The Kirov Affair

Adam Bruno Ulam, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $19.95 (404p) ISBN 978-0-15-147277-2
This politburo procedural traces Soviet political history from the 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirovpopular Communist party boss in Leningrad whose death marked the beginning of Stalin's Great Purgesto the death of Konstantin Leontiev, a Brezhnev-like General Secretary, in 1982. Ulam invents an unusual explanation for Kirov's death, a secret that only his protagonist, Mikhail Kondratiev, Stalin and a few people with access to KGB files know. As Kondratieva potential reformer along the lines of Gorbachev and favored to succeed Leontievrises through the bureaucracy and comes nearer to ultimate power, he worries that the secret will be used against him by his enemies. One is impressed with the authenticity of this narrative by Soviet historian Ulam (The Bolsheviks, Stalin: The Man and His Era), but the extensiveand stiffdialogue is marked by too many coy ""predictions'' of events that the informed reader knows will happen. Moreover, the book's tension centers on Ulam's twist involving Kirov's murder, which isn't revealed until the end and, unfortunately, doesn't carry the punch or enlightenment that is implicitly promised. BOMC alternate. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
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