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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing and Haunting
Every so often, a book comes along that no written review, no matter how carefully crafted, can really do justice to. This is one such book.

Hochschild's six month sojourn in 1991 through the remnants of the gulag archipelago is the mesmerizing tale of a once mighty nation still very much haunted by its past descent into madness. Interviewing both victims and...
Published on January 3, 2005 by Patrick J. Murphy

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Okay Book, as a Starter Guide. Only Worth the Interviews.
First, I have studied the GULag camp system, read short stories (Shalamov and Grossman - both great writers), read many memoirs (Ginzburg and Larina - Bukharin's widow), read Solzhenitsyn ("Denisovich" and "Gulag Archipelago"), as well as many modern analyses on the system (Applebaum, Khlevniuk, Viola). I study Russian history as a whole. Also, this is only a partial...
Published 15 months ago by KinoChelovek


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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing and Haunting, January 3, 2005
This review is from: The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Paperback)
Every so often, a book comes along that no written review, no matter how carefully crafted, can really do justice to. This is one such book.

Hochschild's six month sojourn in 1991 through the remnants of the gulag archipelago is the mesmerizing tale of a once mighty nation still very much haunted by its past descent into madness. Interviewing both victims and perpetrators alike, Hochschild aptly conveys the great extent to which Soviet society still remains conflicted some 50 years after the terror of Stalin's Great Purge.

To his credit, Hochschild does more than simply chronicle the tyranny of Stalin's regime; he continually asks "why?". Why did a movement supposedly predicated on championing and elevating the common man turn so quickly on 20 million of its own people? Why would a regime exert so much time and effort prosecuting and persecuting persons it knew to be innocent? After all the unspeakable injustices perpetrated by Stalin, why would so many weep at his passing? Why do some victims of the regime readily embrace their former captors and tormentors as fellow casualties while others refuse to speak of their ordeals to this very day? A thought provoking narrative that admirably weaves together a complex tangle of emotions and issues.

If The Unquiet Ghost has a shortcoming, it is the author's tendency to occasionally interject his personal political beliefs into the narrative. While some political expressions perhaps have relevance, such as when Hochschild criticizes his liberal forebears who refused to see Stalin's Soviet Union for the brutal totalitarian dictatorship that it was, his off-hand commentary regarding political issues unique to the United States detracts from what it otherwise a fantastic book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Questioning, searching, thought-provoking, August 1, 1997
By A Customer
Hochschild examines the harsh reality of people living with the legacy of Stalinism. Russia is a country that rests on buried corpses, and as Hochschild relates, their ghosts are no longer silent. As Russians attempt to confront the past, many find it too painful to face the truth about their loved ones and even themselves. But for some, the deeply buried memories of the horror of Stalinism is surfacing. Hochschild causes the reader to ask "Would I have done any differently?" Hochschild's book is an important tool in helping understand the great problems that face the people of Russia today. His book causes the reader to ask if, indeed, there is a little Stalin in all of us
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost Great, February 19, 2003
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Hochschild is obviously a talented writer, and he does a great job of tackling a very difficult subject. However, often as he was drawing me in, he would throw in an anti-American non-sequitor, like comparing the people in the Gulag to the homeless in America. Huh? I'm not without compassion, but that is comparing one man's cut finger to another man's cut from the guillotine. Hochschild would be well served to leave his alternative agenda out of this book and focus on the subject at hand. The victims of the Gulag deserve nothing less.
However, if you can ignore these occasional comments which are out of place and inappropriate, The Unquiet Ghost is a solid effort which worth reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An insightful look into Russia's Stalinist past, June 27, 1996
By A Customer
Hochschild writes an interesting account of life in Russia after the fall of Communism. He examines the scars of the Stalin years, and how contemporary Russian society is dealing with the past. The book takes the reader on a short tour of Russia, with Hochschild's visits to previously closed towns, ending in the Kolyma region, notorious for its labor camps. Throughout the book, Hochschild interviews Russians from all walks of life, former camp inmates and guards, doctors,workers, and former party members. While some long for the security offered in the Communist past, most await the prosperity of the free market economy. Almost all have difficulty dealing with the purges of the Stalin years, since many Russians lost family members as a result of arrest and detention. Hochschild does a commendable job of exposing the divisive nature of the purges, and how the society is having a difficult time placing responsibility, especially in the face of new information coming from formerly closed government sources almost daily. Hochschild's book is a must read if one is to fully understand the Russian people, as they search for their place in the community of nations
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best analyses of the Stalin era and the Gulags., November 9, 2010
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S.B "Shakir Bahzad" (Saskatoon, SK, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Paperback)
I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago. It was one of the best books I've come across on Soviet, and especially Stalin era, history. The author Adam Hochschild, a well known American journalist, traveled to Russia in 1991 and collected stories from survivors of the Gulag during the great purge of the 1930s. He also met with KGB agents and was shown the archives and individual documents of some of the Gulag victims including two Americans who were shot in Moscow in 1937. The author shows a vast knowledge of the intricate history of the Soviet Union and tries to analyze its zeitgeist during the 1930s and 1940s. He also tries to delve deeper in the Russian people psyche and figure out why some of the victims actually wept when Stalin died. I find this point particularly interesting. He also visited some Siberian cities and labor camps including the notorious Kolyma in the Russian far east.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life after Communism, January 20, 2004
This review is from: The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Paperback)
I guess for us in the West, the fall of the Communist regime in Russia was the end of an era, which simply meant that the Cold War was over and there was no more Soviet Union--and not much more. But for the people of Russia, who struggled to survive through all the irrationalities, terror, and oppression, the memories of life under Communism cannot be forgotten. This book is about some of those Russians who are, in varying ways, trying to come to terms with the past, and the stories are truly remarkable. Hochschild is an excellent writer, and anyone who has an interest in post-Communist Russia will find this book very informative.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written and Insightful, January 9, 2006
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This review is from: The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Paperback)
This is a very important subject that Hochschild writes about with an engaging clarity and objectivity. He eloquently generalizes his observations on Russian attempts to confront its Stalinist history to remarks about human nature in general. His searing criticism of Western leaders who toured the Soviet Union during Stalin's time and found all to be well is made all the more credible given Hochschild's own liberal background. Indeed, excluding the occasional, regrettably subjective references to American politics, the reader would be hard pressed to guess Hochschild's political orientation.

