Zhivago's Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia

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Overview

Among the least-chronicled aspects of post–World War II European intellectual and cultural history is the story of the Russian intelligentsia after Stalin. Young Soviet veterans had returned from the heroic struggle to defeat Hitler only to confront the repression of Stalinist society. The world of the intelligentsia exerted an attraction for them, as it did for many recent university graduates. In its moral fervor and its rejection of authoritarianism, this new generation of intellectuals resembled the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia that had been crushed by revolutionary terror and Stalinist purges. The last representatives of the Russian intelligentsia, heartened by Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalinism in 1956, took their inspiration from the visionary aims of their nineteenth-century predecessors and from the revolutionary aspirations of 1917. In pursuing the dream of a civil, democratic socialist society, such idealists contributed to the political disintegration of the communist regime.

Vladislav Zubok turns a compelling subject into a portrait as intimate as it is provocative. The highly educated elite—those who became artists, poets, writers, historians, scientists, and teachers—played a unique role in galvanizing their country to strive toward a greater freedom. Like their contemporaries in the United States, France, and Germany, members of the Russian intelligentsia had a profound effect during the 1960s, in sounding a call for reform, equality, and human rights that echoed beyond their time and place.

Zhivago’s children, the spiritual heirs of Boris Pasternak’s noble doctor, were the last of their kind—an intellectual and artistic community committed to a civic, cultural, and moral mission.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

Students of 1960s cultural ferment, Russian-style, will find much substance in Zubok's account.
— Gilbert Taylor

The Age

Vladislav Zubok takes us into the creative and intellectual world of all Zhivago's children: that generation of artists, scientists and thinkers who came after Boris Pasternak and Stalin. Zubok has no illusions about them. In the end they may not have lived up to the hopes they inspired or have met the standards of generations of Russian intellectuals that went before. But it was an idealistic generation as well and, in the end, they paved the way for end of the Soviet regime.
— Steven Carroll

Washington Post Book World

In his moving Zhivago's Children, historian Vladislav Zubok chronicles the rise and fall of this generation of Russian intellectuals, a group he calls "the spiritual heirs of Boris Pasternak's noble doctor."...The players in Zubok's fascinating study come from all corners of the Soviet intelligentsia, from leftist socialist true believers to right-wing patriots. The result is a thorough, scholarly examination of a vital era in Russian history whose themes of human rights, freedom and dissent will resonate among experts and lay readers alike.
— Alexander F. Remington

Seattle Times

A revealing, thoroughly researched and important book infused with elegiac tones. Stalin's Russia had encouraged education and technical know-how, yet its leaders had blindly assumed that the country's intellectuals would remain unthinking, easily controlled cogs in the vast machine of the state. But some men and women born in the 1930s and '40s refused to play their assigned role, particularly after the leader's death in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev's new policies of de-Stalinization and the Thaw suggested a new dawn was at hand...Zhivago's children flourished throughout the second half of the 1950s and into the '60s. It was a time of great optimism and hope. Among the best known in the West of these shestidesiatniki, or men of the sixties, is the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, but Zubok's book chronicles the stories of many other noteworthy figures.
— Douglas Smith

Times Literary Supplement

Zubok has done a thorough and worthwhile job in recounting the fate of Zhivago's children, drawing on their own numerous diaries and memoirs, but also on archives and personal interviews with them.
— Geoffrey A. Hosking

Times Higher Education

This book is a worthy tribute to the history of a unique, and uniquely important, feature of modern Russian life.
— Harold Shukman

The Economist
The Soviet Union was a prison, especially for the lively minded, whose travel abroad and activities at home were dictated by the Communist Party's cultural commissars. But in the period between the end of the Stalin terror and the start of the Brezhnev era's grim stagnation, a lucky few enjoyed some wisps of freedom. Cultural continuity between that period and a lost past is the central theme of Zhivago's Children. The metaphorical reference is to Tanya, the child of Yuri and Lara Zhivago in Boris Pasternak's great novel. Brought up by peasants, "she has no opportunity to inherit the tradition of free-thinking, spirituality and creativity that her father embodied." How will she turn out? The novel leaves that fictional question unanswered. Vladislav Zubok's book shows, with great sympathy and insight, what happened to Tanya's real-life counterparts.
New Leader

