The Great Terror

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Robert Conquest, famous for his Three Laws of Politics, has passed away at the age of 98:

An ardent Bolshevik as a young man, Conquest became a bitter foe of Soviet “Socialism”. He had first visited Russia in 1937 as a youthful devotee of the great experiment. It was a half century before he returned in 1989, having spent his life between chronicling the horrors the country had endured, and emerging, in the view of the Oxford historian Mark Almond, as “one of the few Western heroes of the collapse of Soviet Communism”. “He was Solzhenitsyn before Solzhenitsyn,” said Timothy Garton Ash.

Of his many works on the subject, perhaps the most important was The Great Terror, published in 1968 and detailing the full enormity of what Stalin had done to the Russian people in the 1930s and 1940s. The Mexican writer Octavio Paz paid the most succinct tribute to this book when he said in 1972 that The Great Terror had “closed the debate” about Stalinism.


Among other interests, Conquest was a lifelong member, later fellow, of the British Interplanetary Society, to which he was recruited by a young civil servant called Arthur C Clarke. He also published a science fiction novel, A World of Difference. His last poetry collection, Penultima, was published in 2009.


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