BOOK REVIEWS: The Human Face of Tyranny; I Want to Live, by Nina Lugovskaya, Transworld Publishers, Pounds 16.99

Article excerpt

Byline: Reviewed by Alun Thorne

Each year thousands, maybe millions, of Russians take to the streets to celebrate May Day.

Even since the fall of Communism and the end of the great Union more than 15 years ago, Russians still dress up in their fineries, unfurl their banners and march for International Workers' Solidarity Day.

Many diehard Communists hanker for the day, as unlikely as it may be, when their nation returns to the principles of the old Soviet regime of collectivism and dictatorship.

But many millions more revel in their new found freedoms, as fragile as they may still seem to the outside world, and have no desire to return to the days of grinding poverty and fear that were the hallmarks of the old Soviet Union.

The violence of the former Communist regime in Soviet Russia is well documented but the sheer scale of the heinous crimes against humanity committed under the reign of Joseph Stalin has never really embedded itself in the psyche of the West.

As "Uncle Joe", Stalin was the stalwart ally who bled Hitler white in the frozen East but as the years elapsed after the fall of the Reich, so details of the terrible reality of life in the Soviet Union reached the West.

But even seminal works, like Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, which described the hell of the Siberian camps experienced by so many millions of Russians under Stalin, have never elevated his crimes in the minds of many as on a par with the maniacal excesses of Hitler. …