cover image Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero

Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero

Catriona Kelly, . . Granta UK, $17.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-86207-845-1

This dogged and creative exploration of the political uses of a 1930s family tragedy demonstrates the strides made in Soviet history since the field emerged from the grip of the Cold War. Pavel Morozov was found murdered in Siberia at age 13 with his younger brother. The case was turned into an opportunity by the Soviet authorities, who said Pavlik had denounced his father for being in league with the despised “kulaks”—allegedly rich peasants. Kelly, a professor of Russian at Oxford, is less interested in the facts of the case (although she explores them in her last chapter) than in tracing how the Soviet machine turned Pavel into a model for millions of Soviet children—and how the story changed over time along with the political winds. Kelly finds Pavel's primary meaning “was as a symbol of self-sacrifice and relentless commitment to the cause, rather than as a denouncer.” Kelly also relies on oral histories with elderly Russians to explore how they remembered reacting to the story as children. Readers interested in propaganda and in Russian history will learn much from Kelly's scrupulous research. Photos, maps. (Apr.)