This I Cannot Forget: The Memoirs of Nikolai Bukharin's Widow

This I Cannot Forget: The Memoirs of Nikolai Bukharin's Widow

by Anna Larina, Stephen F. Cohen

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Larina tells the story not only of her twenty years in the Gulag but of her life as a daughter and a wife among the founding fathers of the Soviet Union.


Larina tells the story not only of her twenty years in the Gulag but of her life as a daughter and a wife among the founding fathers of the Soviet Union.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This remarkable memoir by the widow of Bolshevik leader Nikolai Bukharin, a critic of Stalin's dictatorial regime, is at once a love story, a family tale and a harrowing record of 20 years in the Gulag. Larina, adopted daughter of an economic adviser to Lenin, lived in the Kremlin and sent girlish love notes to Bukharin through Stalin. In 1937 Bukharin, her husband of three years, was arrested. Vilified in a Moscow show trial, he was executed in 1938. Larina, now near 80, spent two decades in prisons, labor camps and under house arrest in Siberia. Her son Yury, taken from her when only a year old in 1937, grew up in orphanages. In this disjointed yet moving memoir, published in Moscow in 1988, she recalls her wrenching reunion with Yury and describes her campaign to rehabilitate her husband's reputation. She passionately defends Bukharin, a founder of the Leninist one-party dictatorship, portraying him as politically naive and blind to Stalin's nature. Despite her bias, her book is a prime source on the original Soviet ruling elite. Princeton Sovietologist Cohen, in a valuable introduction, defends the potential relevance of Bukharin's ``socialist humanism'' for postcommunist Russia. Photos. (Mar.)
Library Journal
A founding father of the Soviet Union, Bukharin (1888-1938) was the Communist Party's leading theoretician and principal advocate of economic gradualism. Twenty-five years his junior, his wife, Larina, watched helplessly as he paid the ultimate price for ``crimes against the state.'' She herself endured two decades in the gulag. Fortunately, Larina has lived long enough to witness Bukharin's official exoneration and the actual publication of these fascinating memoirs (skillfully introduced by Sovietologist Stephen Cohen). Her account describes many moving moments, including the separation from her infant son and the final farewell to her husband. As a tantalizing bonus, Larina offers numerous first-hand recollections of Stalin and his henchmen. Her memoir is absolutely unforgettable. It stands with Eugenia Ginsburg's Journey into the Whirlwind (1967) and Nadezhda Mandelstam's Hope Against Hope ( LJ 11/1/70) as prime examples of a tragic Soviet genre.-- Mark R. Yerburgh, Fern Ridge Community Lib., Veneta, Ore.
Gilbert Taylor
The author spent two decades in the gulag for the once-capital offense of being married to a fiend second only to Trotsky in Stalinist demonology. Her ordeals inspired the sympathy of millions of Russians who had had similar experiences. Their feelings converged upon this very memoir and transformed it into a sensation at the time the Communist Party formally rehabilitated Bukharin's name in 1988. That move, even so, was simultaneously and inherently political. Ever since his defeat in the power struggle of the 1920s, Bukharin's ideas attracted reformist Soviet leaders seeking to transcend the Stalinist inheritance. This yearning, which came into the open with Gorbachev's ascendancy, surely had the effect of somewhat idealizing Bukharin. Larina burnishes that humane image with felicitous sketches of their domestic life, and it can be no cavilling to note her partiality, in the dual sense of her loyalty to a martyred husband and her incompleteness as historical witness. For the full Bukharin was also a stern extremist with a fatal streak of naivete: in his famous last letter, "To a Future Generation of Party Leaders," he pathetically, given the circumstances, lamented the passing of the first secret police chief and "the wonderful traditions of the Cheka," which was just then destroying him and the old guard. For readers with an abiding interest in the Bolshevik revolution and its controversial ramifications.
Robert Conquest
[Larina's] account of her own and her husband's travails is unique in its provenance from such high circles, and… highly illuminating on her fate as one of the millions of victims of the terror. Stephen Cohen's introduction is a model of its kind, giving not only the political and human background, but also describing his own relations with Larina and the Bukharin family.
New York Review of Books
Kirkus Reviews
A monumental narration of the travails of Russian Communism, served up by the widow of one of its first founders—and victims. Larina grew up in a family of prominent socialist intellectuals: Her father, a well-known economist and a close friend of Lenin's, served as a mentor to an entire generation of young revolutionaries. One of these, Nikolai Bukharin, became Larina's husband and part of the inner circle of the Bolshevik leadership. After the 1917 revolution, Bukharin worked as an adviser to Lenin during the turmoil of the civil war and its aftermath, and was ultimately responsible for many of the ideas embodied in Lenin's New Economic Policy of the early 1920's. Stalin's rise to power, however, carried an enduring chill into Russia's political atmosphere and doomed the careers and lives of anyone whose prominence or charisma seemed to threaten the elaborate "cult of personality" that maintained the dictator's authority. Bukharin was one of the earliest victims, denounced as a traitor and "convicted" of absurd and incredible crimes at one of the most elaborate show trials of the era. After his execution in 1938, Larina's life became an uninterrupted chronicle of harassment and exile: as a chesir (the relative of a counter- revolutionary), she was separated from her son and interned in one gulag after another for the next 30 years. Larina's memoir, though, is measured, vivid, and strikingly free of malice; her tone throughout is one of absolute self-reliance, the sustaining confidence of a thoroughly independent woman who believed all along that the day of her vindication would ultimately arrive. Exceptionally moving and strong: an eloquent statement of humanendurance and superhuman faith. (Photographs—not seen.)

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
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1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Stephen F. Cohen is director of Russian studies at Princeton University and a regular commentator on network television.

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