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.
Awards and Recognition
- Winner of the 2018 PROSE Award in World History, Association of American Publishers
- Honorable Mention for the 2019 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies, Nanovic Institute, University of Notre Dame
- Winner of the 2018 George L. Mosse Prize, American Historical Association
- Winner of the 2018 Norris and Carol Hundley Award, Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association
- Shortlisted for the 2018 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
- Selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, Aug 24, 2017
- One of The Spectator 2017 Books of the Year
- One of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2017
- One of The Times Literary Supplement’s Books of the Year 2017
- One of The Guardian’s Best Books of 2017
- One of Open Letters Monthly’s “Our Year in Reading 2017
- One of the Economist.com "Wise Words 2017 Books of the Year" in History
- One of the Millions.com “A Year in Reading 2017: Stephen Dodson”
- One of World’s 2017 Books of the Year in “History”
- One of London Review Bookshop’s Best History Books, Christmas 2017
- Selected for Le Monde’s “Monde des livres” 2017 (chosen by Nicolas Weill)
- One of The Australian’s Books of the Year 2017 (chosen by Louis Nowra)
- One of the Times Colonist Favorite Books of 2017 (chosen by Adrian Dix)
- One of Mosaic's Best Books of 2018 (Ruth Wisse)