Memoirs of 1984

Overview

A former Soviet scientist and political prisoner now living in America, Yuri Tarnopolsky tells the story of his quest to understand Russia. In 1983 he was tried on charges of defaming the Soviet system: he had become a refusenik activist who defended the right to emigrate. He spent the Orwellian year of 1984 in a Siberian labor camp, and he compares Orwell's predictions with reality. As a scientist, Tarnopolsky is interested in broader facts and generalizations. He supports the view that Soviet communism was a ...

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Overview

A former Soviet scientist and political prisoner now living in America, Yuri Tarnopolsky tells the story of his quest to understand Russia. In 1983 he was tried on charges of defaming the Soviet system: he had become a refusenik activist who defended the right to emigrate. He spent the Orwellian year of 1984 in a Siberian labor camp, and he compares Orwell's predictions with reality. As a scientist, Tarnopolsky is interested in broader facts and generalizations. He supports the view that Soviet communism was a natural continuation of Russian history. Tarnopolsky describes the pyramidal structure of Soviet society, its origin, and gives his own interpretation of the fall of the Soviet empire and the current Russian crossroads. Scenes of life in a labor camp alternate with memories of the past, essays on the totalitarian society, Russian mentality, modern Jewish problems, references to current American reality, psychology of isolation, ideology, moral choices, freedom, social and individual evolution, order and chaos, and complexity. This book is the first memoir of its kind ever to be written originally in English and addressed to the Western reader. Also being published by University Press of America, Unfinished Journey is Nancy Rosenfeld's personal story of her involvement with the campaign to free Yuri.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
His moving and highly personal story recounts in vivid and touching detail his struggle to maintain his dignity and to physically survive even under atrocious conditions of punishment....A must on any reading list.
Zafra Lerman
Here is the struggle of a man who was ready to change single-handedly the policies and rules of the Soviet Union and who was ready to suffer the consequences in the universal struggle for freedom and human rights.
Joseph L. Birman
Vivid, eccentric, often gripping narrative...fascinating insights into Soviet society, and into Russian history and character...written in a remarkably effortless style, especially considering that English is not the writer's first language.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A Ukrainian-born Jewish chemist, Tarnopolsky became an activist after his request to emigrate was refused; he spent three years in a Soviet labor camp before being allowed to come to the U. S. in 1987. His meandering ``collection of reminiscences,'' written in simple, direct English, tells a worthy story about dissidence and the sickness of Soviet society but doesn't offer much new to a growing literature. Born in 1936, the author traces his skepticism of the Soviet system to Khrushchev's de-Stalinization speech of 1956, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and his surveillance by the KGB beginning in 1976. Most interesting is Tarnopolosky's invocation of his scientific training: facing the insanities of interrogation, he sees his responses as a ``little experiment''; he finally embraces Judaism through rationalism. He offers some intriguing intellectual history: 19th-century Russian dissident Alexander Herzen inspired his critical attitude toward society. Life in a labor camp, the author notes mordantly, is ``a natural continuation of Soviet life.'' Nancy Rosenfeld, whose book Unfinished Journey Paperback Forecasts, Sept. 20 also concerns Tarnopolsky's path to emigration, contributes an afterword. Nov.
Library Journal
Tarnopolsky, a research chemist and poet in Kharkov, Ukraine, first applied to emigrate from the Soviet Union in 1979, at a time when permission was given fairly easily. But before his request was fully processed, the government policy changed and he was refused as were many others. Thus began his eight years in limbo as a refuse nik . Rather than accept quietly, Tarnopolsky crusaded so actively for the right of free emigration that he was eventually convicted of defaming the Soviet system and spent three years 1983-86 in a Siberian labor camp. His memoir of that time is largely an interior monolog as he seeks to understand his situation, test his control of his environment, and play mind-games with his guards. Rosenfeld was a suburban Chicago housewife who became increasingly active in Chicago Action for Soviet Jewry CASJ, seeking the emigration of all Soviet Jews and leading the U.S. campaign to win the release of Tarnopolsky. Here she describes in great detail the media campaign conducted by CASJ, to which she gives full credit for Tarnopolsky's eventual release. Her increasingly all-consuming obsession with the project caused her to ignore the rest of her life, and she fell into a serious depression when the project ended successfully and left her with nothing further to do. These two accounts are so totally different that it is jarring to realize that they describe essentially the same events. They add little to the profuse literature already available on the subject.-- Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819191977
  • Publisher: University Press of America
  • Publication date: 8/28/1993
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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