Liberated from the Dead Hand ...

Lev Anninskiy describes his encounters with censored and uncensored history in Soviet Russia.

I was eleven years old in 1945 when the war ended, and my mother and I both gradually came to terms with the fact that my father would never return from the front line. In public we continued to wait, but inside ourselves we had said goodbye. A new chapter in my life started: my mother allowed me to take Father’s books from the shelf.

I neglected the works of philosophers like Vladimir Solovyov, novelists such as Tolstoy and all the books with no pictures in them. Instead, I was captivated by four nineteenth-century tomes on Russian history, which had illustrated capitals, heroic battles and portraits with haloes round the heads of the saints. The author was Nyechvolodov. (Many years later, when reading Solzhenitsyn, I found a lukewarm compliment to him.) The tomes had been stamped by some pre-revolutionary people’s college. Eventually I found out how my father came to have them: in the 1920s they had been condemned by the Soviets to be destroyed and my father, a young Komsomol (member of the Communist youth movement), stole them for himself.

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