My Life in Stalinist Russia

My Life in Stalinist Russia

An American Woman Looks Back
Mary M. Leder, edited by Laurie Bernstein
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/13/2001
Format: Paperback 21 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21442-3
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Description

A sometimes astonishing, worm’s-eye view of life under totalitarianism, and a valuable contribution to Soviet and Jewish studies." —Kirkus Reviews

In 1931, Mary M. Leder, an American teenager, was attending high school in Santa Monica, California. By year’s end, she was living in a Moscow commune and working in a factory, thousands of miles from her family, with whom she had emigrated to Birobidzhan, the area designated by the USSR as a Jewish socialist homeland. Although her parents soon returned to America, Mary was not permitted to leave and would spend the next 34 years in the Soviet Union. Readers will be drawn into this personal account of the life of an independent-minded young woman, coming of age in a society that she believed was on the verge of achieving justice for all but which ultimately led her to disappointment and disillusionment. Leder’s absorbing memoir presents a microcosm of Soviet history and an extraordinary window into everyday life and culture in the Stalin era.

Author Bio

Mary M. Leder has lived in New York since her return from the Soviet Union in 1965.

Laurie Bernstein is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, Camden, and author of Sonia’s Daughters: Prostitutes and Their Regulation in Imperial Russia.

Robert Weinberg is Associate Professor of History at Swarthmore College. He is author of The Revolution of 1905 in Odessa: Blood on the Steps and Stalin’s Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and The Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland.

Reviews

“"The thoughtful memoirs of a disillusioned daughter of the Russian Revolution. . . . A sometimes astonishing, worm's-eye view of life under totalitarianism, and a valuable contribution to Soviet and Jewish studies." —Kirkus Reviews In January 1931, Mary M. Leder, an American teenager attending high school in Santa Monica, California, emigrated with her family to Birobidzhan, an area designated by the USSR as a Jewish socialist homeland. By year's end, she was living in a Moscow commune and learning a trade in a factory. My Life in Stalinist Russia chronicles Mary's experiences in the Soviet Union for the next 34 years, through the First Five Year Plan, the Great Terror, World War II, the Soviet occupation and the Cold War. Her remarkable story provides an extraordinary window into everyday life and culture in the Stalin era.”

“Mary Mackler Leder was by no means a significant figure in Stalinist Russia, but readers will find that she writes an arresting observer's account of life in Russia over more than two decades. Sovietologists of the Stalinist era will find interesting anecdotes about Soviet life that confirm, revise, and in some cases authenticate the constructed sociology of the time. One example that constantly reappears is Leder's insistence on stating that she is an American, while the authorities both high and low, all across the Soviet Union, simply classify her as Jewish, with all the usual and stereotypical ramifications of that view. Two particular periods of the account are noteworthy—those about the purges in the 1930s and the war years, during which time her baby daughter died. Perhaps most remarkable is Leder's ability to recall her past with exquisite detail and precision so many years beyond the events. Upper-division undergraduates and above.January 2002”
 — C. W. Haury, Piedmont Virginia Community College

“Mary Mackler Leder was by no means a significant figure in Stalinist Russia, but readers will find that she writes an arresting observer's account of life in Russia over more than two decades. Sovietologists of the Stalinist era will find interesting anecdotes about Soviet life that confirm, revise, and in some cases authenticate the constructed sociology of the time. One example that constantly reappears is Leder's insistence on stating that she is an American, while the authorities both high and low, all across the Soviet Union, simply classify her as Jewish, with all the usual and stereotypical ramifications of that view. Two particular periods of the account are noteworthy—those about the purges in the 1930s and the war years, during which time her baby daughter died. Perhaps most remarkable is Leder's ability to recall her past with exquisite detail and precision so many years beyond the events. Upper-division undergraduates and above.January 2002”
 — C. W. Haury, Piedmont Virginia Community College

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Table of Contents

Introduction by Laurie Bernstein and Robert Weinberg
Prologue
1. My Family Leaves for the Soviet Union—1931
2. Birobidzhan—1931
3. Settling in Moscow—1931 to 1932
4. The Factory and the Commune—The Winter of 1931/1932
5. A Teenager in Moscow—Spring 1932
6. My parents leave—Summer of 1932 to Summer of 1933
7. Americans and Other Foreigners in Moscow—1933 to 1934
8. A Biology Student at Moscow University—1934 to 1935
9. A History Student at Moscow University—1935 to 1936
10. At the Commissariat of Defense—November 1936 to March 1938
11. Purges and the Publishing House—Spring 1938 to Winter 1939
12. Newlyweds—Winter 1939 to Summer 1941
13. The Outbreak of War—1941
14. Evacuation from Moscow and Return—Fall 1941 to Spring 1942
15. TASS and Moscow University—1942 to 1946
16. Berlin—1946
17. Postwar Moscow—1947
18. Postwar Anti-Semitism—1948 to 1950
19. Respite—1950
20. During Stalin’s Final Years—1950 to 1953
Suggestions for Further Reading
Index