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Capsule Review

Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin’s Russia

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Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin's Russia
Inventing the Enemy: Denunciation and Terror in Stalin's Russia
By Wendy Z. Goldman
Cambridge University Press, 2011, 336 pp. $29.99 Purchase

The mind-numbing scale of Stalin’s purges in the 1930s is well known: the torture and the trials, the barbarism of the prison camps, the monstrous murder quotas. Much less is known about how the terror was experienced by ordinary people -- especially the roles played by the victims’ desperate friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers. Goldman fills that gap by reconstructing the actions of workers in five major factories between 1936 and 1938, the most intense phase of the purges, as revealed in the stenographic records of Communist Party workplace meetings. The book is an excruciating account of how victims (and potential victims) enlarged and sped the killing machine: workers denouncing workers, family members betraying family members, and lovers sacrificing lovers in vain attempts to save themselves, as Stalin and his lieutenants ordered each new wave of purges.

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