An important book relevant not just to Russian history but also to understanding the dark potential of human nature.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Okay Book, as a Starter Guide. Only Worth the Interviews., September 13, 2013
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This review is from: The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Paperback)
First, I have studied the GULag camp system, read short stories (Shalamov and Grossman - both great writers), read many memoirs (Ginzburg and Larina - Bukharin's widow), read Solzhenitsyn ("Denisovich" and "Gulag Archipelago"), as well as many modern analyses on the system (Applebaum, Khlevniuk, Viola). I study Russian history as a whole. Also, this is only a partial list of my readings.

This book, originally published in 1994 and merely updated with a new "Preface," is probably one of the most non-interesting reads (as a whole book) that I have come across about Stalin and the GULag system. This stems from at least two reasons: 1) The book is an early (just after the fall of the Soviet Union) writing, and much more information is available about the Stalin years from archives and more historical study. Although Russia still is not entirely open (usually just hoping to forget by avoiding its history or still hiding information from the West - perhaps both), there has been quite a bit of writing that makes much more interesting reads than this book; 2) The author is a UC-Berkley/NPR "investigative journalist" who is married to a sociologist (any historian would have 'red lights' going off). Of course, this shows that strong. one-sided biases are part of his writing style - he is not a historian. He doesn't even have large book-authoring repetoire. Does this make him unqualified? Hmmm...

It took me nearly 100 pages of reading until I "learned" anything interesting. It is a tedious read for the first 1/3 of the book. It felt like I was reading a 1994 book on Stalin! It felt outdated (given the amount of information available now). It felt like I was being talked-down to and alienated, as if I were an ignorant reader who had no idea what is going on in the world and needed "enlightenment."

Then came interviews - THE MOST INTERESTING READ THAT THIS BOOK HAS TO OFFER, BECAUSE IT DEALS WITH THE PEOPLE WHO WERE IMMERSED IN THE STALIN SYSTEM! It has to do with their memories: filtered, raw, and sometimes never revealed. For this reason, the book is worth reading. Of course, it takes almost 1/3 of the book to get to this point, otherwise you are merely reading some sort of an "objective" attempt to re-write Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" - and that is entirely on an level of high EMOTION. I don't like reading about Hochschild's "PBS Travel Show"/play-by-play action of his travels around Russia, but, hey, isn't that the NPR way? Anyway, the interviewed are a great mixture of people from from both camp survivors to guards, from Stalin lovers to haters. Interviews are always a source of invaluable information. Whoever reads the book should just find the interviews and skip the rest.

But there is so much "blah, blah, blah" between interviews that I felt that it was a monotonic lecture. The information that Hochschild gives is from 1991 (when the interviews were done), not 2003 (this edition) , not even now (2013).

I guess if you want a beginner's book on the GULag system and Stalin, this book is for you, BUT be forewarned. There has been LOADS of writing done after this one (Applebaum's book "Gulag" is so much better, even though it has its problems) that this one will probably seem amateurish and far more incomplete in comparison. Why it is used in some college classes is beyond me. If you can just move through the book and read the interviews alone, it is well worth buying the book for that invaluable information.

5 of 5 Amazon stars for INTERVIEWS contained within it.
3 of 5 Amazon stars for the 200+ uninteresting pages that "pad" the book.

Oh, the comments I shall get for this one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Must Read from Mr. Hochschild, March 21, 2008
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This review is from: The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin (Paperback)
When I reviewed Mr. Hochschild's ealier book King Leopold's Ghost I found it wonderfully researched and written, and I couldn't put it down, nor could I foret it. I believe he has done it again. There are many reviewers here who have done a terrific job of describing this book in detail.However,what I find fascinating about Mr. Hochschild's writing is his ability to, in the main, allow the reader to make his own judgments about these horrifying subjects. I appreciate that opportunity- too many writers bludgeon us with their own judgments and moralizing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Story of author's journey in the USSR, September 19, 2013
By 
glenn andrew "Glenn A" (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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I purchased the book after reading - To End All Wars, which was an excellent book; however the story here is the author's travels within the USSR and his experiences interviewing survivors, mostly those from imprisoned after WW2. It was of limited nterest
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The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin
The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin by Adam Hochschild (Paperback - February 4, 2003)
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