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On a street called the Arbat in Moscow's intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper. Reissue.


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On a street called the Arbat in Moscow's intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper. Reissue.

30 review for Children of the Arbat

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    To the two people among my goodreads friends, who are interested in Russian history and culture - this novel (first in a trilogy) covers the era of Stalin's reign of terror and is both riveting and historically accurate. It is mostly about a group of young people caught up in the workings of Stalin's totalitarian machine; but it also presents Stalin's POV, walking readers through his delusions of grandeur and fears of losing power, that ultimately lead him down the path of totalitarianism. I lis To the two people among my goodreads friends, who are interested in Russian history and culture - this novel (first in a trilogy) covers the era of Stalin's reign of terror and is both riveting and historically accurate. It is mostly about a group of young people caught up in the workings of Stalin's totalitarian machine; but it also presents Stalin's POV, walking readers through his delusions of grandeur and fears of losing power, that ultimately lead him down the path of totalitarianism. I listened to Children of the Arbat along with A History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev, and I am confident you can get a comprehensive picture of the period from just Rybakov's work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    “The night outside was freezing, the room was warm and cozy, the girls were wearing lisle stockings and high-heeled shoes. The planet was spinning on its relentless orbit, the stars in the universe were in permanent motion, they had vodka and port and white wine and roast goose, there was mustard sauce for the herring and store-bought ham, and they were seeing in 1934, just as they had seen in 1933, and would see in 1935 and ’36 and ’37 and many more years to come. They were young, with no thoug “The night outside was freezing, the room was warm and cozy, the girls were wearing lisle stockings and high-heeled shoes. The planet was spinning on its relentless orbit, the stars in the universe were in permanent motion, they had vodka and port and white wine and roast goose, there was mustard sauce for the herring and store-bought ham, and they were seeing in 1934, just as they had seen in 1933, and would see in 1935 and ’36 and ’37 and many more years to come. They were young, with no thought of death or old age; they had been born for life and youth and joy.” In 1989 I was an undergraduate political science student in Murfreesboro Tennessee. I enrolled in a class called Soviet Political Systems and our instructor told us in the first class that we would not be using the textbook normally assigned but would instead simply keep up with events as they happened. This was during the period of Perestroika and of Glasnost, and the word watched as Mikhail Gorbachev guided the Soviet ship of state into its final mooring and ushered in the end of that great decades long political experiment. Our professor was considered an expert on communism and had traveled extensively in Eastern Europe and was a wealth of knowledge. He talked about a book that had just been published called Children of the Arbat and how it painstakingly described life in the 1930s Stalinist era. I always kept an idea that I would someday read the book and almost 30 years later I have. Author Anatoly Rybakov described a semi-autobiographical narration of life under Stalin’s early rule (Rybakov was himself exiled for political reasons in the 30s). Tales of Stalin’s totalitarian paranoia and of his political purges have become commonplace since his rule, but Children of the Arbat puts a face and names the period as one we can now understand. Following the arrest and exile of a loyal communist, we see how intrigue and party politics transformed the ideological revolution into an arena of personal power plays. This book also breathes life into this era, as we understand that a neighborhood that had once been known for its artistic and humanistic personality is altered in the socialist state. Ultimately this is a book about life in the Soviet Union but more so about life in general and about human nature. An excellent portrayal of an important and often misunderstood time and place.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I read this book in the early 1990s, and it had a huge impact on me. Once I finished it, I had to get my hands on the other two books in the trilogy. After I finished those, I had to get my hands on everything else by Rybakov (too bad I only took two semesters of Russian in college). After that, I had to find every other piece of Russian historical fiction in the greater Chicago area (though none quite matched up to this). Obviously I am obsessed, but this book is so well written, with character I read this book in the early 1990s, and it had a huge impact on me. Once I finished it, I had to get my hands on the other two books in the trilogy. After I finished those, I had to get my hands on everything else by Rybakov (too bad I only took two semesters of Russian in college). After that, I had to find every other piece of Russian historical fiction in the greater Chicago area (though none quite matched up to this). Obviously I am obsessed, but this book is so well written, with characters you really care about and vivid descriptions of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, that I think anyone can enjoy it. This book is the reason why I love historical fiction.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: On a street called the Arbat in Moscow's intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper. Opening: Between Nikolsky and Denezhny streets (today they are called Plotnikov and Vesnin) stood the biggest apartment block in the Arbat - three eight-storey buildings, one close behind the other, the front one glazed with a facade of white tiles. It is the early '30s and we a Description: On a street called the Arbat in Moscow's intellectual and artistic center in the 1930s, Sasha, one of a group of idealistic young communists, is sentenced to three years in Siberia for publishing a newspaper. Opening: Between Nikolsky and Denezhny streets (today they are called Plotnikov and Vesnin) stood the biggest apartment block in the Arbat - three eight-storey buildings, one close behind the other, the front one glazed with a facade of white tiles. It is the early '30s and we are introduced to a handful of late-teen residents, a circle of friends, and observe their interactions and ambitions. Foremost here are Sasha and Yuri. This novel was suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years.[..] The author was arrested and exiled to Siberia but was later 'rehabilitated' when he became a highly decorated tank commander in WWII. Taken from the dust cover The writing is a little choppy and I found keeping a notebook of the names helped a lot. Not a book to read in bed, this takes concentration and strong wrists - this is a brick in the hardback. Decided against going with the rest of the trilogy, for now at least, and have my eyes fixed on Heavy Sand, a novel about Soviet Jews living in a Nazi occupied Ukranian village. Originally a suburb where traders from the East would arrive with their caravans, in the 18th Century the Arbat became popular with Moscow's intelligentsia and artistic community, who enjoyed frequenting the many cafes and taking strolls along the area's mansion-lined boulevards. Pushkin himself lived here with his wife in house number 53 (the building has since been turned into a museum dedicated to the poet) and Tolstoy resided on the adjoining Kaloshin Lane. In fact Count Fyodor was said to have modelled his famous character Anna Karenina on Maria Gartung - Pushkin's oldest daughter, who also lived nearby. Source Children of the Arbat (Russian: Дети Арбата) is a novel by Anatoly Rybakov that recounts the era in the Soviet Union of the build-up to the Congress of the Victors, the early years of the second Five Year Plan and the (supposed) circumstances of the murder of Sergey Kirov prior to the beginning of the Great Purge. - wiki - sourced This section is for interesting items found during my read-time to enable 'light and well-meaning' contrasts and comparisons *cough* within the intellectual and artistic communities today: Russia political artist who faces jail for vandalism Russia jails Ukraine director Sentsov on terror charges Radical Moscow film festival cancelled in favour of Putin-backed replacement Walls/barriers: Estonia in particular, yet the practice in general Apropos of today's russian tyrant: do you think the current n. korean tyrant wept when all that european cheese was destroyed? Forbidden food and contraband clothes: the Russian sanctions quiz

