Cover image for Night of stone : death and memory in twentieth century Russia
Night of stone : death and memory in twentieth century Russia
Merridale, Catherine, 1959-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2001.

Physical Description:
402 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GT3256.2.A2 M47 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A brilliant new work of interpretative history that provides a unique perspective on the beautiful but tortured culture of twentieth-century RussiaRussia has endured more bloodshed than any other European country in the twentieth century. Yet, while countries such as Germany have learned the value of confronting the darker side of their own pasts, Russia has never faced the reality of its troubled history in a meaningful and collective way. In this provocative and highly original book, Catherine Merridale asks Russians difficult questions about how their country's volatile past has affected their everyday lives, their aspirations, their dreams, and their nightmares.Based on extensive research including rare imperial archives, Soviet propaganda, memoirs, letters, newspapers, literature, psychiatric studies, and texts, as well as interviews with doctors, priests, social workers, policemen, survivors, gravediggers, and funeral directors, Night of Stone seeks answers to the questions: What is the true impact of violence in the Soviet century? How successfully have the Russians psychologically rewritten their own histories? What rituals have survived the Soviet regime, and what do they tell us of the Russian mentality? Reminiscent of the highly successful The Hour of Our Death, Night of Stone is an emotionally wrenching, eloquent work that will appeal to all readers of Russian and European history as well as anyone interested in the processes of memory.

Author Notes

Catherine Merridale is a Senior Lecturer in history at the University of Bristol. She holds degrees from Cambridge & Birmingham. This book was supported by grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the British Academy, & the Russian Academy of Science. She is the author of two academic books on Russia & has written for the prestigious History Workshop Journal. She lives in Bristol, England.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Combining personal interviews and archival research, Merridale has written a gut-wrenching, at times absolutely chilling, account of death in Russia during the past century. This isn't a dry rattling off of numbers (although there are plenty of statistics) but a very successful attempt to fill the death count with human attitudes and emotions. Merridale grounds her work with chapters dealing with the czarist era--peasant attitudes toward life and death, political repression, and even teenage suicide; the revolution and civil war; Stalin's pre-and postwar repressions; World War II, which cost an estimated 25 million Soviet lives; and the decline in health care since the fall of the Soviet Union. The interviews are generally with people who have suffered the hardships of war and repression and with those who now bear witness to what such things (along with famine) have done to the Russian psyche. The writing is never slow, although occasionally gruesome, and Merridale maintains a nice balance among oral and written histories and her own analysis. --Frank Caso

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Russia's story of death has been obscured so often," explains Merridale (Perestroika: The Historical Perspective; Moscow Politics and the Rise of Stalin). The extraordinary scale of the violence and loss in modern Russian history has been shrouded in secrecy; indeed, the government has only recently acknowledged the hundreds of thousands killed under Stalin. "For 50 years," Merridale writes, "until the fall of Communism, families had kept bereavement of this kind to themselves.... It was dangerous, after all, to mourn the passing of an enemy of the people." Paying particular attention to the ways that Orthodox religion and Soviet atheism have affected Russian bereavement, Merridale explores Russian perceptions of death and afterlife from before the Bolshevik Revolution, through both world wars and the great famines of the 1930s and into the present. Her fascinating study is based on intimate conversations with bereaved Russians, as well as interviews with gravediggers, funeral directors, social workers, doctors and priests, and meticulous readings of imperial archives, Soviet propaganda, letters, memoirs, literature and government documents. (As Merridale points out, much of this research would have been impossible 20 years ago.) Merridale scrupulously avoids imposing her own ideological or cultural prejudices on her subject. By turns solemn and grisly, empathetic and scholarly, this inspired work provides a unique window on Soviet history through the brutality, ceremony and silences of death. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Merridale (history, Univ. of Bristol), the author of Moscow Politics and the Rise of Stalin: The Communist Party in the Capital, 1925-32 (1990) and Perestroika: The Historical Perspective (1991), offers a history of the Soviet Union from the perspective of the Russian view of death. The plodding beginning (a 30-page foreword) gives way to insightful historical perspective. This work is in line with recent histories by Gregory Freeze (Russia: A History, LJ 5/1/98), Martin Malia (Russia Under Western Eyes, LJ 2/1/99), and Robert Service (A History of Twentieth-Century Russia, LJ 3/1/98)) but adds new information about the purges of the Thirties and Forties, the liquidation of the Kulaks, and more contemporary pogroms and ethnic cleansings of Chechnia. Chapter 4, "Transforming Fire," begins to set this book apart from earlier works of Sovietologists; its treatment of the USSR funeral industry during the Twenties and Thirties is, in my reading, unique. Merridale's reason for writing is to help comprehend the feelings and actions of the present day. "Confusions about loyaltyhelp to explain why it is that some people still remain within the grip of memories that torment them. They were not happy in the past, but they cannot approve of the present either." Recommended for academic libraries. Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The subtitle gives some idea of this book's wide range--the many different types of deaths that occurred in Russia and the Soviet Union during the tortured century just completed. Deaths from famines, wars, and political repression figure most prominently, but deaths from other causes, such as the many diseases prevalent in late tsarist Russia, are also touched upon. Merridale (history, Bristol Univ.) bases her work not only on conventional sources but also on archival material and numerous oral-history interviews. She deals extensively with government and private attitudes and memories regarding death and death rituals, and offers interesting observations about Soviet policies toward cremation, tsarist-era cemeteries, and the deaths of Lenin and Stalin. Although Merridale rejects simplistic explanations such as "some ill-defined national characteristic" to explain Russia's high mortality rate in the past century, she does state that "ideological bigotry," the "political framework," repeated emergencies, and "almost universal fear" are starting points for understanding the mass scale of the deaths. Recommended for all libraries. W. G. Moss Eastern Michigan University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. v
Against the Darkness: An Introductionp. 1
1 Another Lightp. 21
2 A Culture of Deathp. 47
3 The Palace of Freedomp. 73
4 Transforming Firep. 101
5 Common and Uncommon Gravesp. 125
6 The Great Silencep. 154
7 Nights of Stonep. 184
8 Russia at Warp. 211
9 The Pantheonp. 241
10 Death in the Age of "Developed Socialism"p. 270
11 A Tide of Bonesp. 297
12 Listening for the Deadp. 324
Notes and Sourcesp. 349
Bibliographyp. 381
Indexp. 393