Because death has featured prominently in Russia's history in the last two centuries -- particularly at the hand of others -- the questions of how the living cope, remember, or repress memory offer an important insight into Russian psychology and culture. There were not just Stalin's purges and Hitler's war but the famine accompanying collectivization, the deliberate terror of the Reds and the Whites in the civil war of 1918-21, the revolutionary violence in 1905 and 1917, the state violence of the nineteenth century, and deprivation in general. Merridale does not spare the reader the human and gruesome specifics. But what distinguishes the book is the humanity with which she gently reconstructs Russians' fatalism, superstitions, and bursts of hurt -- as well as their deflections of the issue. Most of these details are constructed from personal encounters, adding to the book's impact.