The Great Terror: A Reassessment / Edition 40

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The definitive work on Stalin's purges, Robert Conquest's The Great Terror was universally acclaimed when it first appeared in 1968. Harrison Salisbury called it "brilliant...not only an odyssey of madness, tragedy, and sadism, but a work of scholarship and literary craftsmanship." And in recent years it has received equally high praise in the former Soviet Union, where it is now considered the definitive account of the period.

When Conquest wrote the original volume, he relied heavily on unofficial sources. With the advent of glasnost, an avalanche of new material became available, and Conquest mined this enormous cache to write, in 1990, a substantially new edition of his classic work, adding enormously to the detail. Both a leading historian and a highly respected poet, Conquest blends profound research with evocative prose, providing not only an authoritative account of Stalin's purges, but also a compelling and eloquent chronicle of one of this century's most tragic events. He provides gripping accounts of everything from the three great "Moscow Trials," to methods of obtaining confessions, the purge of writers and other members of the intelligentsia, life in the labor camps, and many other key matters.
On the fortieth anniversary of the first edition, in the light of further archival releases, and new material published in Moscow and elsewhere, it remains remarkable how many of Conquest's most disturbing conclusions have continued to bear up. This volume, featuring a new preface by Conquest, rounds out the picture of this huge historical tragedy, further establishing the book as the key study of one of the twentieth centurys most lethal, and longest-misunderstood, offenses against humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anthony Powell once wrote of Robert Conquest that he had a 'capacity for taking enormous pains in relation to any enterprise in hand.' It is beyond dispute that, forty years after the publication of The Great Terror, this judgment requires no reassessment."—Michael Weiss, The New Criterion

"The volume that tore the mask away from Stalinism before most people had even heard of Solzhenitsyn."—Christopher Hitchens, Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195317008
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2007
  • Edition description: Fortieth Anniversary Edition
  • Edition number: 40
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 386,752
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Conquest is the author of some thirty books of history, biography, poetry, fiction, and criticism. The recipient of many honors and awards, he is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the British Academy, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is at present Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the 40th Anniversary Edition
Book I, The Purge Begins
1. Stalin Prepares
2. The Kirov Murder
3. Architect of Terror
4. Old Bolsheviks Congress
5. The Problems of Confession
Book II, The Yeshov Years
6. Last Stand
7. Assault on the Party
8. The Party Crushed
9. Nations in Torment
10. On the Cultural Front
11. In the Labor Camps
12. The Great Trial
13. The Foreign Element
14. Climax
Book III, Aftermath
15. Heritage of Terror
Epilogue: The Terror Today
Notes / Bibliography / Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 19, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A great liar and fabricator

    Veteran Sovietologist Roberta Manning of Boston College said of Conquest, "He's terrible at doing research," and, "He misuses sources, he twists everything." Data from the Russian archives prove that Conquest hugely inflated figures for deaths and deportations in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Too many writers on the subject rely on what Pofessor R. W. Davies called, `Conquest's very high figures for deaths from political causes under Stalin'. Many claimed that the opened archives would prove their figures true, but when the archives were opened, they went very quiet. As Professor Richard Overy, Professor of History at King's College London, wrote, "For years the figures circulating in the West for Soviet repression were greatly inflated. ... The archive shows a very different picture." Victor Zemskov, who Conquest called `a thoroughly reliable researcher', said the figure of 7 million executed in 1935-41 was `overestimated by a factor of ten'. Archive figures are 799,257 between 1921 and 1952. The number of those sentenced to prison in those years was 3.85 million. The camp and prison population in January 1939 was two million, not the 15 million that Conquest alleged, which would have been half the adult male population. Alec Nove wrote that Conquest's figures `are indeed incredible'. Conquest alleged that 12 million were political prisoners; the NKVD figure was under 500,000. Wheatcroft and Davies point out that recent Russian estimates for the numbers in the camps are `far lower than those by Robert Conquest'. Conquest claimed that there were 12 million people in the camps in 1950: the real figure was 578,912. 166,424 died in the labour camps in 1937-39, not 3 million. Conquest's figure of 13 million exiled or sent to the camps during collectivisation was `four times the true figure'. The highest number in the camps was 2,417,468 in 1941, 2.4 per cent of the adult population. Compare the USA in 1996, 5.5 million, a record high, 2.8 per cent of the adult population. Gabor Rittersporn agreed that Alexander Solzhenitsyn's figures for deportations during the 1930s in the Soviet Union were `grossly exaggerated'. Conquest wrote in 1969 `Great Terror' that 5-6 million died in the famine; by 1986, he was saying 14-15 million. There were 17 million excess deaths in 1930-38, according to Conquest. As Davies pointed out about excess deaths and the numbers in camps, "Extreme (and untenable) figures often prevailed." Zemskov claims that "the statistical data adduced by Robert Conquest and Stephen Cohen are exaggerated by almost 500 per cent." Conquest alleged that in 1937-38, 35,000 of the Red Army's 70,000 officers were arrested. The archive showed indeed that 35,000 officers were arrested or discharged, but also that 10,994 were reinstated. It also showed that there were 178,000 officers in 1938, not 70,000, so the arrest rate was about 15 per cent. After the war, returning POWs were not `either executed or sent to the Gulag' as Malia claimed. 6.5 per cent went to the NKVD's `special contingent', 58 per cent were sent home, and 33 per cent returned to the army. Davies summed up, "Russian historians who have worked in the formerly secret archives peremptorily reject the high estimates of Conquest and others. ... The archival data are entirely incompatible with such very high figures, which continue to be cited as firm fact in both the Russian and the Western media."

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2015

    To ridicule Conquest's figures because...another great scholar d

    To ridicule Conquest's figures because...another great scholar disagrees is...a bit over the top. Conquest, like others during this era worked with a range of types of sources (i.e. what's available, for one). Yet, post "perestroika" and "glasnost", the numbers have come closer to his estimates than represented below. There is nothing easy about covering this topic, neither in 1968, 2007, nor in 2015. The number of humans the regimes exterminated and tortured are debated....whole careers have been based on x or y figure. If he is right, they are wrong, so political and fearful attacks are launched, using outdated sources. Also, ideologues take kindly to Lenin as the "salvation" or true moment, as being acceptable (while Stalin is seen as "bad"). Thus, Conquest's quasi-Arendtian linking of the two regimes angers those progressives. Others, who endorse Stalinism also don't want to hear such things. It's frustrating. It's terrifying. That said, I will say this - it's a good read and I will leave it to you dear reader to decide whether it is acceptable if hundreds of thousands if not millions were killed, tortured, and mercilessly brutalized. The math almost abstracts the human cost. Still, like I said, the post Glasnost docs bear our worst fears out. It is no relief that millions were exterminated. Current primary documents now demonstrate this.

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  • Posted July 1, 2014

    A monumental academic vehicle of brainwashing  I agree with will

    A monumental academic vehicle of brainwashing 
    I agree with willyvan. Many independent sources confirm that Conquest is and was a shameless, conscious fabricator.
    The grossness of the exaggerations have of course led to others rather than subtracting a figure, adding one or doubling or
    tripling the figures. I read this book as a young student, believing but boggled how this number of people could have been killed by any
    "system". Claims of similar outlandish magnitude are made about other matters in other books about Soviet history. This leads me to believe
    the whole massive body of works by western academics and others about Soviet history should be reexamined or simply tossed in the
    dustbin of historiography. That 0 of 4 people found willyvan's facts helpful shows how brainwashing worked far better in the west than it did in the
    Soviet Union

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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