Simon Sebag Montefiore

Hell Frozen Over

Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir


Oxford University Press 272pp £17 order from our bookshop

In 1940, a 22-year-old Soviet engineer named Fyodor Mochulsky finished his studies and was offered a job by the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police, in the Gulag labour-camp system. He was a candidate member of the Communist Party and typical of the so-called Stalin Generation, born after 1917 and reared on Soviet propaganda. Educated, intelligent and extremely able as an engineer and manager, he was also typical in his belief that, however young he was, he was capable of taking on colossal responsibilities. Whatever his hopes for the future, a young man like this would not turn down such an offer from the Party. After all, it was just after the Great Terror, and Europe was already at war: even if a career in the Gulag was not ideal, the consequences of saying no to the Party could be fatal.

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