  5. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    Suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years, Anatoli Rybakov's Children of the Arbat is destined to rank with Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago as a classic of historical fiction. Set in 1934, Children of the Arbat presents a masterful and chilling psychological portrait of Stalin and details the beginning of its reign of terror and its impact on a generation - represented by a circle of young friends living in Moscow's intellectual and artistic centre, the Arbat. Sasha Pankratov, a you Suppressed by the Soviet Union for over twenty years, Anatoli Rybakov's Children of the Arbat is destined to rank with Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago as a classic of historical fiction. Set in 1934, Children of the Arbat presents a masterful and chilling psychological portrait of Stalin and details the beginning of its reign of terror and its impact on a generation - represented by a circle of young friends living in Moscow's intellectual and artistic centre, the Arbat. Sasha Pankratov, a young engineering student and loyal member of the Young Communist League, is unjustly accused of subversion, arrested, and subsequently exiled to Siberia. Interwined with the story of Sasha, his family, and his friends, as they struggle against a glowing plague of deceit and fear, is a riveting account of Stalin's burgeoning paranoia. Rybakov exposes the roots of Stalin's megalomania and the cold, calculating scheme to assassinate his colleague Kirov, providing the excuse to unleash the Terror.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beata

    One of the most prominent novels of the years of terror in the Soviet Russia. A must-read for those who are becoming interested in this particular period.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ksenia Anske

