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The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet…

The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine

by Robert Conquest

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This was a difficult book to read. First, and most importantly, because of the horror of the subject it covers: the death by starvation of millions of people, primarily in the Ukraine, in the early 1930s, due to a famine deliberately caused by and then enforced by the Soviet leadership. I learned about this in a completely chilling chapter in Vassily Grossman's Everything Flows, and wanted to learn more about it: the introduction and notes to the NYRB edition I read of the Grossman book heavily cited the Conquest, and so I bought it.

The second reason it was difficult to read is because it is a scholarly book. I simply did not have the deep background in Soviet politics to understand the ins and outs of the first half or more of the book, which deals with the policies of farm collectivization and the suppression of Ukrainian nationalism, and so I skimmed those chapters. I have no basis for evaluating the author's point of view on those policies, and I gather there is some matter for debate about the degree to which Stalin himself was involved, although I, as a non-scholar, certainly find it difficult to believe that any major policy could be carried out without his blessing. However, it was the famine itself that interested me, and while I learned some more from this book nothing can hold a candle to the chapter in Everything Flows for depicting the full terror and horror of the terror-famine.
2 vote rebeccanyc | Apr 30, 2010 |
More of a prosecution than an unbiased history. Conquest lays all of the blame on Stalin (rather than Lenin's decisions or the direction of the party as a whole), and works through the book to convince the reader of his point. It's an interesting thesis, though I feel that I'd have to do more reading from other more balanced sources before reaching a final conclusion myself.

It's a good read, though, definitely--very moving, and a well-written look at a little-explored crisis of Soviet history. Check it out, but make sure you're ready to be critical of the sources represented and other choices the author makes. ( )
2 vote KLmesoftly | Oct 27, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195051807, Paperback)

The Harvest of Sorrow is the first full history of one of the most horrendous human tragedies of the 20th century. Between 1929 and 1932 the Soviet Communist Party struck a double blow at the Russian peasantry: dekulakization, the dispossession and deportation of millions of peasant families, and collectivization, the abolition of private ownership of land and the concentration of the remaining peasants in party-controlled "collective" farms. This was followed in 1932-33 by a "terror-famine," inflicted by the State on the collectivized peasants of the Ukraine and certain other areas by setting impossibly high grain quotas, removing every other source of food, and preventing help from outside--even from other areas of the Soviet Union--from reaching the starving populace. The death toll resulting from the actions described in this book was an estimated 14.5 million--more than the total number of deaths for all countries in World War I.

Ambitious, meticulously researched, and lucidly written, The Harvest of Sorrow is a deeply moving testament to those who died, and will register in the Western consciousness a sense of the dark side of this century's history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:20 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Chronicles the events of 1929 to 1933 in the Ukraine when Stalin's Soviet Communist Party killed or deported millions of peasants; abolished privately held land and forced the remaining peasantry into "collective" farms; and inflicted impossible grain quotas on the peasants that resulted in mass starvation.… (more)

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