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Although the book that I am about to recommend has little to do with the Catholic Church, it has everything to do with an ideology and a country that many Catholics have been extremely concerned. The country is Russia and the ideology is Communism.

In his sweeping history of what private life was like during Stalin’s terror, Orlando Figes goes into the archives to find out how people actually lived in small communal apartments and in the Gulag. It is a chronicle of families torn apart, children left to the care of the State, and people just trying to survive by whatever method they know.

The most important sources for Figes’ chronicle of the Terror and its victims are the ordinary people themselves. By using the stories of hundreds of individuals, Figes is able to paint a panoramic picture of a time and a place that have forever been seared into history. While he does not focus on those in charge, his sources do include people from every conceivable rank and nationality in Soviet society. From prominent Soviet writers and dissidents to ordinary people such as engineers, doctors, and teachers whose parents had disappeared or who themselves had been exiled for years in Siberia before they were allowed by the government to return to the places of their origins.

In it scope, this book is unparalleled and it is one of the most moving testimonies of how people actually lived in the Soviet Union. Not only that, but it provides a first hand account of how so many people managed to survive a regime that was bent on destroying every aspect of civilized society in the name of a social revolution.

It is a story worth reading and one which forces us to think about the many workings of God’s Providence even during the most terrible times.

 

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