In This Review

Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution
Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution
By Amir Weiner
Princeton University Press, 2000, 416 pp

With some justification, Weiner contends that World War II is the great, unexplored threshold that divides one Soviet Union from the other. Its tragic weight bore on everyone (whether devotee, dissenter, or victim of the regime), rephrased the meaning of the Soviet experience, and redid the basis by which the system and different segments of society found legitimacy. His slice of the story focuses on the nature, process, and ontology of the regime's prewar, wartime, and postwar purges. He does this by tracing in painstaking, revealing detail the way these phenomena unfolded in Vinnytsia, a rural region at the western edge of pre-1939 Ukraine. Under the impact of Nazi occupation there, the currents and crosscurrents of partisan warfare, nationalist insurgency, and ethnic uncertainty flowed with special strength, as did the complex, severe process of "purification" that followed.