Rating: 5 stars
Rating: 5 stars
Marta Thinks: In order to read this masterpiece, you need to appreciate the history behind it. In 1917, civil war broke out in Russia and eventually the Bolsheviks gained power. By 1921, their Communist party was established, though its leader, Lenin, died, leaving two candidates: Trotsky and Stalin. Stalin was the underdog, only the General Secretary, but by 1926 he removed all former members of the government (his position as secretary allowed him to move his friends to influential positions), created trials to dismiss men with power and exiled Trotsky, who would later be described as a ‘Capitalist spy’ in history books. Stalin soon found himself in a position of power and the secret police and the cult of his image allowed him full control, which also spread a feeling of fear and uncertainty throughout the USSR. No one knew who to trust, no one knew what to do. Some people were tortured beyond pain imaginable and begged for the end to come, others were sent to concentration camps in Siberia, forced to work under harsh winter conditions and then left to die. At times, a person had committed no crime but was arrested nonetheless in order to fulfill a certain quota. Because of this, Stalin is responsible for 60 million deaths. To illustrate this point, there is an anecdote in which Stalin meets with a leader of an African nation and this leader asks: ‘How many people did you have to kill in order to establish your rule?’ Stalin tells him and this leader is astonished because it’s more than the number of people who live in his country.
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However, before 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell and the secrets of the USSR were exposed, no one was aware of the chilling and inhumane acts that were committed. For instance, in 1980, when a book entitled Archipelago Gulag was published, describing the violence present within the nation and its concentration camps, there was much skepticism. After all, many socialists from Western European countries viewed the USSR as a country with the ideal government. Not much had changed since 1949 when Orwell, frustrated by his socialist acquaintances who dreamt of living in the USSR, wrote 1984 as a response. It was a perfectly haunting - and very real - description of the Communist states back then, and still is now.