Until Russia acknowledges its terrorist communist past, Satter argues that the country cannot hope to progress.
The author opens his book with a scene from the spring of 1989. A group of young students uncover human remains in a Siberian Forest clearing. The skulls are all neatly pierced by bullet holes, an evidence of the work of Stalin executioners (Satter, 2011). The group digs up more mass graves, which stretch through the forest. Present day Russia is haunted by actions that have not been analyzed and words that have been left unsaid. The country has not seriously attempted to examine what impact the communist era had on its society. Millions of victims of the era are all but forgotten. The terror exhibited under Joseph Stalin has been swept under the carpet and overlooked by both the country’s leaders and the citizens. The author shows how activists’ effort to get the government and the citizens to acknowledge the extent of the Soviet Crimes against humanity, to advocate for human rights, and to commemorate the millions of victims have been met official hostility and public indifference.
Satter writes that post-soviet Russia, unlike Germany, has never been wracked with collective guilt for the war crimes of its old regimes. Few Russians have been willing to dig into the country’s not so distant past to uncover the truth and demand for justice or reconciliation (Satter, 2011). Most Russians appear to have forgotten the crimes committed during the soviet era as a wave of free-market reforms took away their jobs and savings. The Russian leaders have meanwhile embarked on portraying the soviet era as one of greatness. According to Satter, the current regime has not achieved any historical achievement of global importance. The leaders thus fall back on the Soviet era accomplishments such as the space program and victory in World War II. Thus the leaders and Putin in particular have served to paint Stalin as an