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Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia Paperback – October 17, 2011
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Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (1957) symbolized the predicaments of Russia’s intellectual class. Published abroad in defiance of officialdom, the novel was a sensation that resonated with a generation’s yearnings to free itself from communist control. Zubok’s cultural history covers how those aspirations worked out until the mid-1980s, especially in searches for sources of inspiration to recover from the stultifications of Stalinism. Should writers look to Russia’s pre-revolutionary cultural and religious traditions? Should they awaken communist idealism from the totalitarian nightmare? Should artistic trends in the West, like jazz music, be emulated instead? Zubok’s summaries of the cultural responses to such questions in novels, poems, theatrical productions, and literary criticism recount the revival of Russia’s intelligentsia under Khrushchev’s “thaw,” while his sketches of such personalities as Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Alexander Solzhenitsyn underscore incompatible philosophies in play within the intelligentsia. Shifts in political wind, Zubok shows, posed to intellectuals serious dilemmas of conforming and dissenting, especially during the less free-wheeling Brezhnev era. Students of 1960s cultural ferment, Russian-style, will find much substance in Zubok’s account. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Zubok distills the ideas, personalities, and ultimate failures of the generation of Russian intellectuals who sought to cleanse socialism of its Stalinist stain. His poignant portrait raises the question of whether Russia will ever again be fully open to the mixture of idealism and moderation that Zhivago's children represented. (William Taubman, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Khruschev: The Man and His Era)
This magnificent book reveals like no other the deepest currents of Russian culture that flowed beneath the surface of Soviet political life and helped sweep away the rusted remnants of Stalin's oppressive creation. Zubok reaffirms his reputation as one of our preeminent historians of Soviet politics and culture. (Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer prize- winning co-author with Kai Bird of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer)
An epic story indeed! Zubok tells the checkered tale of the Soviet intelligentsia with critical acumen and admirable compassion. He pursues their agonies and aspirations through the terrors and thaws of Soviet history as the intelligentsia rose to an apogee of hope in the years of glasnost, only to fall into today's abyss of market banditry. (Richard Stites, Professor of History, Georgetown University)
Zhivago's Children charts the generation of educated Russians coming of age after Stalin's death whose socialist idealism ultimately helped bring down the Soviet state. An absorbing and important account of civic hopes and disillusionments that continue to resonate today in Russia and beyond. (Jochen Hellbeck, author of Revolution on My Mind)
Students of 1960s cultural ferment, Russian-style, will find much substance in Zubok's account. (Gilbert Taylor Booklist 2009-05-01)
Using Zhivago as a metaphor for the postwar intelligentsia, Zubok presents a compelling, well-written, and well-researched history of an important but neglected aspect of Soviet history. (Deborah Hicks Library Journal 2009-06-15)
Vladislav Zubok takes us into the creative and intellectual world of all Zhivago's children: that generation of artists, scientists and thinkers who came after Boris Pasternak and Stalin. Zubok has no illusions about them. In the end they may not have lived up to the hopes they inspired or have met the standards of generations of Russian intellectuals that went before. But it was an idealistic generation as well and, in the end, they paved the way for end of the Soviet regime. (Steven Carroll The Age 2009-06-27)
In his moving Zhivago's Children, historian Vladislav Zubok chronicles the rise and fall of this generation of Russian intellectuals, a group he calls "the spiritual heirs of Boris Pasternak's noble doctor."...The players in Zubok's fascinating study come from all corners of the Soviet intelligentsia, from leftist socialist true believers to right-wing patriots. The result is a thorough, scholarly examination of a vital era in Russian history whose themes of human rights, freedom and dissent will resonate among experts and lay readers alike. (Alexander F. Remington Washington Post Book World 2009-07-05)
A revealing, thoroughly researched and important book infused with elegiac tones. Stalin's Russia had encouraged education and technical know-how, yet its leaders had blindly assumed that the country's intellectuals would remain unthinking, easily controlled cogs in the vast machine of the state. But some men and women born in the 1930s and '40s refused to play their assigned role, particularly after the leader's death in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev's new policies of de-Stalinization and the Thaw suggested a new dawn was at hand...Zhivago's children flourished throughout the second half of the 1950s and into the '60s. It was a time of great optimism and hope. Among the best known in the West of these shestidesiatniki, or men of the sixties, is the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, but Zubok's book chronicles the stories of many other noteworthy figures. (Douglas Smith Seattle Times 2009-07-05)
Zubok has done a thorough and worthwhile job in recounting the fate of Zhivago's children, drawing on their own numerous diaries and memoirs, but also on archives and personal interviews with them. (Geoffrey A. Hosking Times Literary Supplement 2009-07-10)
This book is a worthy tribute to the history of a unique, and uniquely important, feature of modern Russian life. (Harold Shukman Times Higher Education 2009-08-06)
