Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Russia
During the 20th century, Russia, Ukraine and other territories of the former Soviet Union experienced more violent and avoidable deaths than anywhere else on earth. Two World Wars and one Civil War, state-created famines and purges are only the most significant chapters in an unrelenting epic of destruction. How did Russians cope with loss and bereavement on such a vast scale? How does such a society mourn, and how does it treat its dead? This study opens with a description of the ornate, public services of the old Orthodox rite and traces the various attempts to impose an acceptable and emotionally fulfilling atheist alternative as Bolshevism bore down on public and private rituals of all kinds. Untold millions of Russians were forbidden to mourn their loved ones who died as enemies of the people, kulaks, prisoners of war or vanished victims of the purges. Catherine Merridale has interwoven the history of the modern Russian empire with the private memories of those left behind, the bereaved, and attempts to understand how they dealt with loss.