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Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin's Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina (Hoover Institution Press Publication) Paperback – April 1, 2010
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Drawing from Hoover Institution archival documents, Paul Gregory sheds light on how the world’s first socialist state went terribly wrong and why it was likely to veer off course through the story of two of Stalin’s most prominent victims: Pravda editor Nikolai Bukharin and his wife, Anna Larina. Their dramatic story begins with the optimism of the socialist revolution and then turns into a dark tale of foreboding and terror as the game changed from political struggle to physical survival. Told for the most part in the words of the participants, it is a tale of courage and cowardice, strength and weakness, misplaced idealism, missed opportunities, bungling, and, above all, love.
From the Inside Flap
Nikolai Bukharin was only one of the millions of Stalin’s victims. Most were ordinary people, unlike Nikolai and his wife, Anna Larina, who were members of the Bolshevik elite. But his and Anna’s tale provides a more enduring understanding of Stalin and Stalinism than the statistics that tally the dictator’s millions of victims. Their story contains all the elements of high drama: love and devotion interspersed with intrigue, betrayal, hope, weakness, friendship, naïveté, endurance, optimism, bitterness, and ultimate tragedy. In this book, Paul Gregory draws from Hoover Institution archival documents to paint a fascinating portrait of their life together, set against the backdrop of the Bolshevik revolution. Through their compelling story—told largely in their own words—Gregory reveals how the revolution ultimately went wrong.
The Bolshevik revolution unexpectedly brought to power a disparate collection of idealists, misfits, fanatics, intellectuals, scoundrels, opportunists, and some outright criminals and thugs. Nikolai Bukharin belonged in the idealist and intellectual category, whereas Stalin began as a thug, an organizer of bank robberies and murders in his native Georgia. Of the possible successors to Lenin, Bukharin most clearly spelled out a vision, which today would be called “socialism with a human face.” His loss, the author shows, suggests that Stalin’s victory was predetermined by factors deeply embedded in the Bolshevik revolution, as Bukharin proved helpless against a competitor who thirsted for absolute power.
Word of Nikolai Bukharin’s execution came to his twenty-four-year-old wife, Anna Larina, in the Tomsk camp for wives of “traitors of the fatherland.” The morning after her husband’s death, the warden confiscated Anna’s only photograph of her eleven-month-old baby, ordered her to pack, and sent her off to the next camp. She would not be released until 1945; even after her release, she remained in exile for another decade
Politics, Murder, and Love in Stalin’s Kremlin: The Story of Nikolai Bukharin and Anna Larina tells of the tragedy of one death and one ruined life. Stories such as theirs offer more insights than do more-general accounts of Stalin’s purges. As Robert Conquest says in his foreword, “The political infighting stands out as the context of character and feeling—more effectively so than in pure fiction.”
Top Customer Reviews
The book's short, meaty chapters enhance its readability and facilitate understanding of a complex series of events. It is rare that a scholar and authority at Gregory's level is able to present a historical narrative so clearly and compellingly to lay readers.
I found Paul R. Gregory's book enlightening and deeply moving, and hope it finds a wide readership. It tells the story of a marriage, and of the tragic fall of Nikolai Bukharin, by any standard the most appealing figure in Lenin's inner circle. One has the feeling that this charming and humane man, if he were born in a stable, democratic republic, would have been a generally beloved figure. It's easy to imagine him in another place and time as a popular professor, a crusading newspaper editor, or a left-leaning politician that even conservatives couldn't help liking. Somewhere other than Stalinist Russia, his tragic flaws--difficulty recognizing true evil when he saw it, a shaky grasp of human nature, and impractical idealism--would not have destroyed his life or helped to destroy anyone else's. He seems to have been seduced by the dream of a communist utopia not through lust for power but because of what was best in him--hope for an egalitarian and just world.
Bukharin advocated "socialism with a human face" and opposed Stalin's ruthless exploitation of the peasantry. He wept when he saw the horrors Stalin's manmade famine caused but was unable to do anything to help the victims other than give away his pocket money to starving children. Stalin targeted him for destruction. Still, Bukharin was complicit with the regime. Early on he helped prop it up, and later, under horrific pressure, he seems to have named names and helped to destroy others. He never fully comprehended the dangers inherent in communism, and before his imprisonment asked his wife to raise his infant son as a true Bolshevik. Just the same, in reading about him one has the sense of a fundamentally decent man outmatched by the forces with which he grappled.Read more ›
The book starts out with a brief overview of the power struggle that ensued between the members of the Politburo after Lenin's death. It shows how and why Stalin was able to come out on top and seize power. The bulk of the book is obviously about Nikolai Bukharin, his associations with Stalin and other top ranking Bolsheviks, the accusations against him and his so called "trial" as well as his personal life and romance with Anna Larina.
I don't want to go into reciting the content of the book since that's what those Amazon blurbs are for, I just want to provide a few qualitative comments. As far as history books go, I would say this is one of the most engaging and accessible ones that I have read. Partially, this is because it is focused on a personal life story of a specific individual but primarily it's due to Gregory's writing style. This is by no means just a biography and Gregory manages to strike a perfect balance between reporting historical facts, while at the same time providing a very accessible and easy to read material for the non-technical audience. I am actually in the process of reading his other book, Political Economy of Stalinism, and while the political economy volume is geared towards more technical readers, his prose is just as clear and engaging.Read more ›
But, along the path that led from the pinnacle of Soviet power to the depths of the Gulag, Nikolai Ivanovich made a surprising discovery - love. The daughter of a comrade, Anna Larina, some 26 years Bukharin's junior, worshiped and adored him, and in 1934 they wed. This is definitely *not* the story of love conquering all. Indeed, within four years of their marriage, Nikolai Bukharin, and Anna was locked in the Gulag, their love unquenched, but their happiness squashed under the iron hand of Communism.
Overall, I found this to be a very interesting book. The author does a great job of presenting the story of the power struggle within the Kremlin in a relatively short, and yet highly informative, manner. It told me who did what, and why, and what it all meant. Plus, I must say that I liked the story of Anna Larina. Yeah, this is a great book on Bukharin and the Power Struggle, and I highly recommend it!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Once you've crossed Koba you can be sure he will wreak a vengeance against you and all you love. It might not be today and he even make friends again. Read morePublished on November 1, 2012 by OldSoulNewTech
This is a fascinating story of personal dimensions within Stalin's highest cadre. It reads like a novel, yet is a well documented account of the brilliant Nikolai Bukharinan, an... Read morePublished on March 7, 2011 by Polly Hardee