    I’m stunned. After reading this book. Stunned, and blown away, and sad. Growing up in Russia, as a little girl, I didn’t understand much about politics, and am only now discovering how Stalin’s regime came into being. This story is like the other side of the coin, the other The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Same time, two completely different stories. And yet they are the same. Told through the eyes of those who lived through The Russian Revolution, who believed into the bright proletariat f I’m stunned. After reading this book. Stunned, and blown away, and sad. Growing up in Russia, as a little girl, I didn’t understand much about politics, and am only now discovering how Stalin’s regime came into being. This story is like the other side of the coin, the other The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. Same time, two completely different stories. And yet they are the same. Told through the eyes of those who lived through The Russian Revolution, who believed into the bright proletariat future, the unity of the Party, the power of Russia, and those who were crushed by their own belief, their innocence, their naiveté, ground and disposed of as part of 20 million people, killed by the very leader whom they appointed to rule the country. Comrade Stalin. The story is told from multiple characters’ points of view, including Stalin himself, but mostly it’s told by Sasha Pankratov, a young Komsomol member who gets tangled up in a political intrigue at his school and, as a result, gets exiled. This is the first book in the trilogy (the other two are Fear and Dust and Ashes), and it portrays Stalin’s growing paranoia and the mounting hysteria and terror in the country, where a single word could mean 10 years in prison, or, worse, death. A joke is considered an act of sabotage. And it’s only getting worse. And yet. And yet humanity prevails. This book is filled with love, with small acts of kindness that keep people believing in something better, help people get on with their lives, no matter how miserable they are. I cried at the very end, it was heartbreaking. Perhaps because it was too close to home, perhaps because it captured the struggle of an individual against a system so well. If you’re interested on the history of Soviet Union, read it. But if you’re simply interested in human nature, read it too. There are beautiful moments here, that come from suffering, from people learning to love and to continue to love. No matter what.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I found it so powerful when I first read this in the late eighties, so much so that when I went to Moscow in the following winter, we made a deal with the obligatory guide, and he left us to spend a whole afternoon walking along the Arbat, just soaking up the atmosphere. If I am to be honest, though, the district was not really anything special at that time. Of course, since then, there have been many more novels and most have been even more critical of Stalin and the thirties in the Soviet Unio I found it so powerful when I first read this in the late eighties, so much so that when I went to Moscow in the following winter, we made a deal with the obligatory guide, and he left us to spend a whole afternoon walking along the Arbat, just soaking up the atmosphere. If I am to be honest, though, the district was not really anything special at that time. Of course, since then, there have been many more novels and most have been even more critical of Stalin and the thirties in the Soviet Union. Still and all, it was a book well worth revisiting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    "Children of the Arbat" is in the long Russian tradition of critical (as distinct from socialist) realism. It deals with the teenage and young adult lives of a group of children who grow up in Moscow's Arbat district, beginning in 1934, when Stalin's paranoia was beginning to ripen into political terror.[return][return]The novel explores the lives of those exiled by the secret police, and those who reach varying levels of accommodation by a regime which is tightening its grip on Russian society. "Children of the Arbat" is in the long Russian tradition of critical (as distinct from socialist) realism. It deals with the teenage and young adult lives of a group of children who grow up in Moscow's Arbat district, beginning in 1934, when Stalin's paranoia was beginning to ripen into political terror.[return][return]The novel explores the lives of those exiled by the secret police, and those who reach varying levels of accommodation by a regime which is tightening its grip on Russian society. Among the characters are Stalin himself, and such senior pre-WW2 Soviet figures as Kirov. The portrait of Stalin is remarkably consistent with that in Simon Sebag Montefiore's nonfiction work "The Court of the Red Tsar".[return][return]The inclusion of so many viewpoints slows down the narrative at times; but the central narrative of "Children of the Arbat" is strongly autobiographical, and it is the scenes involving the exiled Sasha Pankratov, his mother, his relatives, and his friend Varya that are, for me, the strongest. This fine novel is the first in Rybakov's "Arbat trilogy" (the others being "Fear" and "Dust and Ashes"), and I'm now keen to read these and find out how the story of Sasha, Varya and the rest continues. Given how Stalin's story continues, I suspect many tears remain to be shed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    If someone wants in Stalin's darkest thoughts to look I recommend to read this brilliant, amazing book It's hardly possible for reader to remain to be aloof, cool, calm, unmoved spectator While learning how horrible and treacherous and sick was crazy mind of fearsome and yet so fearful dictator 1. Memorable 5 2. Social Relevance 5 3. Informative 5 4. Originality 5 5. Thought Provoking 5 6. Expressiveness 5 7. Entertaining 5 8. Visualization 1 9. Sparks Emotion 5 10. Life Changing (Pivotal, crucial, determin If someone wants in Stalin's darkest thoughts to look I recommend to read this brilliant, amazing book It's hardly possible for reader to remain to be aloof, cool, calm, unmoved spectator While learning how horrible and treacherous and sick was crazy mind of fearsome and yet so fearful dictator 1. Memorable 5 2. Social Relevance 5 3. Informative 5 4. Originality 5 5. Thought Provoking 5 6. Expressiveness 5 7. Entertaining 5 8. Visualization 1 9. Sparks Emotion 5 10. Life Changing (Pivotal, crucial, determining, defining, momentous, fateful, consequential, climacteric, transformational) 2 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 1, 5, 2 ====> 43/10 = 4.3 http://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/51... This brilliant book (all 3 parts of it) offers unique in its depth psychological analysis of Stalin's character. Were all Asian/Oriental tyrants like that ? On anther hand - if this book is read by professional psychiatrist - would he be able to come up with some diagnosis ? All in all, Anatoly Rybakov was very talented writer. His literary style reminds me of Kaverin, but the issues covered by Anatoly Rybakov are much more social and broad then those of Kaverin. Aksenov's "Moscow saga" goes on similar lines with Anatoly Rybakov's "Children_of_the_Arbat" but it is much weaker in both literary and social effects.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sonia

