Jonathan had this post linking to a review of The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which I’ll get when it comes out in the USA. This book was also reviewed in the Spectator, and described as a “spectacular” work. It is good to see the Soviet Union getting the scrutiny it merits. We know all about Hitler, not enough about Stalin and his entourage of drunken, murderous thugs, lickspittles, lackeys, toadies — a gang that mouthed the platitudes of communism while grabbing the goodies with both hands, and living in bowel-freezing terror of even a harsh glance from the homicidal maniac who was their master. “The horror of private property was such that some leaders did not own their own towels.” Perfect. (One of the timeless golden oldies on this subject is Conversations With Stalin by Milovan Djilas.) This deranged circus was the entity that American liberals made excuses for, lied for, spied for, compared favorably to their own country. Henry Wallace said, “we have political democracy, they have economic democracy.” Yeah, and they also had Genghis Khan with a telephone, and a death camp the size of Canada.
It appears that the time is now to snatch these scraps of history back out of the memory hole. I’m currently slowly wending my way through a sterling example of this revived interest, Anne Applebaum’s recent book GULAG: A History. At about page 150, I can say that it is very good. When I’m done I’ll have a few words to say about it here. For some reason I was put off by reviews I read of Martin Amis’s Koba the Dread: Laughter and the 20 Million, which is also about Stalin. I got the sense it was flippant and really about the author, so who needs it. So I didn’t read it. But if it helped to raise consciousness about the horrors of Soviet communism, well and good.
Finally, as an aside, I’ll note that the book review section in the Spectator is always good, and it is a weekly. It is one of my regular stops in my ambles through cyberspace, and I have found out about several interesting books there which I might not otherwise have heard of.