10 books like Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial

By Lynne Viola,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Cannibal Island

By Nicolas Werth, Steven Rendall,

Book cover of Cannibal Island: Death in a Siberian Gulag

I love this book because it “names names.” It is a tragic recounting of the sending of petty criminals combined with a mostly random rounding up of innocent “undesirables” off the street by the police in the USSR in 1934 who are then shipped to exile in Siberia where they were expected to work for the good of the Soviet state. In a matter of months thousands of them died from maltreatment, exposure, and starvation. The book traces the chain of events from inspiration by head of the Gulag Berman and chief of the secret police Iagoda all the way down the chain of command of the Party and police officials to the man responsible for stranding the people on a river island in Siberia. The book gives a glimpse into the nature of the repressive organs and mentality of the Soviet state in a way that humanizes the experience…

Cannibal Island

By Nicolas Werth, Steven Rendall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cannibal Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the spring of 1933, Stalin's police rounded up nearly one hundred thousand people as part of the Soviet regime's "cleansing" of Moscow and Leningrad and deported them to Siberia. Many of the victims were sent to labor camps, but ten thousand of them were dumped in a remote wasteland and left to fend for themselves. Cannibal Island reveals the shocking, grisly truth about their fate. These people were abandoned on the island of Nazino without food or shelter. Left there to starve and to die, they eventually began to eat each other. Nicolas Werth, a French historian of the…


Comrade Pavlik

By Catriona Kelly,

Book cover of Comrade Pavlik: The Rise And Fall Of A Soviet Boy Hero

This book is intriguing as it reads like a historical detective mystery. Pavlik Morozov was murdered in Siberia and the Soviet state used the murder to further its propaganda effort to inculcate youth into proper modes of socialist behavior. He was turned into a martyr for the Soviet cause and some relatives were railroaded into confessing to his murder, however the author sheds considerable doubt that the true culprits were caught. The whole story reeks of cynicism and fickleness on the part of the powers that be as they tried to make an example of the life of Morozov.

Comrade Pavlik

By Catriona Kelly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Comrade Pavlik as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was September, 1932. Gerasimovka, Western Siberia. Two children are found dead in the forest outside a remote village. Both have been repeatedly stabbed and their bloody bodies are covered in sticky, crimson cranberry juice. Who committed these horrific murders has never been proved, but the elder boy, thirteen-year-old Pavlik Morozov, was quickly to become the most famous boy in Soviet history - statues of him were erected, biographies published, and children across the country were exhorted to emulate him. Catriona Kelly's aim is not to find out who really killed the boys, but rather to explore how Stalin's regime…


Yezhov

By Oleg V. Naumov, J. Arch Getty,

Book cover of Yezhov: The Rise of Stalin's Iron Fist

This is a great book because it is probably the only truly even-handed treatment of one of the most reviled people in Soviet history, Nikolai Yezhov, head of the NKVD during the great terror. The authors by no means treat him as a sympathetic character, but they convincingly dismiss the many myths about him that have gotten in the way of understanding his relations with Stalin and his true motivations and behavior during the purge. They show that he played a truly significant role in convincing Stalin to let him purge the party and then the whole Soviet population because he believed there was a vast conspiracy to undermine Stalin’s version of Soviet power. Rather than a psychophant who groveled at Stalin’s feet, it is clear that he exercised agency to accomplish a task he believed in. You almost get to know Yezhov as a real human being, which is…

Yezhov

By Oleg V. Naumov, J. Arch Getty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Yezhov as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The definitive study of Nikolai Yezhov's rise to become the chief of Stalin's secret police-and the dictator's "iron fist"-during the Great Terror

Head of the secret police from 1937 to 1938, N. I. Yezhov was a foremost Soviet leader during these years, second in power only to Stalin himself. Under Yezhov's orders, millions of arrests, imprisonments, deportations, and executions were carried out. This book, based upon unprecedented access to Communist Party archives and Yezhov's personal archives, looks into the life and career of the enigmatic man who administered Stalin's Great Terror.

J. Arch Getty and Oleg V. Naumov seek to…


The House of Government

By Yuri Slezkine,

Book cover of The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution

This book is incredible, because it tells the story of Stalinist terror through a single house. Moreover, Slezkine creates a world history around this house of victims and perpetrators, which literally begins in the primordial mud and ends on the Day of Judgment. Slezkine takes no prisoners: either you follow him and the apocalyptic horsemen, or you don't, he doesn't care. Like a man possessed, he tells the story of one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century and I found it almost impossible to escape his spell. 

The House of Government

By Yuri Slezkine,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The House of Government as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the epic story of an enormous apartment building where Communist true believers lived before their destruction The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman's Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine's gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin's purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives…


Policing Stalin's Socialism

By David R. Shearer,

Book cover of Policing Stalin's Socialism: Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

This monograph changed the way historians understand the Great Terror. Shearer focuses on state fears not of foreign invasion, but of domestic social disorder. Based on voluminous archival research, he explores the structural prerequisites to the “mass operations” of the Great Terror by looking at the social purging campaigns of the mid-1930s and the practices of civil and political policing.

Policing Stalin's Socialism

By David R. Shearer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Policing Stalin's Socialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Policing Stalin's Socialism is one of the first books to emphasize the importance of social order repression by Stalin's Soviet regime in contrast to the traditional emphasis of historians on political repression. Based on extensive examination of new archival materials, David Shearer finds that most repression during the Stalinist dictatorship of the 1930s was against marginal social groups such as petty criminals, deviant youth, sectarians, and the unemployed and unproductive.

