"The Voices of the Dead" by Hiroaki Kuromiya

The Voices of the Dead Stalin's Great Terror in the 1930s Hiroaki Kuromiya

Publication date:
01 Aug 2016
Yale University Press
304 pages: 229 x 152mm
16 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

The voices of dozens of innocent victims, silenced during Stalin’s Terror and since forgotten, can yet be heard in secret police archives

Swept up in the maelstrom of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937–1938, nearly a million people died. Most were ordinary citizens who left no records and as a result have been completely forgotten. This book is the first to attempt to retrieve their stories and reconstruct their lives, drawing upon recently declassified archives of the former Soviet Secret Police in Kiev. Hiroaki Kuromiya uncovers in the archives the hushed voices of the condemned, and he chronicles the lives of dozens of individuals who shared the same dehumanizing fate: all were falsely arrested, executed, and dumped in mass graves.

Kuromiya investigates the truth behind the fabricated records, filling in at least some of the details of the lives and deaths of ballerinas, priests, beggars, teachers, peasants, workers, soldiers, pensioners, homemakers, fugitives, peddlers, ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, Koreans, Jews, and others. In recounting the extraordinary stories gleaned from the secret files, Kuromiya not only commemorates the dead and forgotten but also proposes a new interpretation of Soviet society that provides useful insights into the enigma of Stalinist terror.

Hiroaki Kuromiya is professor of history, Indiana University. He is the author of several books, most recently Stalin: Profiles in Power.

Kuromiya, one of the most ambitious and responsible historians of the Soviet Union, ably uses his understanding of Soviet institutions and practices to contextualise his extraordinary presentation of individual life and death during the Great Terror."—Timothy Snyder, Yale University

'Kuromiya allows us to peer below the topmost level of the Great Terror to the conditions of individual victims. This is a pioneering work.' - Robert Service, St Antony's Oxford, author of Stalin

'By going through the files of those repressed in Ukraine in the 1930s, Kuromiya teases out the real stories behind the lies of the secret police. He tells a tale of ordinary folk caught up in extraordinary times.' - Martin McCauley, University of London

'No other historian has looked at the interrogation records and compared the initial handwritten record with the official transcript of the interrogation. The result is original and fascinating.' - Catherine Andreyev, Christ Church Oxford

'Kuromiya's research iss most thorough, and the conclusions he draws are careful and judicious.' - Ronnie Kowalski, University of Worcester