Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

Moscow, 1937

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of History

Moscow, 1937

Article excerpt

Moscow, 1937, by Karl Schlogel; translated by Rodney Livingstone. Cambridge, Polity Press, 2012. xx, 652 pp. $35.00 US (cloth).

Moscow, 1937 needs the Internet. Its scope and depth reflect astounding, fascinating scholarship, but it is likely beyond the imaginative and conceptual grasp of the average reader without additional images. The book attempts to re-create, in both form and milieu, the Russian capital in that year. It is an extended attempt at what Clifford Geertz called "thick description," although Schlogel refers to it as "a chronograph."

Whatever the rubric, Moscow, 1937 cries out for hyperlinks; no book publisher could possibly provide the number or variety of photographs and maps and illustrations Schlogel's work demands. Without them, readers who are familiar with modern Moscow have some slight chance of re-imagining the city as Schlogel describes it--or as it really was in 1937; those who have never been there will be hard-pressed to picture it.

For more than 550 pages of text about events that took place in a city during more than a year, there are three maps and a two-page aerial view of the city in 1937. One map, in a short section subtitled "Moscow as a City on the Enemy Map," is about one-fourth the width of the page and accompanied by a lot of very small print. A second is a geological map of the Soviet Union. The third, which appears inside the front and back covers, shows the entirety of the city with dots representing forty locations.

Schlogel opens the text, moreover, with a long, interpretive re-capitulation of the midnight flight of Margarita from the iconic novel of Stalinist Moscow by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita. …

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