The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution. Yuri Slezkine (Princeton University Press)
Written in the tradition of Tolstoy's War and Peace, Grossman’s Life and Fate, and Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, Yuri Slezkine 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.
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).