Donald Rayfield

Letters to the Editor

The Readers of Novyi Mir: Coming to Terms with the Stalinist Past


Harvard University Press 431pp £40.95 order from our bookshop

It is not easy for nations to come to terms with an oppressive or brutal past: in most cases, they prefer to cast it into oblivion or to fictionalise it either as a golden age or a painful but necessary and beneficial surgery. In the few cases in history where there has been objective exploration of what happened, penitence and reconciliation occur after the regime has been thoroughly destroyed by its enemies, external or internal. That leaves us with Germany and South Africa. We shouldn’t be surprised: criminals come to terms with their crimes when they have been caught, convicted and sentenced. And in the case of Japan, catastrophic defeat and trials for war crimes still fail to keep alive the memory of, let alone remorse for, the massacre of Nanking.

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