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The House of Government:
A Saga of the Russian Revolution
Yuri Slezkine

Selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, 8-24-17

Hardcover | 2017 | $39.95 | £29.95 | ISBN: 9780691176949
1128 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 416 b/w illus., 2 maps
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400888177 |
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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.


"This panoramic history plotted as an epic family tragedy describes the lives of Bolshevik revolutionaries who were swallowed up by the cause they believed in. The story is as intricate as any Russian novel, and the chapters on the Stalinist Terror are the most vivid."--New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

"A Soviet War and Peace."--Sheila Fitzpatrick, London Review of Books

"To roam the corridors of the House of Government, following the endlessly intersecting stories of Bolshevik families at home, is to come as close as a distant reader can to the horror, strangeness and disorientating pathos of the revolution. Slezkine’s scholarship and his powerful historical imagination take us into the heart of the confrontation between the everyday reality of Bolshevism and its extreme millenarian metaphysics. . . . The meaning of The House of Government is in reading it, right to the end. It is a monumental edifice of scholarship and historical insight."--Rachel Polonsky, Standpoint

"What is most valuable about Slezkine’s work is its exhaustive use of unpublished diaries and personal correspondence. . . . His erudition is unparalleled, his judgements are sane and his intentions are noble."--Donald Rayfield, Literary Review

"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)

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