It was because Soviet leaders regarded social disorder as more of a danger to the state than political opposition that they instituted a new form of class war to defend…


The Black Book of Communism

By Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin

Book cover of The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression

This was the first real effort to bring together a picture of the whole story of the global Communist movement and the many famines it created. It covers the whole-scale of the misery in regimes in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, Russia, India, China, and southeast Asia. It’s a lot of ground to cover but the narrative does not flag. Although the opening of the archives had produced more information, this is still a very impressive book however sobering it might be.

The Black Book of Communism

By Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Louis Margolin

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Black Book of Communism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.

"Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit," Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience-in the China of "the Great Helmsman," Kim Il Sung's Korea, Vietnam under "Uncle Ho" and Cuba under…


The Harvest of Sorrow

By Robert Conquest,

Book cover of The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine

The British historian of the Soviet Union wrote a number of extra-ordinary books about the horrors of the Soviet Union but this was the best one. It pulls together the story of the second great man-made famine in the Soviet Union when Stalin pushed through the second collectivisation campaign. It was the first book to bring together why and how Stalin’s policies deliberately killed so many people.

He also describes how many people in the West chose to ignore the evidence and the eye-witness accounts of the suffering. Reading it inspired me to research the Great Leap Forward famine. The parallels are astonishing. Did Mao know what happened under Stalin, or did he know but not care when he followed the same path?

The Harvest of Sorrow

By Robert Conquest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Harvest of Sorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Harvest of Sorrow is the first full history of one of the most horrendous human tragedies of the 20th century. Between 1929 and 1932 the Soviet Communist Party struck a double blow at the Russian peasantry: dekulakization, the dispossession and deportation of millions of peasant families, and collectivization, the abolition of private ownership of land and the concentration of the remaining peasants in party-controlled "collective" farms. This was
followed in 1932-33 by a "terror-famine," inflicted by the State on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and certain other areas by setting impossibly high grain quotas, removing every other source…


Ukraine

By Marta Dyczok,

Book cover of Ukraine: Movement without Change, Change without Movement

What strikes me most about this book is how prescient it is. Published in 2000, this assessment of the first few years of Ukrainian independence accurately flags that Russia never fully accepted it and explains why an independent Ukraine threatens Russia. The introduction provides an excellent, brief history of Ukraine. Later chapters focus on politics, economics, social and cultural issues, and foreign policy up to 1998. Dyczok, an academic, was an eyewitness to key historical events, reporting from Ukraine during its 1991 declaration of independence and after. I particularly recommend the chapter on Ukrainian-Russian relations. Although written long before Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent invasion of Ukraine, much in that chapter foreshadows these critical events and helps account for why what happened did.

Ukraine

By Marta Dyczok,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ukraine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ukraine has surprised many international observers. Few anticipated its declaration of independence in 1991 or its determination to move out of Russia's shadow. Dyczok redresses the continuing dearth of information on the country. Aimed at nonspecialists and specialists alike, it presents an overview of the main government policies, and the social and cultural issues facing the new state. These are placed within their historical, regional and global framework. In contrast with the generally bleak picture that international media reports present, the book suggests that Ukraine has actually accomplished a great deal in a short time. In seven years, from 1991…


The Gates of Europe

By Serhii Plokhy,

Book cover of The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine

Plokhy’s engaging and well-documented study provides an excellent overview of the entire history of Ukraine and the repeated story of invasion, war, and occupation by its neighbors Poland and especially Russia. In particular, it provides sharp analyses of the complex relations between Ukraine and Russia from the time of its Czars through Stalin, the post-Stalinist Kremlin leadership, and Putin, providing contemporary readers penetrating insights into the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The book depicts in dramatic detail and narrative the century-long struggles of Ukraine for sovereignty, its century-long oppression by its neighbors, the terrible mass starvation and murder it suffered from both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in World War II, and its eventual independence—threatened by Russia in the 21st century through the present. In the contemporary context, Plotky’s text provides an illuminating understanding of Ukraine and its conflicted and often tragic history.

The Gates of Europe

By Serhii Plokhy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gates of Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ukraine is currently embroiled in a tense fight with Russia to preserve its territorial integrity and political independence. But today's conflict is only the latest in a long history of battles over Ukraine's territory and its existence as a sovereign nation. As the award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues in The Gates of Europe , we must examine Ukraine's past in order to understand its present and future.Situated between Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that used it as a strategic gateway between East and West,from the Roman and Ottoman empires to the Third…


Borderland

By Anna Reid,

Book cover of Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine

I loved this highly readable history of Ukraine. Written in the early 1990s, when I too worked in Ukraine, Borderland begins with the newly independent nation’s struggle to build itself a national identity. Reid captures this time and its people so well – the peasant women in the covered market, the old men playing chess in Independent Square. Ukraine is literally translated as, ‘on the edge’ or ‘borderland’ and Reid explores the toll of its history – pograms, famine, purges, war, Holocaust, and Chernobyl… She travels through villages of whitewashed cottages, bringing their hardy inhabitants to life with her often quirky observations. She meets old folk who were alive during the famine of 1932/33, others who survived the gas chambers. At every turn, the magnificent Ukrainian spirit is in vibrant evidence. 

Borderland

By Anna Reid,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Borderland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Borderland tells the story of Ukraine. A thousand years ago it was the center of the first great Slav civilization, Kievan Rus. In 1240, the Mongols invaded from the east, and for the next seven centureies, Ukraine was split between warring neighbors: Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, and Tatars. Again and again, borderland turned into battlefield: during the Cossack risings of the seventeenth century, Russia's wars with Sweden in the eighteenth, the Civil War of 1918--1920, and under Nazi occupation. Ukraine finally won independence in 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bigger than France and a populous as Britain,…


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