Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 305

Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire is a nonfiction book by David Remnick. The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994, is often cited as an example of the then-new genre of journalistic-style writing called New Journalism, which combines journalism with the creative prose of fiction writing. One of the most prominent themes in Lenin's Tomb is the legacy of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, particularly the effects of Lenin's brutal policies during his tenure, as well as the ideologies he espoused.

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The other major theme of the book is the collapse of the communist-controlled Soviet Union. David Remnick was a correspondent for The Washington Post in Moscow during the final years of the Soviet Union, giving the writer a first-hand account of the collapse's intricate details and the events that led to it. For example, early in the book, Remnick details the discovery of corpses belonging to Poles who were killed during Stalin's tenure. The mass killings, called the Katyn Massacre, was carried out by the Soviet secret police on the orders of Joseph Stalin and other high-ranking Soviet officials. The excavation of the corpses was a literal and symbolic image of the Soviet Union's dark past being unearthed and exposed to the world.

Another theme in the book is how corruption can effectively erode a powerful nation's political structure. The book highlights several examples of corruption within the Kremlin, not only during the eras of Lenin and Stalin, but also up until the late-1980s. Remnick concludes that the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union in the past were a major contributing factor to the USSR's collapse. The book features several interviews with former Soviet officials, as well as ordinary citizens. The latter provided an intimate perspective to the Soviet machinery and added a dimension to the context of the book's thesis.

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