The Soviet Union was a prison, especially for the lively minded, whose travel abroad and activities at home were dictated by the Communist Party's cultural commissars. But in the period between the end of the Stalin terror and the start of the Brezhnev era's grim stagnation, a lucky few enjoyed some wisps of freedom. Cultural continuity between that period and a lost past is the central theme of Zhivago's Children. The metaphorical reference is to Tanya, the child of Yuri and Lara Zhivago in Boris Pasternak's great novel. Brought up by peasants, "she has no opportunity to inherit the tradition of free-thinking, spirituality and creativity that her father embodied." How will she turn out? The novel leaves that fictional question unanswered. Vladislav Zubok's book shows, with great sympathy and insight, what happened to Tanya's real-life counterparts. (The Economist 2009-07-04)
Vladislav Zubok has written a splendid account of Russian intellectual and cultural life in the half century after the Great Patriotic War, which we call World War II. He vividly portrays not only "the struggle of intellectuals and artists to regain autonomy from an autocratic regime," but "the slow and painful disappearance of their revolutionary-romantic idealism and optimism, their faith in progress and in the enlightenment of people."...Zubok makes it a glorious story to read! (Robert Belknap New Leader 2009-05-01)
Zubok is a reliable and prodigiously well-informed guide to the opinions, attitudes, and changing fortunes of loyal Soviet intellectuals during the approximately twenty years between the early 1950s and 1970s...Zubok tells his story with a density of detail and complexity of analysis that is truly remarkable. Ranging across the entire spectrum of Soviet cultural life, he carefully plots the rise and fall of magazines, publishing houses, and cultural institutions, together with the changing consciousness of the intellectuals--writers, editors, scholars, government bureaucrats--as they adjusted to ongoing revelations about the past, digested each new crisis, and tried to take advantage of the new freedoms they appeared to promise...Zubok has done a fine job of characterizing a slice of Russian intellectual life over a couple of turbulent decades of Soviet history...[An] intelligent and engrossing book. (Michael Scammell New York Review of Books 2010-01-14)
Vladislav Zubok has written a meticulously researched and perceptive study of the generations succeeding Zhivago, showing how desperately they tried, against the worst efforts of successive leaderships from 1945 to 1985, to retain values that they regarded as vital to their own and their society's moral survival. The record shows a jagged graph of comparative freedoms and stern reprisals, but their struggles are inspirational...Zubok's detailed book is a highly rewarding and unusual foray into a fascinating national situation, but its implications are universal. Any country too busy doing business to support the values kept alive by idealistic artists, writers and critics will visit moral bankruptcy on its own children. (Judith Armstrong Australian Book Review 2009-10-01)
In this magnificent book, Zubok eviscerates the reductive opposition of communist and anti-communist, of hard-liner and dissident, of being for or against the regime, categories that are far too crude to capture the nuances of Soviet life. Zhivago's Children were never entirely communist or anti-communist, and they were simultaneously Soviet and anti-Soviet. (Michael Kimmage Dissent 2010-05-04)
For Vladislav Zubok, the author of Zhivago's Children, Khrushchev's Thaw inaugurated a period of tremendous optimism, a Soviet-style New Deal following the deep freeze of postwar Stalinism. Surveying a vast array of published and unpublished sources with an exquisite eye for telling detail, Zubok shows how the optimism of the era drew deeply on the classical inheritance of Marxism-Leninism. Contrary to assessments by foreign observers eager for signs of anticommunist ferment, the '60s intellectuals of the USSR were inspired by the dream of fulfilling, not transcending, the ideals of 1917...Vladislav Zubok began his academic career in Moscow as a specialist in American political history, only to move to the United States in the mid-1980s, where he became an internationally renowned scholar of Soviet cold war foreign policy. With Zhivago's Children Zubok has reinvented himself yet again, this time as an accomplished cultural historian of his native land. His book is an elegiac account of the final chapter in the history of the Russian intelligentsia, a group that survived revolution, civil war, Nazi onslaught and Stalinist repression, only to succumb to the supreme solvent of its life-ways: the free market. (Benjamin Nathans The Nation 2011-09-06)
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Top customer reviews
I was familiar with some of the biographies and careers of some of the writers and intellectuals covered in "Zhivago's Children," but Zubok pulls all the details of different careers together and weaves a coherent whole showing how author's lives were changed by big events (such as the XX Party Congress, Sputnik and the crushing of the Prague Spring) and how people's goals changed over time.
In some ways, this is a sad book. The intellectuals begin with hope, hope that the excesses of Stalinism can be rolled back, hope that the socialist system can be corrected. However, the reform movement becomes divided over future goals and historical memories. What is the great crime that needs to be remembered? Stalin's anti-Semitism or his crushing of the peasantry? This question divides intellectuals as the repression of the Brezhnev era gets underway. Some people become Russian nationalists; others seek to emigrate. Zubok does an excellent job of explaining how demoralizing Brezhnev's "era of stagnation" was and explains the reasons for this.
This is a terrific book, one of the best I have read about Russian/Soviet history and culture. Highly recommended..