In This Review

It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past
It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past
By David Satter
Yale University Press, 2011, 400 pp
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Satter grapples with an elemental failing of Russia’s leaders and people, while at every turn conveying the truly painful reasons it persists. Russia, he argues, refuses to face the fundamental moral depravity of its Soviet past, including its most savage manifestation: Joseph Stalin’s terror. Until it does, he believes, the country cannot hope to progress. For too long, too many Russians have too easily accepted the idea that the state should enjoy primacy over the value of the individual. Yet in an expansive and brilliantly explored set of examples, Satter illustrates how many people and groups have known and exposed the truth. In an equally compelling fashion, he examines the extraordinarily tangled sentiments that have caused Russian society to hesitate before reconciling itself to the past. Many eastern European societies that did not invent the Soviet system but suffered under it are finding it difficult to agree on how to deal with those who were a part of it. Perhaps, then, it is not so hard to understand why in Russia, where the system had deeper roots, people are reluctant to start settling scores.