Vladislav Zubok has written a splendid account of Russian intellectual and cultural life in the half century after the Great Patriotic War, which we call World War II. He vividly portrays not only "the struggle of intellectuals and artists to regain autonomy from an autocratic regime," but "the slow and painful disappearance of their revolutionary-romantic idealism and optimism, their faith in progress and in the enlightenment of people."...Zubok makes it a glorious story to read!
— Robert Belknap

New York Review of Books

Zubok is a reliable and prodigiously well-informed guide to the opinions, attitudes, and changing fortunes of loyal Soviet intellectuals during the approximately twenty years between the early 1950s and 1970s...Zubok tells his story with a density of detail and complexity of analysis that is truly remarkable. Ranging across the entire spectrum of Soviet cultural life, he carefully plots the rise and fall of magazines, publishing houses, and cultural institutions, together with the changing consciousness of the intellectuals—writers, editors, scholars, government bureaucrats—as they adjusted to ongoing revelations about the past, digested each new crisis, and tried to take advantage of the new freedoms they appeared to promise...Zubok has done a fine job of characterizing a slice of Russian intellectual life over a couple of turbulent decades of Soviet history...[An] intelligent and engrossing book.
— Michael Scammell

Australian Book Review

Vladislav Zubok has written a meticulously researched and perceptive study of the generations succeeding Zhivago, showing how desperately they tried, against the worst efforts of successive leaderships from 1945 to 1985, to retain values that they regarded as vital to their own and their society's moral survival. The record shows a jagged graph of comparative freedoms and stern reprisals, but their struggles are inspirational...Zubok's detailed book is a highly rewarding and unusual foray into a fascinating national situation, but its implications are universal. Any country too busy doing business to support the values kept alive by idealistic artists, writers and critics will visit moral bankruptcy on its own children.
— Judith Armstrong

Dissent

In this magnificent book, Zubok eviscerates the reductive opposition of communist and anti-communist, of hard-liner and dissident, of being for or against the regime, categories that are far too crude to capture the nuances of Soviet life. Zhivago's Children were never entirely communist or anti-communist, and they were simultaneously Soviet and anti-Soviet.
— Michael Kimmage

The Nation

For Vladislav Zubok, the author of Zhivago's Children, Khrushchev's Thaw inaugurated a period of tremendous optimism, a Soviet-style New Deal following the deep freeze of postwar Stalinism. Surveying a vast array of published and unpublished sources with an exquisite eye for telling detail, Zubok shows how the optimism of the era drew deeply on the classical inheritance of Marxism-Leninism. Contrary to assessments by foreign observers eager for signs of anticommunist ferment, the '60s intellectuals of the USSR were inspired by the dream of fulfilling, not transcending, the ideals of 1917...Vladislav Zubok began his academic career in Moscow as a specialist in American political history, only to move to the United States in the mid-1980s, where he became an internationally renowned scholar of Soviet cold war foreign policy. With Zhivago's Children Zubok has reinvented himself yet again, this time as an accomplished cultural historian of his native land. His book is an elegiac account of the final chapter in the history of the Russian intelligentsia, a group that survived revolution, civil war, Nazi onslaught and Stalinist repression, only to succumb to the supreme solvent of its life-ways: the free market.
— Benjamin Nathans

