Thursday, March 13, 2014

Night of Stone

Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-century Russia – Catherine Merridale

Saying “I enjoyed reading this incredible book” seems strange. Reading the history and anthropology of death and mourning in Russia and the USSR in the 20th century depressed the hell out of me. It would any thinking person reading about 50 million human beings dying due to badly run wars, induced famine, political mass murder, and diseases of deprivation such as cholera and typhus.

Not just the sheer scale, but the question “How could cops, jailers, torturers, executioners do this to other people” brings to mind issues of compliance to authority. I was impressed by the brilliant research of archives and period materials for the documentary history and the interviews of ordinary Russians for the oral history.

Being English, Merridale is gifted writer of highly readable prose. Another plus is that she lets a lot more soul and humanity show than many historians.  Readers that are interested is how human beings cope, remember, or repress memory will get much out of this book as will reader who focus on the psychology of people over prolonged and extraordinary hardship.

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