    This was a hard book to read because the translation and editing was bad. I loved the parts about the "children" of Arbat and wish the book focused more on them instead of spending so much time internalizing Stalin's thinking. The parts about Stalin tended to drag out and I found myself skimming through them. I always heard that this was a very powerful book but I don't know if it was the translation or the writing itself but through out most of the book I could not really connect and feel for t This was a hard book to read because the translation and editing was bad. I loved the parts about the "children" of Arbat and wish the book focused more on them instead of spending so much time internalizing Stalin's thinking. The parts about Stalin tended to drag out and I found myself skimming through them. I always heard that this was a very powerful book but I don't know if it was the translation or the writing itself but through out most of the book I could not really connect and feel for the characters. I have read Rybakov in Russian many years ago so I know he's a powerful writer so I'm not sure why I had a problem with this book. Hopefully the next book in the trilogy will be better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    I am still under the spell of this engaging novel about young adults living on the Arbat in the 1930s and being caught up in the purges. However, it is not only about that topic, but about humans living, loving, fighting, and working. Interestingly, it also gets inside the head of Stalin, which is kind of an icky place to visit. Looking forward to reading the second one.

  13. 5 out of 5

    April

    There are few great novels to read about people and life in Soviet Russia. This is one of them. It's the story of the lives of a group of young Moscow intellectuals/ artists...during the beginning of Stalin's reign of terror....

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ritsa

    A breathtaking and fascinating book, set in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the height of Stalinist suppression. Very informative, very moving, it follows a group of young students - who were also Komsomol members - their belief in their country and the fact that they were "building socialism", and the inevitable disillusionment. The Arbat area in Moscow is known as being the bohemian, intellectual quarter (kind of like the Quartier Latin in Paris). A must for anyone interested in historical fict A breathtaking and fascinating book, set in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, the height of Stalinist suppression. Very informative, very moving, it follows a group of young students - who were also Komsomol members - their belief in their country and the fact that they were "building socialism", and the inevitable disillusionment. The Arbat area in Moscow is known as being the bohemian, intellectual quarter (kind of like the Quartier Latin in Paris). A must for anyone interested in historical fiction in general, and Soviet fiction in particular.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    I thought this book would never end and I didn’t want it to. This book was incredibly thought provoking and did an excellent job meticulously walking the reader through Stalin’s madness and the lives of young and old muscovites under his brutal dictatorship. I think this book should be up there with crime and punishment and I’m shocked I’d never heard of it before. Can’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Children of the Arbat was a sensation when it first became available to Soviet readers in 1987. A landmark text of glasnost, it was written between 1966 and 1983 but had been suppressed as anti-Stalinist and was therefore distributed only via very risky underground means known in the USSR as samizdat. But during the Perestroika era the novel was released in serial form in newspapers and its sequels 1935 and Other Years (1989), Fear (1990) and Dust & Ashes (1994) became available too. Children of Children of the Arbat was a sensation when it first became available to Soviet readers in 1987. A landmark text of glasnost, it was written between 1966 and 1983 but had been suppressed as anti-Stalinist and was therefore distributed only via very risky underground means known in the USSR as samizdat. But during the Perestroika era the novel was released in serial form in newspapers and its sequels 1935 and Other Years (1989), Fear (1990) and Dust & Ashes (1994) became available too. Children of the Arbat, set in the 1930s, is partly autobiographical: like the central character Sasha Pankratov, Anatoli Rybakov (1911-1998) was himself exiled to Siberia for three years. There are three strands to the story: Sasha’s arrest for spurious reasons and his exile to Siberia; life in Moscow as his girlfriend Varya Ivanova waits for his return; and the depiction of Stalin as he plots to cement his power by eliminating all opposition. The title is instructive: the Arbat today is a tourist precinct, a lively hub of commercial activity in the historic heart of Moscow. (It’s the only place I’ve ever been where you are offered a free vodka (neat!) as soon as you walk into a shop!) Before the Soviet era it was a place for artists, intellectuals and academics, and and today as it becomes gentrified it’s still a desirable place to live. But in the Soviet era it was where high-ranking officials lived, and the title of the book refers to the generation born at the time of the Russian Revolution, and by the 1930s were young adults who had grown up believing in its ideals. They were privileged by comparison with most people in the Soviet Union because they had better access to education and opportunity, they were in a position to see the economic progress being made under rapid industrialisation, and they were forgiving of the human cost because they saw it as an unavoidable aspect of the creation of the Soviet State which they wholeheartedly supported. The novel charts the slow disillusionment of this generation as they begin to see the consequences of rule by terror. To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/02/19/c...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marc Gerstein

