cover image Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin

Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin

, . . Harvard Univ., $29.95 (422pp) ISBN 978-0-674-02174-7

This scholarly examination of diary keeping in the Soviet Union challenges our understanding of the impact of totalitarianism on individuals in the Stalinist era. Hellbeck, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers, examines how the Soviet Union viewed and, at times, nurtured personal literature such as diaries as a way of creating the Soviet ideal of a New Man and New Woman—and how individuals used diaries as a mechanism for reinventing themselves according to these ideals. In the second half of the book, Hellbeck focuses on four diaries he has uncovered and their authors, including a member of the Soviet intellectual class who was killed by a regime she supported, and a member of the "wealthy peasantry" who distanced himself from his exiled father as part of his self-redefinition. What comes through is how individuals internalized the Soviet thinking that placed class and the collective above all else and tried to change their personalities to fit these notions. At times Hellbeck relies on academic jargon. But by focusing on how ordinary citizens struggled with totalitarianism, his work is a welcome step in creating a deeper understanding of Soviet history. 21 b&w photos. (May)