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It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past Hardcover – December 13, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 70 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“A sweeping study of how the former Soviet Union’s bloody past continues to poison Russia’s present and threatens to strangle the country’s future.”—Newsweek (Newsweek)

“A fascinating, deeply thoughtful and researched study that contributes mightily to the ongoing humanist debate.”—Kirkus Reviews (
Kirkus Reviews)

“Satter’s reflective, expert analysis of a Russian society in moral and cultural flux after the end of communism provides great food for thought beyond today’s headlines.”—
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)

"David Satter delivers one of the most harrowing stories of all time. . . This is a rare book by many measures, not least of which is the way in which Satter captures the magnitude of Russian atrocities and the frightening realities that people accept as part of their daily lives. By no means is Russia unique in being a nation that must grapple with the question of national cruelty and corruption. . . but its rich history makes it story all the more fascinating—and tragic."—Jedd Beaudoin,
PopMatters (Jedd Beaudoin PopMatters)

"A meticulous, sweeping and wrenching history of Russia's burial of Soviet crimes. It is also a sensitive, compelling and convincing exploration of the importance of memory. But it makes a broader contention - that forgetting is a symptom of an illness that Russia contracted before the Soviet era. . . a humane, measured, first-hand, historically and philosophically rooted argument that is hard to refute."—Andrew Gardner,
European Voice (Andrew Gardner European Voice)

"David Satter has written a book full of vivid and well chosen anecdotes. . . . The use of nostalgia is Satter's field. Russia is not, he believes, able to give itself a chance; in love with their chains, its people cannot face up to the horrors of a past they wish to ignore or romanticize."—John Lloyd,
Financial Times (John Llyod Financial Times)

"Impeccably argued. . . Satter is a man whom no Russian leader would wish to meet, let alone shake by the hand, but he has their measure."—Donald Rayfield,
Literary Review (Donald Rayfield Literary Review)

"[Satter] does a brilliant job of chronicling the human consequences of Communism."—
The National Review (National Review)

"David Satter has really captured the role of the past in the present in Russia. . . . He feels that the Soviet Union hollowed out both public and private morality and left people without a moral compass when it collapsed. . . . The title of his book is the quintessence of the Putinist attitude to the past."—Edward Lucas,
The Browser (Edward Lucas Browser)

“Satter grapples with an elemental failing of Russia’s leaders and people. . . . Russia, he argues, refuses to face the fundamental moral depravity of its Soviet past. . . . Expansive and brilliantly explored . . . compelling.”—
Foreign Affairs (Foreign Affairs)

“Truly illuminating….Satter is both a gifted journalist and a chronicler of intellectual and political currents….Splendidly researched and engagingly written, this book offers invaluable vignettes of various reactions to the still unprocessed remembrance of totalitarian times.”—Vladimir Tismaneanu,
International Affairs (Vladimir Tismaneanu International Affairs)

“David Satter has written a classic of its kind, investigating the psychological reactions that modern Russians feel towards the crimes of their Communist forebears.”—Andrew Roberts,
The American Spectator (Andrew Roberts The American Spectator)

“Compelling, a journalist’s book.”—
Choice  (Choice)

About the Author

David Satter is senior fellow, Hudson Institute, and fellow, Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He was Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times from 1976 to 1982, then a special correspondent on Soviet affairs for the Wall Street Journal.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Yale University Press (December 13, 2011)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 400 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0300111452
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0300111453
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.55 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.13 x 1.06 x 9.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 70 ratings

About the author

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David Satter is one of the world’s leading commentators on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of four books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the U.S.S.R. In May, 2013, he became an adviser to the Russian Service of Radio Liberty and in September, 2013, he was accredited as a Radio Liberty correspondent in Moscow. Three months later, he was expelled from Russia becoming the first U.S. correspondent to be expelled since the Cold War.

David Satter is a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He is also a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and an associate of the Henry Jackson Society in London. He has been a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He teaches a course on Russian politics and history at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Academic Programs and has been a visiting professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and a visiting fellow in journalism at Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan.

David Satter’s first book was Age of Delirium: the Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union, which was published in 1996. He later made a documentary film on the basis of this book which won the 2013 Van Gogh Grand Jury Prize at the Amsterdam Film Festival. In addition, David Satter has written three other books about Russia, Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State (2003), It Was a Long Time Ago and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past (2011), and The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship under Yeltsin and Putin. His books have been translated into eight languages.

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
70 global ratings

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