    This is an amazing work and it’s easy to see why it took as long as it did for it to be published in Russia. And it stands as a strong example of the way fiction can serve to illuminate separate and apart from history, sociology, etc. The context is by now well known, the Stalinist era in the former USSR, the extreme authoritarianism, repressions, purges, etc. Solzhenitsyn gave us a hefty dose of that but Rybakov’s contribution is completely different. Instead of a borderline documentary of the w This is an amazing work and it’s easy to see why it took as long as it did for it to be published in Russia. And it stands as a strong example of the way fiction can serve to illuminate separate and apart from history, sociology, etc. The context is by now well known, the Stalinist era in the former USSR, the extreme authoritarianism, repressions, purges, etc. Solzhenitsyn gave us a hefty dose of that but Rybakov’s contribution is completely different. Instead of a borderline documentary of the worst extremes, Arbat gives takes us into the urban mainstream, young people who, although sometimes a bit rebellious and lacking in mature common sense as many young everywhere at all times can be, see themselves as bona fide members of and participants in the Soviet system. Nobody here is opposed to anything. Actually, the protagonists seem even more in-the-fold than the old US baby-boomer hippies who, left to their own lives, grew up to be soccer moms, company managers, doctors, accountants, engineers, republicans, etc. But the characters here lived in a very different world and were not left to their own devices. The tightest tightrope straddled by Rybakov involves his having included Stalin himself as a full-fledged character in the novel. It was an artistic risk that arguably turned out imperfect given the way it often disrupted the main story line and given the legitimacy issues that necessarily arise when an author presents details about a major historical figure that are necessarily way outside the range of that the author can see or know. So the reader is constantly challenged to understand the difference between literary expression and documentary. Rybakov is such a smooth writer, that boundary wasn’t always easy to see here. But at the end of the day, I think he pulled it off, albeit by the skin of his teeth. The fictional Stalin is an intriguing character. The externals that the world has come to know and hate are very much present. But at least with this character, the inner life presented to us give us cause to wonder how much of what he did was driven purely by his own inner nature and how much was influenced by the world and circumstances in which he lived.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manuel

    Brilliant. Although “1930s Russia” could sound like a difficult setting, it’s a very easy read and Rybakov creates this setting very well. The rotation of main characters and amount of Russian names require some extra attention when reading (as well as some Stalin parts) but the book’s a lot faster than it looks nonetheless.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    This book documents the horrors of the Stalinist reign of terror in the old Soviet Union from a uniquely Russian perspective .It is in fact written in a very similar style to Tolstoys 'War and Peace' The epic develops at just the right pace with well developed characters who are very real.The hero of the story Sasha Pankratov,a loyal Communinst Party member who falls victim to the rotten machinations of the party,the rebellious and strong yet vulnerable Varya Ivaova,the scheming and ruthless Yur This book documents the horrors of the Stalinist reign of terror in the old Soviet Union from a uniquely Russian perspective .It is in fact written in a very similar style to Tolstoys 'War and Peace' The epic develops at just the right pace with well developed characters who are very real.The hero of the story Sasha Pankratov,a loyal Communinst Party member who falls victim to the rotten machinations of the party,the rebellious and strong yet vulnerable Varya Ivaova,the scheming and ruthless Yuri Sharok,the opportunistic Vika Marasevitch,the colourless Nina Ivanova,the vilainous Kostya and a host of other characters who all get caught up one way or another in the evil of the Communist regime

