From Publishers Weekly
From ?migr? memoirs to officially sanctioned autobiographies, from oral histories to archival documents, these accounts of Russian women's lives before WWII survey remarkable tales of celebration, adjustment, resistance and survival. Fitzpatrick (Everyday Stalinism) and Slezkine (Arctic Mirrors) present ordinary women's testimonies of personal highs and lows amid momentous public events: the 1917 Revolution, the horrors of civil war, early construction of Soviet society and the chaos of political purges. The 43 narratives are divided into three parts: 1917-1920, the '20s and the '30s. In Part I, Anna Andzhievskaia, who as a 19-year-old resort worker married a Bolshevik activist, recounts her revolutionary activities, the loss of her baby during the civil war and the execution of her husband by the Whites; P.E. Melgunova-Stepanova--an activist, teacher and anti-Bolshevik--details the evening in 1920 when the secret police arrested her husband and searched their apartment. In Part II, Paraskeva Ivanova's 1926 letter declares she is leaving the Communist Party because party men have sexually exploited her in the name of creating "new forms of everyday life" to replace "bourgeois morality." Part III includes Pasha Angelina's praise of the Soviet Union for permitting her, born in 1912 to poor peasants, to become the first woman tractor driver and, eventually, a deputy in the Supreme Soviet. Fitzpatrick's introduction provides social and historical context, and Slezkine's offers literary analysis. Many of these excerpts beg for the fuller story, yet they still give depth and human dimension to a place and period too often shrouded in polemics and ideology. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A collection of life stories of Russian women, accompanied by an analytical introduction and edited by scholars Fitzpatrick (History/Univ. of Chicago) and Slezkine (History/Univ. of California), from the perspective of direct participants in the unfolding historical drama begun in 1917.Contributing to the completeness of the picture, the documents selected for this publication vary in genre from literary autobiographies to edited interviews to formal letters and speeches, and their authors are just as diverse in social class, experience, age, and occupation. The objectivity of the narrative is bolstered because events are assessed from opposite points of view (from that of both the victims and the beneficiaries of the Revolution). These antagonistic positions merge in camp memoirs written by those who were at first strong supporters of the Bolshevik cause, but later fell from grace. One principle unifying almost all the narratives is the suppression of personal information. Instead of the traditional focus on marriage, childbirth, and family life, these women defined themselves in terms of historical and public events. The Revolution, civil war, collectivization, and industrialization were the major milestones of their lives. These personal accounts differ significantly in length and style. From Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaia, for instance, we have a brief, dry, and extremely factual third-person account of her political activities. Princess Sofia Volkonskaia, on the other hand, produced a highly emotional story of her return to Russia from emigration in order to rescue her husband from jail. But even here, private circumstances are viewed against the broader background of disarray and brutality that reigned in post-revolutionary Russia. Yet another patriotic and upbeat narrative filled with praise of Stalin can be found in the autobiography of the Soviet Union's most decorated labor hero, tractor driver and Supreme Soviet Deputy Pasha Angelina.Each autobiography here transforms the story of a private life into the story of the country and the times: a volume sure to attract early Soviet history buffs. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.