William Taubman
Zubok distills the ideas, personalities, and ultimate failures of the generation of Russian intellectuals who sought to cleanse socialism of its Stalinist stain. His poignant portrait raises the question of whether Russia will ever again be fully open to the mixture of idealism and moderation that Zhivago's children represented.
Martin J. Sherwin
This magnificent book reveals like no other the deepest currents of Russian culture that flowed beneath the surface of Soviet political life and helped sweep away the rusted remnants of Stalin's oppressive creation. Zubok reaffirms his reputation as one of our preeminent historians of Soviet politics and culture.
Richard Stites
An epic story indeed! Zubok tells the checkered tale of the Soviet intelligentsia with critical acumen and admirable compassion. He pursues their agonies and aspirations through the terrors and thaws of Soviet history as the intelligentsia rose to an apogee of hope in the years of glasnost, only to fall into today's abyss of market banditry.
Jochen Hellbeck
Zhivago's Children charts the generation of educated Russians coming of age after Stalin's death whose socialist idealism ultimately helped bring down the Soviet state. An absorbing and important account of civic hopes and disillusionments that continue to resonate today in Russia and beyond.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
Students of 1960s cultural ferment, Russian-style, will find much substance in Zubok's account.
The Age - Steven Carroll
Vladislav Zubok takes us into the creative and intellectual world of all Zhivago's children: that generation of artists, scientists and thinkers who came after Boris Pasternak and Stalin. Zubok has no illusions about them. In the end they may not have lived up to the hopes they inspired or have met the standards of generations of Russian intellectuals that went before. But it was an idealistic generation as well and, in the end, they paved the way for end of the Soviet regime.
Washington Post Book World - Alexander F. Remington
In his moving Zhivago's Children, historian Vladislav Zubok chronicles the rise and fall of this generation of Russian intellectuals, a group he calls "the spiritual heirs of Boris Pasternak's noble doctor."...The players in Zubok's fascinating study come from all corners of the Soviet intelligentsia, from leftist socialist true believers to right-wing patriots. The result is a thorough, scholarly examination of a vital era in Russian history whose themes of human rights, freedom and dissent will resonate among experts and lay readers alike.
Seattle Times - Douglas Smith
A revealing, thoroughly researched and important book infused with elegiac tones. Stalin's Russia had encouraged education and technical know-how, yet its leaders had blindly assumed that the country's intellectuals would remain unthinking, easily controlled cogs in the vast machine of the state. But some men and women born in the 1930s and '40s refused to play their assigned role, particularly after the leader's death in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev's new policies of de-Stalinization and the Thaw suggested a new dawn was at hand...Zhivago's children flourished throughout the second half of the 1950s and into the '60s. It was a time of great optimism and hope. Among the best known in the West of these shestidesiatniki, or men of the sixties, is the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, but Zubok's book chronicles the stories of many other noteworthy figures.
Times Literary Supplement - Geoffrey A. Hosking
Zubok has done a thorough and worthwhile job in recounting the fate of Zhivago's children, drawing on their own numerous diaries and memoirs, but also on archives and personal interviews with them.
Times Higher Education - Harold Shukman
This book is a worthy tribute to the history of a unique, and uniquely important, feature of modern Russian life.
New Leader - Robert Belknap
Vladislav Zubok has written a splendid account of Russian intellectual and cultural life in the half century after the Great Patriotic War, which we call World War II. He vividly portrays not only "the struggle of intellectuals and artists to regain autonomy from an autocratic regime," but "the slow and painful disappearance of their revolutionary-romantic idealism and optimism, their faith in progress and in the enlightenment of people."...Zubok makes it a glorious story to read!
New York Review of Books - Michael Scammell
Zubok is a reliable and prodigiously well-informed guide to the opinions, attitudes, and changing fortunes of loyal Soviet intellectuals during the approximately twenty years between the early 1950s and 1970s...Zubok tells his story with a density of detail and complexity of analysis that is truly remarkable. Ranging across the entire spectrum of Soviet cultural life, he carefully plots the rise and fall of magazines, publishing houses, and cultural institutions, together with the changing consciousness of the intellectuals--writers, editors, scholars, government bureaucrats--as they adjusted to ongoing revelations about the past, digested each new crisis, and tried to take advantage of the new freedoms they appeared to promise...Zubok has done a fine job of characterizing a slice of Russian intellectual life over a couple of turbulent decades of Soviet history...[An] intelligent and engrossing book.
Australian Book Review - Judith Armstrong
Vladislav Zubok has written a meticulously researched and perceptive study of the generations succeeding Zhivago, showing how desperately they tried, against the worst efforts of successive leaderships from 1945 to 1985, to retain values that they regarded as vital to their own and their society's moral survival. The record shows a jagged graph of comparative freedoms and stern reprisals, but their struggles are inspirational...Zubok's detailed book is a highly rewarding and unusual foray into a fascinating national situation, but its implications are universal. Any country too busy doing business to support the values kept alive by idealistic artists, writers and critics will visit moral bankruptcy on its own children.
Dissent - Michael Kimmage
In this magnificent book, Zubok eviscerates the reductive opposition of communist and anti-communist, of hard-liner and dissident, of being for or against the regime, categories that are far too crude to capture the nuances of Soviet life. Zhivago's Children were never entirely communist or anti-communist, and they were simultaneously Soviet and anti-Soviet.
The Nation - Benjamin Nathans
For Vladislav Zubok, the author of Zhivago's Children, Khrushchev's Thaw inaugurated a period of tremendous optimism, a Soviet-style New Deal following the deep freeze of postwar Stalinism. Surveying a vast array of published and unpublished sources with an exquisite eye for telling detail, Zubok shows how the optimism of the era drew deeply on the classical inheritance of Marxism-Leninism. Contrary to assessments by foreign observers eager for signs of anticommunist ferment, the '60s intellectuals of the USSR were inspired by the dream of fulfilling, not transcending, the ideals of 1917...Vladislav Zubok began his academic career in Moscow as a specialist in American political history, only to move to the United States in the mid-1980s, where he became an internationally renowned scholar of Soviet cold war foreign policy. With Zhivago's Children Zubok has reinvented himself yet again, this time as an accomplished cultural historian of his native land. His book is an elegiac account of the final chapter in the history of the Russian intelligentsia, a group that survived revolution, civil war, Nazi onslaught and Stalinist repression, only to succumb to the supreme solvent of its life-ways: the free market.
Library Journal

