I’ve written about the controversial historian Orlando Figes a number of times (for the correct pronunciation of his name, see this post); his prose is very readable, but his facts are not always reliable (and of course there was that business about his Amazon reviews and threats to sue, covered in the links below). There’s more controversy, this time about his recent book The Whisperers; Peter Reddaway and Stephen Cohen publicized it in a Nation article, and Robert Booth and Miriam Elder reported on it for the Guardian, saying:
Figes had commissioned hundreds of interviews with the relatives of victims of gulag labour camps to produce a 700-page chronicle of “private life in Stalin’s Russia”, published in 2007. But the Moscow-based publisher, and a historian who conducted some of the interviews, claim some of the material was misrepresented. While none of the alleged errors would strike the lay reader as particularly egregious, the Russians argue Figes’ version of some of the most tragic events in Russian history would cause distress to relatives of gulag victims.
For that reason, Russian publishers have rejected a translation of the book.
That sordid squabble by itself wouldn’t necessarily be LH material, but in the comments at the Guardian, a reader says “One thing that Figes has done is to put his source material on the Internet, where anyone can access it. In a way these documents and interview transcripts speak more eloquently that the book could. It’s an extraordinary oral history project,” and gives links to extended extracts from the interviews and the family archives; I thought they were worth passing along here for anyone who is interested in the period (and can read Russian). Hat tip to Garrigus Carraig for the links.