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The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia Paperback – June 30, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

" The horror that was Stalinist Russia is still incomprehensible to many Americans . . . Reading this book is certain to open their eyes."
-Richard Pipes, The New York Sun

" Gripping and important . . . an extremely impressive book."
-Noel Malcolm, Telegraph (London)

" Tzouliadis's clear, strong narrative discloses the terrible fates which awaited those . . . who wandered into the Soviet sphere. . . . [A] grim, brilliantly told story."
-Financial Times

About the Author

Born in Athens, Timotheos Tzouladis was raised in England. A graduate of Oxford, he subsequently pursued a career as a documentary filmmaker and television journalist whose work has appeared on NBC and National Geographic television. He lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143115421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143115427
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #457,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Graham M. Flower on August 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reflects a great amount of scholarship on the part of Mr Tzouliadis, he has done a remarkable job of research here to add to what is already known about the grim story of the gulags. This book is well written and engaging but it also is a fairly thorough survey of the literature on this general topic. I have discovered several good first hand sources that I did not realize existed.

This book also sheds a good amount of light on the question of why the conditions in Russia were so little known in the 1930s. Basically, once a person was inside Russia, censorship of their communication was full and these people had their passports confiscated by the Russian government so it was almost impossible to leave. The Russian government claimed that these American citizens had renounced their citizenships, resulting in the fact that the American state department was not able or very willing to help these poor people.

In addition it appears that the treaties with Russia establishing diplomatic relations were not thoroughly drafted with safeguards for the protection of American citizens in Russia. The Soviets exploited these loopholes extensively.

Mr Tzouliadis sketches in a number of missing pieces in the dynamics here. The Russian foreign ministry was deathly afraid of the NKVD, and so inquiries to the Russian foreign ministry were fruitless. The problem of helping these people could only have been addressed by the highest level of interaction meaning FDR to Stalin. However, unfortuanately one of FDR's key sources was Walter Duranty, one of the most famous newspaper reporters of his time and unfortuantely it appears that Mr Duranty was a very serious apoligist for Stalin at the very least, and quite possibly was an agent of the NKVD as some defectors have alleged.
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Format: Hardcover
I saw a review of this book in the Economist a few weeks ago, and it reminded me of a brief newspaper article I read in about 1996. It talked of thousands of US POWs who had disappeared after WW2, apparently kidnapped by the Russians. At the time I thought that was pretty big news given the uproar over the relatively small number of MIAs in Vietnam. It was just a cursory article, and when I asked around, no one seemed to know anything about it. When the Internet arrived I searched a bit, but didn't find anything much either. This review was the first time I'd seen the thing mentioned in 12 years, so I got the book immediately. It's really a brief (and in my opinion very well written) history of the gulags, with the American angle (both 30s emigrants and post-war pows) as a selling point, and as I didn't know much about the gulags either I found it fascinating from both ends. Moreover, as the reviewer from the Economist said, "the horrors of the Gulag ought to be as well known as Auschwitz, but they aren't". Hard to know if the scale of the atrocities or the general ignorance about them (notably with the Russian population now heading willingly back into a neo-Stalinist styled state) is more disturbing.
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Format: Hardcover
It is as Solzhenitsyn predicted in The Gulag Archipelago: "No, no one would have to answer. No one would be looked into." (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, 3:482; trans. Harry Willetts (New York: Harper and Row, 1978)). In this work, Tim Tzouliadis seeks to arouse an interest, to create an insight into the barbarities committed throughout the "socialist experiment" in Soviet Russia. Writing particularly to an American audience, Tzouliadis recounts the story of the lost thousands of American to the oppression of the Soviet state. Virtually unknown to Americans is that the existence of these thousands was well-known to U.S. government officials and journalists stationed in the Soviet Union during the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's, people who simply remained silent in the midst of their fellow-citizens' disappearance and murders.

This book is a primer on the brutality of the Communist regime. For those unfamiliar with this history, it is an introduction. For those who have read Anne Applebaum, Robert Conquest, Vassily Grossman, John Haynes, Harvey Klehr, Elinor Lipper, the Medvedevs (Roy and Zhores), Richard Pipes, Edward Radzinsky, Varlam Shalamov, Vitaly Shentalinsky, Dmitri Volkogonov, and, of course, Alexander Solzhenitysn, the history is not new. But, the story of Americans who once played baseball in Gorky Park only to end up executed by the gun or hard labor in Siberia is news to most.

Particularly of interest is the author's revelation of the betrayal of their fellow-citizens by government officials at the very top of the U.S. government.
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Format: Hardcover
Anne Applebaum in Gulag: A History discusses briefly the issue of foreigners in the Gulag. But she does not give us a figure as to how many were there. Elsewhere stories have popped up from time to time of notable American leftists who journeyed to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and disappeared into Stalin's system. This, finally, is a full account of these people and who they were and where they came from. The author attempts to claim that many of these people were 'ordinary' but this is probably far from the truth. Many of these people were beleivers in the Communist dream, as a time when Capitalism seemed to be failing during the Great Depression. There were also hard core subversives among them, true beleivers in the Stalinist ideology who were 'returning home' to fight for COmmunism. In the supreme irony many of these higher minded intellectuals who hated American, found that the USSR was capable of doing things ten times worse to them than the U.S would ever imagine doing to Communist radicals. THey were rounded up when they tried to have outbursts of free speech, they were beaten, raped and placed on trains to the East. Once there they were worked to death. Few survived. As foreigners they were especially suspect as Stalin's grip became even more paranoid. Americans were imprisoned along with many other people from all over the world who had come to experience the 'Socialist utopia'. These poor people were not the only one's taken in. The New York Times came to Russia in the period and wrote a glowing peice about the miracle of Stalin's Russia. It has taken 70 years for these stories to come to light. It is a pleasure to read this wonderful and important account of these lives who were shattered.

Seth J. Frantzman
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