Moscow 1956: The Silenced Spring by Kathleen E Smith - review by Donald Rayfield

Donald Rayfield

Open Season

Moscow 1956: The Silenced Spring


Harvard University Press 434pp £23.95 order from our bookshop

Most political springs in Russia terminate in a sudden frost and the silencing of the songbirds. That of 1956 was one of the more dramatic examples: spring came in February, with Nikita Khrushchev’s so-called ‘Secret Speech’ (which was soon common knowledge among even the lowest ranks in any Soviet organisation) denouncing Stalin’s crimes, and ended, after a few chilly moments, in November, when the Hungarian insurgency was crushed by Soviet tanks.

The spring of 1956 caused a stir in Party circles – half the membership was horrified by the revelations of Stalin’s crimes, while the other half was more horrified by the potential damage to the Party’s doctrine of infallibility. It raised the hopes of the creative intelligentsia, particularly writers, and

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