On the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the epic story of an enormous apartment building where Communist true believers lived before their destruction
The House of Government is unlike any other book about the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman’s Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine’s gripping narrative tells the true story of the residents of an enormous Moscow apartment building where top Communist officials and their families lived before they were destroyed in Stalin’s purges. A vivid account of the personal and public lives of Bolshevik true believers, the book begins with their conversion to Communism and ends with their children’s loss of faith and the fall of the Soviet Union.
Completed in 1931, the House of Government, later known as the House on the Embankment, was located across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. The largest residential building in Europe, it combined 505 furnished apartments with public spaces that included everything from a movie theater and a library to a tennis court and a shooting range. Slezkine tells the chilling story of how the building’s residents lived in their apartments and ruled the Soviet state until some eight hundred of them were evicted from the House and led, one by one, to prison or their deaths.
Drawing on letters, diaries, and interviews, and featuring hundreds of rare photographs, The House of Government weaves together biography, literary criticism, architectural history, and fascinating new theories of revolutions, millennial prophecies, and reigns of terror. The result is an unforgettable human saga of a building that, like the Soviet Union itself, became a haunted house, forever disturbed by the ghosts of the disappeared.
Yuri Slezkine is the Jane K. Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include The Jewish Century (Princeton), which won the National Jewish Book Award.
"Mammoth and profusely researched. . . . A work begging to be debated; Slezkine aggregates mountains of detail for an enthralling account of the rise and fall of the revolutionary generation."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"An utterly gripping masterwork. As residents of the House of Government enjoy privileged childhoods, fall in love and marry, rise to power, betray each other, and are arrested and shot, we learn about the peculiar nature of Bolshevism and get a new history of Russia. But the book’s compelling brilliance is its living organic nature--a mixture of historical narrative, novel, and family saga with echoes of Grossman, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, and even Tolstoy."--Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar
"Few books are truly visionary, but The House of Government earns this description. The cumulative effect of this massive chronicle of the Soviet era is devastating and, more important, utterly satisfying. It's a work of art in itself, a beautifully written exploration of a central phase of modern history, and one that has never seemed as terrifyingly relevant. Tolstoy himself would have recognized Yuri Slezkine as an artist, as the author of a narrative with transmogrifying power, an epic that functions on countless levels at the same time."--Jay Parini, author of The Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy's Final Year
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Yuri Slezkine: