The Soviet Century: Archaeology of a Lost World

Princeton Univ Mar. 2023. 928p. tr. from German by Rodney Livingstone. ISBN 9780691183749. $39.95. HIST
In this book, historian Schlögel (emeritus, Eastern European history, European Univ. Viadrina Frankfurt-Oder; Ukraine: A Nation on the Borderland) represents a pinnacle in Soviet studies, a subject once teeming with scholars and non-academic specialists. The subtitle’s reference to archaeology is directed at the largely material remains of a forgotten world, the experience of daily life in the Soviet Union. There are 60 chapters, with topics ranging from the cultural significance of urban flea markets to the profound impact of the locomotive on Soviet life. The book includes mentions of sports culture and classical ballet, but its greatest strength lies in the short biographies of exceptional people, such as fashion designer Nadezhda Lamanova, radio broadcaster Yuri Levitan, and soldier Eduard Berzin. Many subjects imply a certain affection towards the Soviet life, yet Schlögel unflinchingly exposes the crimes of Stalinism at Kolyma and the Solovki special camp (SLON), later called the Solovki special prison.
VERDICT A splendid book. Avoiding the usual fare of power and the Communist Party, the author reveals the pervasive political character of Soviet life.
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