Inside the Stalin Archives: Discovering the New Russia

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Inside the Stalin Archives: Discovering the New Russia
By Jonathan Brent
Atlas & Co., 2008
336 pp. $26.00
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This book is one of the most remarkable recent undertakings in publishing and certainly the most important for the Soviet period. Brent has overseen Yale University Press' exceedingly ambitious project to expose the hidden details of the Stalin period contained in the Soviet archives. His tales of how he picked his way through the decrepit labyrinth guarding these secrets, his surprising finds, and the deals he cut are the book's great virtues. But in full-flavored fashion, he also shares his experiences living on the hard side of life in Boris Yeltsin's Russia, albeit as something of a naive without the comparative perspective of what came before. Similarly, his deeper insights into the echoes of Stalin's Soviet Union in the Russia he encountered overly mimic the world preoccupying him in the archives. Brent is not merely a good writer; he is an artist, and the book is a pleasure to read.