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Best history book 2019: & apos; Red famine & apos ;, by Anne Applebaum


Before the transparent impact of the Glasnost, British historian Robert Conquest wanted to nail the scalpel with subtlety. I was convinced that I could dissect, despite the d

  • Special 2019. Best Spanish novel of the year: 'Lluvia fina', by Luis Landero

Before the transparent impact of the Glasnost, British historian Robert Conquest wanted to nail the scalpel with subtlety. He was convinced that he could dissect, despite the committed official material at his disposal, one of the darkest chapters of Stalinism: the purges commanded by Yosif Stalin . Despite the induced absence of light in the operating room, Conquest's original incision should not have been imprecise, when the 1968 publication of his historical investigation, The Great Terror (Caralt Editors), was received with little hostility in a world whose left hemisphere suffered such ideological blindness - as Martin Amis demonstrated in Koba the Fearful (Anagram) - that still condescended with one of the most exterminating murderous regimes in our recent history: the USSR . Twenty years later, the opening of the former Soviet archives and their critical review led Conquest to publish an updated version of what happened in the Soviet Union in the 1930s: the purges had been authentic escabechinas.

For Anne Applebaum , files that nobody has read still sleep . And, more importantly, analyzed. Specialized and addicted to Soviet history, studious of that logic of mass repression determined by ideology , devoured the great terror of adolescence. No other book has influenced his life so much. Applebaum (Washington, 1964) is a journalist and writer, two concepts of antagonistic reputation but that she conceives as complementary and similar. In both, after all, curiosity wins. «In journalism», he explained recently in Letras Libres , «questions to different people, in history, questions from different sources: the party, the opposition, a newspaper» to outline an image as immaculately delineated. One difference? «In one case you ask the present and in another, the past».

A group of peasants from Ukraine, in the early thirties.

Firm liberal, rigorous historian, his field of excellence is Eastern Europe, there is The Iron Curtain: the destruction of Eastern Europe (Debate). He conquered it by proximity, proof of charge of why individual cases have so much prominence in his work, convinced that the understanding of the great moments of history is only achieved "when you start to see how ordinary people fit into them." He landed in Warsaw in 1988 with the accreditation of a correspondent for The Economist to explore the socio-political transitions of the region. But the uncontrollable swings of Eastern Europe escaped to the present. Married to Radosaw Sikorski, writer and former minister in Poland, with Polish nationality, 10 years after his landing, already collapsing communism, Applebaum asked himself: «But how did we get there? Why could it be installed? Why do people collaborate with these murderous regimes? The answers, in the stalinization .

If Applebaum could indoctrinate us with a forced book that would be My life , by Trotsky. If he could teleport us at once, he would take us to Petrograd in 1917 ... between the revolutions of February and October! And is that history, facts, are the only thing that explain everything. Reading Applebaum strengthens that of those who do not care about the repetition of what happened is because they do not know, do not remember or do not want to remember. Now that the single-party illiberal state is located all over the world , she remembers that the Leninist state is not a philosophy, but a mechanism to preserve the power that works because it clearly defines who the elite is. «In the books of the future» he wrote in The Atlantic , «the founder of the USSR will not be remembered for his Marxist convictions, but as the inventor of this lasting form of political organization. The model that many of the incipient autocrats of today's world use ».

Reading it is strengthened that who does not care about the repetition of what happened is because he does not know, does not remember or does not want to remember

Washington Post columnist, Senior Fellow of International Affairs, Agora Fellow in Residence of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a professor at the London School of Economics ... his encumbrance came in 2004 with the nonfiction Pulitzer. Being able to access the Soviet archives, in Gulag. History of the Soviet concentration camps (Debate), Applebaum approached the first fields erected just after triumphing the revolution established by Lenin in the Solovetsky Islands, going through its expansion with Stalin until the final stage, with the thaw and its transformation into Psychiatric A crude approach to two of the pillars on which every autocratic system is based: fear and the destruction of the dissident .