  20. 4 out of 5

    Miles Kelly

    An immense work which gives an absorbing picture of life in the Soviet Union in the 1930's. A number of prominent historical characters feature, including Stalin, but the story is of a group of young people from the Arbat district of Moscow as the country is about to be engulfed in the Purges and the show trials.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kaju Janowski

    Would make much more an impact if I'd read it in my school days. It reminded me of the "Adventures of Werner Holt" - book showing the reality of the young when faced with times of political upheaval. The history of the two books is different, but the idea the same: gullibility of the young, innocent minds; inevitability of individualism in times of unanimous political revolution. Scary as shit

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

    The book to read, if you are Russian and if you want to understand your great and grand parents. The book to read to see what made Stalins period such. The book to understand how people fight or not with their destiny.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    A truly beautiful book. It conveys the human condition at so many levels, and in so many ways. From a despotic, 'total' ruler of hundreds of millions, to the 'ordinary', hard working, generally well meaning and kind people, who are increasingly forced to live within the tightening boundaries of his own self-sustaining vision. Most of all, this book is exceptionally 'human', packed with the details, worries, thoughts and asides of 'real people'. As such, it gives one an intimately truthful sense A truly beautiful book. It conveys the human condition at so many levels, and in so many ways. From a despotic, 'total' ruler of hundreds of millions, to the 'ordinary', hard working, generally well meaning and kind people, who are increasingly forced to live within the tightening boundaries of his own self-sustaining vision. Most of all, this book is exceptionally 'human', packed with the details, worries, thoughts and asides of 'real people'. As such, it gives one an intimately truthful sense of being present in a frightful, but nevertheless fascinating, place and time in history. From unrequited, distantly held or hinted at love, to the pride, dreams and belief of a better life, held by generations. In Rybakov's words are accounts of emphatically believable lives, led at every level; by unthinking, uncaring and selfish individuals, to those with un-dinted personal integrity, co-operatively working toward a state's political and socially 'utopian ideal'. There is the best internal character evocation of a burgeoning paranoiac sociopath (perhaps after Macbeth, Coriolanus and Hamlet ;-?) you will find. Given it is Stalin's thinking, this might not be a surprise, but how deftly and insightfully written. I get the impression that he may not have read much of Kafka. The depiction of his inner machinations, rationale and circular reasoning are an inspired insight and perspective. Most satisfying, though equally unsettling, from reading 'Children of the Arbat', was that I genuinely cared about what happened, and to whom; from the life of Sasha, his mother and Varya, Boris, Zida, through to Lipman (Stalin's dentist, the leaden plight and seeming inevitability of which nearly brought me to tears), Alfarov and 'even' Kirov. I had feelings and concerns for many of the characters, and, given that a 'country' is made up of such characters, possibly unsurprisingly, I 'felt' for the state as a whole...which, if you think about it, is quite an incredible feat. I can't help but believe that Rybakov is due a wider reappraisal and deserved republication...in the meantime I'm personally bagging an English translation of everything possible. 'Children of the Arbat' made me think of how the larger flow of History is generally the repetition of the gullible, accepting or disenfranchised 'many', being wittingly misled by the very 'powerful' and/or 'knowing' few...that it may simply be human nature writ large...but therefore, how very 'current', valuable and thought provoking this writing is. The number of automatic, contemporaneous parallels which came to mind throughout reading this book, made it much more like 'watching the news', than absorbing historic 'fiction'. For me it was an 'active', involved process, rather than merely following a plot; such were the emotions and thoughts it gave rise to. In an era of so called fear and 'threat', state instituted austerity, 'fake news', 'fake fake news', 'spin', professional 'spokespeople', 'multiple media platforms, Orwellian 'doublespeak' and the like, this book and this book's 'story' is a compelling and essential read. I wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I finished this feeling frustrated--so many plot lines left hanging. Then I discovered--with both consternation and delight--that it is the first volume of a tetralogy. Looks as if I will spend the next few months in the company of Stalin! The book is in the mode of the great a 19th century social novels. The action all takes place in 1934 and alternates between political history and the stories of a group of school friends in Moscow from different backgrounds and social classes. Rybatov uses the I finished this feeling frustrated--so many plot lines left hanging. Then I discovered--with both consternation and delight--that it is the first volume of a tetralogy. Looks as if I will spend the next few months in the company of Stalin! The book is in the mode of the great a 19th century social novels. The action all takes place in 1934 and alternates between political history and the stories of a group of school friends in Moscow from different backgrounds and social classes. Rybatov uses the third person, omniscient point-of-view in order to enter Stalin's mind. He wants to understand Stalin’s reasoning (however warped) to justify the Great Terror of the mid-1930s, and the book ends with an assassination which became a pretext for the purge. Rybatov assumes that readers are familiar with the Russian Revolution and the struggles within the party that followed. So you either need to have a strong background in Soviet history or keep Google handy for background information about historical characters and events. Who knew (certainly not me) about international contest for architectural designs for the Palace of the Soviets? I did know about how people from even formerly privileged classes lived in communal apartments, but Rybatov shows us how characters experienced this life. I have read about the Gulags, but the novel portrays the lives of another group, those who were exiled, but not imprisoned. But it is not just interesting history, but also a good novel with a rich, interwoven plot and complex characterization. Although I prefer to learn my history from fiction, after reading Children of the Arbat, I feel brave enough to tackle that biography of Stalin that has been sitting on my shelf.