This is an outstanding work of social-cultural history, one that looks at Russian intellectuals from the end of the Stalin era up to the collapse of the USSR.
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..
I know the author well and have great respect for him. His previious monograph was also excellent. As a historian who started in the USSR, he has real insight of the events that changed the cultural landscape of Russia beginning from the end of WWII until Gorbachev's time. This volume will be indispensable for slavists and of real interest for all history and literature buffs.
This is a remarkable book, though probably not the last word on the subject, it is likely to break new ground in Russian cultural history. When I was in Russia in 1992, I was wondering what sort of history could ever be written of Russia inthe 20th century since most of the sources were either uncritical praise of the regime or the elite discussions of dissidents. There was no way to determine what the real truth was. This book deals with the thoughts and aspirations of the intellectuals during the period after WWII, and how things developed after deStalinization, the 1960s, the period of stagnation under Brezhnev and finally the end of the Soviet Union. Zubok shows us a panorama of leading lights who defined the times in which they lived. What is fascinating is just how much influence the generation of the 1960s still seems to exercise on society. which could be seen not only as the contest between slavophiles and westernizers, but between Memorial and Pamyat (Remember).