Lucid, thorough, and essential to understanding Stalinist society . . . an exemplary study in mentalits."--Kirkus Reviews

"Extraordinary."--The New Yorker

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Orlando Figes

  • Orlando Figes is the author of Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia and A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924, which received the Wolfson Prize, the NCR Book Award, the W. H. Smith Literary Award, the Longman/History Today Book Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London.

  • Orlando Figes
    Orlando Figes
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