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    There are things about this book, many things, which are utterly incomprehensible to me. It was definitely a page-turner. I could not put it down, but the plot is . . . messy. The common criticism about Russian literature: "there are too many characters, too many names, can't understand the names;" I never understood those gripes in the context of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Pasternak. Over the course of this 647 page novel, I found myself many times getting lost in the blizzard of chara There are things about this book, many things, which are utterly incomprehensible to me. It was definitely a page-turner. I could not put it down, but the plot is . . . messy. The common criticism about Russian literature: "there are too many characters, too many names, can't understand the names;" I never understood those gripes in the context of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Pasternak. Over the course of this 647 page novel, I found myself many times getting lost in the blizzard of characters. (Who's Vika again?) Many of the character arcs just did not seem to make sense or were dead ends. It's noteworthy that this book first circulated through Samizdat; i.e. illegal, underground homemade copies. That fact alone doesn't make a it "great" book. This book is an important book, historically speaking, but Rybakov was badly in need of an editor. And that's what gets lost in Samizadat. The final draft is a first draft. For obvious reasons, the book feels unfinished: it is the first part of a trilogy. If the second had even been translated into English, would I read it? I don't know. I know that I would have loved to read more about Sasha Pankratov, about Varya & Nina, and about Lena Budyagina, the real children of the Arbat and their lives in 1930's Moscow and in exile in Siberia. And that's why I devoured the book. Turning Stalin and the central committee members into actual characters in the book was an interesting device, an experiment similar to what Tolstoy did in War and Peace, obviously, but it didn't really work in this novel. It seemed tedious and burned out after the first episode.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘A man is still alive as long as he breathes and hopes, and at the age of twenty-two, life is all hope.’ Arbat, Moscow, 1930s. Sasha Pankratov is an engineering student and a member of the Young Communist League. Sasha and his friends are of the generation born in hope, after the Russian Revolution. But Sasha is accused of subversion and arrested (surely a mistake, for he has done nothing wrong). Imprisonment is followed by exile just as Joseph Stalin moves towards his Reign of Terror. This is the ‘A man is still alive as long as he breathes and hopes, and at the age of twenty-two, life is all hope.’ Arbat, Moscow, 1930s. Sasha Pankratov is an engineering student and a member of the Young Communist League. Sasha and his friends are of the generation born in hope, after the Russian Revolution. But Sasha is accused of subversion and arrested (surely a mistake, for he has done nothing wrong). Imprisonment is followed by exile just as Joseph Stalin moves towards his Reign of Terror. This is the story of Sasha and his friends, young adults, as Stalin tightens his grip on the USSR. Sasha may not have done anything wrong, but he underestimates the threat posed by Stalin’s increasing paranoia. Suspicion and distrust pervade society, freedom (in all its forms) is sacrificed. The story unfolds through the views of Sasha, of his mother, of his friends in Moscow, and of Stalin. We see the difficulty of everyday life in Moscow, the hardships of prison and exile. For me, the two most memorable aspects of this novel are the depiction of Stalin and of Sasha’s life in exile. Sasha tries to help the villagers, by alerting them to the fact that a machinery part needs replacement, only to be accused of sabotage when the part breaks. Sigh. He will survive, but what will happen next? ‘You could kill a man, but you could never break him.’ Now that I have finished ‘Children of the Arbat’ I wish I had access to the remaining books in the Arbat Tetralogy. I would like to know what happens next. The book was not available to Soviet readers until 1987 because of its depiction of Stalin. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    The blurb on the front cover of my battered second hand paperback copy says: ‘the most important work of fiction by a Soviet author since Dr Zhivago’. Well, I disagree. I think it’s a much better piece of literature in every respect. I certainly enjoyed it a lot more. Banned for over 20 years by the Soviets for a reason, it’s an examination of Stalin’s USSR in the 1930s as experienced by a small group of young people from the Arbat, a district in Moscow, as they navigate their way through an incr The blurb on the front cover of my battered second hand paperback copy says: ‘the most important work of fiction by a Soviet author since Dr Zhivago’. Well, I disagree. I think it’s a much better piece of literature in every respect. I certainly enjoyed it a lot more. Banned for over 20 years by the Soviets for a reason, it’s an examination of Stalin’s USSR in the 1930s as experienced by a small group of young people from the Arbat, a district in Moscow, as they navigate their way through an increasingly restrictive and sinister society. Sasha still believes in the party but falls foul of the political standards of the day and is arrested and exiled. His journey and those of the family, friends and aquaintances he leaves behind, are interspersed with an examination of Stalin’s increasing paranoia as he tightens his grip on the Soviet state and begins to manoeuvre against his enemies, or at least, his perceived enemies. The characters are real and I got a sense of their hardships and privations, their great hope for the future after so much bloodshed, war and famine; their willingness to sacrifice for the realisation of the ambitious five year plans; I felt their frustration and finally their disillusionment. The novel ends with the prophecy: “there are dark days ahead”. A very good read. Still feels relevant. This is how totalitarian dictators get started.......tried and tested formula!