This year has been published in Spain Red famine. The story of Stalin against Ukraine (Debate), another very documented work, despite the restrictions imposed by the turn of Putin, deserving of being ranked among the best in 2019. Taking the witness of The Great Terror , Applebaum breaks down here the most I try from Stalin to erase an entire nation, the Ukrainian, from the face of the earth. A tanatopurpose pursued based on repression and, above all, hunger. Almost five million people perished from 1931 to 1934 as a result of the collectivization of crops, a Stalin cheating with which to exterminate a peasant population where nationalist sentiment was deeply rooted . "Stalin," Applebaum explains in a recent interview with THE WORLD, "knew the famine in the country in the early 1930s. However, he made the intentional determination in 1932 of tightening conditions in Ukraine, including dozens of collective farms and blacklisted villages, blocking the country's borders so that people could not leave and creating seizure brigades that went from house to house keeping the food of the peasants. Even today there are those who argue that the famines were neither provoked nor fed in time. But Applebaum documents not only how it was tried with them and other repressive methods used against the cultural, intellectual and religious elites of the republic to destroy Ukraine as a nation, but how it was tried to hide it from the verdict of History.

"If the right conditions exist," Applebaum maintains, "any society can turn against democracy . In fact, if history is something we can be guided by, it is what all societies will do.


1. Red back. Violence and revolution in the Spanish civil war (Madrid, Galaxia Gutenberg, 2019), by Fernando del Rey Reguillo.

2. The Third Reich. A history of Nazi Germany (Barcelona, ​​Critique, 2019), by Thomas Childers.

3. Languages ​​between two fires. Interpreters in the Spanish Civil War (Granada, Comares, 2019), by Jesús Baigorri Jalón.

4. Rise and crisis. Europe, 1950-2017. An uncertain path (Barcelona, ​​Criticism, 2019), by Ian Kershaw.

5. The Orb at his feet. Magallanes and Elcano (Barcelona, ​​Ariel, 2019), by Pedro Insua.


1. The tragedy of liberation. A story of the Chinese revolution (1945-1957) (Cliff), by Frank Dikkoter.

2. Churchill. The biography (Criticism), by Andrew Roberts.

3. Mussolini vs. Lenin (Alliance), by Emilio Gentile.

4. Carlos V. A new life of the emperor (Planet), by Geoffrey Parker.

5. Red famine. Stalin's war against Ukraine (Debate), by Anne Applebaum.


1. Broken communities. A global history of the civil wars 1917-2017 (Galaxia Gutenberg), by Javier Rodrigo and David Alegre.

2. Red famine: Stalin's war against Ukraine (Debate), by Anne Applebaum.

3. The loneliness of the vulnerable country. Japan since 1945 (Criticism), by Florentino Rodao.

4. The tragedy of liberation. A history of the Chinese revolution (1945-1957) (Cliff), of

Frank Dikötter

5. The kingdom of Hispania (VIII-XII centuries). Theory and practice of power (Akal), by Javier Fernández Conde, José María Mínguez and Ermelindo Portela.


1. Emilia Pardo Bazán (Taurus / Fundación Juan March), by Isabel Burdiel.

2. Too many setbacks. Spain 1898-2018 (Galaxia Gutenberg), by Santos Juliá.

3. The concentration camps of Franco (Editions B), Carlos Hernández de Miguel.

4. A betrayed people (Debate), by Paul Preston.

5. Spain. A portrait of greatness and hate (Espasa), José Varela Ortega.


1. Too many setbacks. Spain 1898-2018 (Galaxia Gutenberg), by Santos Juliá.

2. Art and artifice of life in common. Behavior models and their tensions in the Century of Lights (Marcial Pons), by Mónica Bolufer.

3. Empires and globalization in Europe (XV-XVII centuries) (Gutenberg Galaxy), by Bartolomé Yun.

4. Rise and crisis. Europe, 1950-2017 (Criticism), by Ian Kershaw.

5. The amnesics. History of a European family (Tusquets), by Géraldine Schwarz.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

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