One of the lesser-known aspects of post-World War II Soviet history is the fate of the intelligentsia after Stalin. Zubok (history, Temple Univ.) explores the world of these intellectuals from the defeat of Hitler through Stalin's terror and purges to Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalinism in 1956 and the eventual fall of the USSR under Gorbachev. After living through Stalinism and its iron-fisted control over all aspects of life, the surviving intelligentsia looked to their 19th-century predecessors and to the ideas that launched the 1917 revolution as the source of their new intellectual inspiration. For Zubok, these ideals were best embodied by Boris Pasternak's noble doctor, Yuri Zhivago, a poet and idealist who found meaning and resurrection in love. VERDICT Using Zhivago as a metaphor for the postwar intelligentsia, Zubok presents a compelling, well-written, and well-researched history of an important but neglected aspect of Soviet history. Recommended for anyone interested in Russian/Soviet history and in cultural and intellectual history generally. —Deborah Hicks, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton


—Deborah Hicks
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674062320
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2011
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 1,385,672
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Vladislav Zubok is Professor of History at Temple University
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Table of Contents

Contents Prologue: The Fate of Zhivago's Intelligentsia
1. The "Children" Grow Up, 1945–1955
2. Shock Effects, 1956–1958
3. Rediscovery of the World, 1955–1961
4. Optimists on the Move, 1957–1961
5. The Intelligentsia Reborn, 1959–1962
6. The Vanguard Disowned, 1962–1964
7. Searching for Roots, 1961–1967
8. Between Reform and Dissent, 1965–1968
9. The Long Decline, 1968–1985
Epilogue: The End of the Intelligentsia

List of Abbreviations Notes Acknowledgments Index

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