Laying Siege to Lubianka

Laying Siege to Lubianka

ARRESTED VOICES: RESURRECTING THE DISAPPEARED WRITERS OF THE SOVIET REGIME, by Vitaly Shentalinsky. Translated by John Crowfoot. Martin Kessler Books, The Free Press, 1996. 322 pp. $25.00.

Vitaly Shentalinsky is a Russian poet, journalist, and historian, now in his early fifties. During the Soviet period, like so many people of his generation, he became an avid reader of samizdat, or underground, literature. What gripped him most were writings by and about once-famous Soviet writers who had been cast into limbo.

It was a gruesome story. Thousands of writers, many of them ardent supporters of the revolution, had found themselves hounded, excoriated in the press, and forced to criticize or disavow their own writings at debasing meetings staged in front of “fellow writers or indignant workers and peasants.” Some were arrested and never heard from again. Others were executed on the spot. Their writings vanished from public libraries and bookstores; references to their works were excised from textbooks and encyclopedias.