NIGHT OF STONE: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia

Catherine Merridale, Author NIGHT OF STONE: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russi $29.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-670-89474-1

"Russia's story of death has been obscured so often," explains Merridale (Perestroika: The Historical Perspective; Moscow Politics and the Rise of Stalin). The extraordinary scale of the violence and loss in modern Russian history has been shrouded in secrecy; indeed, the government has only recently acknowledged the hundreds of thousands killed under Stalin. "For 50 years," Merridale writes, "until the fall of Communism, families had kept bereavement of this kind to themselves.... It was dangerous, after all, to mourn the passing of an enemy of the people." Paying particular attention to the ways that Orthodox religion and Soviet atheism have affected Russian bereavement, Merridale explores Russian perceptions of death and afterlife from before the Bolshevik Revolution, through both world wars and the great famines of the 1930s and into the present. Her fascinating study is based on intimate conversations with bereaved Russians, as well as interviews with gravediggers, funeral directors, social workers, doctors and priests, and meticulous readings of imperial archives, Soviet propaganda, letters, memoirs, literature and government documents. (As Merridale points out, much of this research would have been impossible 20 years ago.) Merridale scrupulously avoids imposing her own ideological or cultural prejudices on her subject. By turns solemn and grisly, empathetic and scholarly, this inspired work provides a unique window on Soviet history through the brutality, ceremony and silences of death. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 402 pages - 978-0-14-200063-2
Hardcover - 506 pages - 978-1-86207-374-6
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