Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia

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Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia
By Vladislav Zubok
Harvard University Press, 2009
464 pp. $35.00

The Soviet Union, even in its dreariest periods, percolated with a restless intelligentsia -- many of whose members were disillusioned and divorced from the system, still more of whom were fired by a recrudescent idealism. They came in waves, and Zubok uses the author Boris Pasternak as the symbol of an earlier generation inspired by nineteenth-century cultural icons who then energized a generation of writers, artists, and scientists in the Khrushchev era -- that is, until Nikita Khrushchev and the wardens of ideology clamped down in 1963. Zubok, who grew up in the Soviet Union a child of "Zhivago's children," weaves a rich tapestry that portrays the surges and ebbs in passions, the divisions and betrayals, the quasi alliances with enlightened apparatchiks, and, ultimately, the milieu's fragmentation and atrophy after 1968. The result is a pulsing, full-bodied history of people and trends that were only glimpsed in detached pieces at the time.

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