Cover image for Dangerous thoughts : memoirs of a Russian life
Dangerous thoughts : memoirs of a Russian life
Orlov, Yuri, 1924-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : William Morrow and Company, 1991.
Physical Description:
348 pages ; 25 cm
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QC16.O64 A3 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this highly personal memoir, Yuri Orlov, celebrated scientist and human rights activist, recalls his life in pre-Glasnost Russia. He describes his days as a young man under Stalin, the persecution of his friends Sakharov and Scharansky, and his release from exile, in the famous spy for dissident swap arranged by the U.S., which generated international headlines.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a gripping autobiography, Soviet human rights activist Orlov, now a physicist at Cornell University, offers a searing glimpse of Russia's tragic 20th century. His childhood village destroyed by Stalinist collectivization, the author, a factory worker during WW II, gradually became disillusioned with communism. His call for democracy in 1956 earned him exile to Armenia. Returning to Moscow in 1972, he rallied to the support of Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn, defending freedom of speech and religion. Arrested by the KGB in 1977, Orlov was sent to a labor camp, and in 1984, as a political exile, was shunted to an Arctic village. His freedom was secured as part of President Reagan's swap involving a Soviet spy and American journalist Nicholas Daniloff, falsely accused of espionage. In an understated literary masterpiece shot through with pungent Gorkyesque realism, Orlov lambastes Gorbachev for being ``unable to confront the total bankruptcy of his old faith.'' Author tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Physicist Orlov became a human rights activist only after a productive 30-year career in science and membership in the Communist Party. This autobiography recounts his formative years with his peasant grandmother, his war years as a lathe operator in a military factory, and his slow, agonizing realization of the worth of each individual. The formation of the human rights monitoring group Helsinki Watch in 1976 led to his trial in 1978, to seven years in a labor camp in Siberia, and to his expulsion from the USSR in 1986. Unlike accounts by other Soviet dissidents, Orlov's story doesn't dwell on the suffering of the Soviet people during the Stalin years, nor does it concentrate on the agonies endured by prisoners in a labor camp. Instead, it is told with good humor and is utterly devoid of bitterness. Recommended for general collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/91.-- Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

It is difficult for those who live in free societies to imagine the plight of individuals in nations where thoughts and words against the government result in imprisonment, torture, or exile. In these painful pages, a Russian victim of communist dictatorship reminisces, with insight and dignity, on his own misadventures under a system that for decades fooled many intellectuals abroad into believing that it alone stood for the well-being of the common man. From the now-distant atrocities of Stalinist ruthlessness to more recent outrages of Siberian seclusion and psychiatric indignities, much mischief has been wrought in the USSR on those who clamored for freedom and spoke out against hypocrisy and corruption. When Yuri Orlov, once a devotee of "Saint" Joseph (Stalin) and ardent member of the Communist Party, deviated from the party line, his troubles began. But he continued to question the system, while practicing physics, and went on to found the "Helsinki Watch" to keep an eye on the Soviets' promise to the international community to respect the human rights of its citizens. For this he was condemned as a CIA spy, interned in labor camps, constrained from scientific research, and barred from writing letters to the outside world. Thanks to support from abroad, the dogged determination of others (like Sakharov), and to the transformations within the Soviet Union, Orlov was finally let go. This is a significant book, not simply for its moving portrayal of aspects of communist life that most people outside are not aware of in detail, but, more importantly, because it is representative of the experiences of countless thinkers, intellectuals, scientists, and non-state-sponsored religious people in dictatorships that still survive in the modern world.-V. V. Raman, Rochester Institute of Technology