  28. 5 out of 5

    lärm

    It took me a few failed attempts to finish this one. It's not like Rybakov writes in a difficult style, but like most Russian writers he adds such an insane amount of characters to the story that it is difficult to keep track of who is who, especially since Russians tend to use more than one name for the same person. But the way Rybakov describes life under the terror of Stalin.. amazing and so captivating! The bureaucracy, the struggle for power, the struggle for survival, Stalin's paranoia.. i It took me a few failed attempts to finish this one. It's not like Rybakov writes in a difficult style, but like most Russian writers he adds such an insane amount of characters to the story that it is difficult to keep track of who is who, especially since Russians tend to use more than one name for the same person. But the way Rybakov describes life under the terror of Stalin.. amazing and so captivating! The bureaucracy, the struggle for power, the struggle for survival, Stalin's paranoia.. it's all there. This is just the first part of a series and the open end leaves me a bit unsatisfied. The fact that it will be a bitch to track down the other parts doesn't add to the overall joy. I want more! And I want it now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    As a social history of the Soviet Union in 1933, this gives fascinating insights into the morally somewhat ambiguous lives of young people in Moscow, their interaction with the older generation, the trials of those sent into exile to Siberian villages (not the camps), the convoluted thinking of the apparatchiks. The long monologues purporting to be Stalin's thoughts and reasons are interesting but we can't ever know how accurate they might be, and the details of the party in-fighting and manipul As a social history of the Soviet Union in 1933, this gives fascinating insights into the morally somewhat ambiguous lives of young people in Moscow, their interaction with the older generation, the trials of those sent into exile to Siberian villages (not the camps), the convoluted thinking of the apparatchiks. The long monologues purporting to be Stalin's thoughts and reasons are interesting but we can't ever know how accurate they might be, and the details of the party in-fighting and manipulations is heavy-going if you're not already familiar with some of it. The prose is rather flat and clunky at times but it was certainly interesting enough to make me want to read the next two volumes, to find out what happened to those people and to experience the nightmare 30s from the inside.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Roman B

    This book is brilliant and very Russian. This is best book I've read in the last 4 years. This is story about young people who lived in the center of Moscow. They believed in a bright future and loved the government and the Communist party. However one character in a book makes mistake. The whole bureaucratic machine is ruining his life and the lives of his friends. The Author perfectly showed the period 30 -40 years in the Soviet Union. His name is Anatoli Rybakov. His lived in that time and saw This book is brilliant and very Russian. This is best book I've read in the last 4 years. This is story about young people who lived in the center of Moscow. They believed in a bright future and loved the government and the Communist party. However one character in a book makes mistake. The whole bureaucratic machine is ruining his life and the lives of his friends. The Author perfectly showed the period 30 -40 years in the Soviet Union. His name is Anatoli Rybakov. His lived in that time and saw all the horrors of state system. I think this book can explain the reasons for the genetic fear and sadness of the Russian people. I couldn't put the book down until I got to the end! I can recommend it.

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