Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Trial Begins by Andrei Sinyavsky is a set during the months leading up to dictator Joseph Stalin's death. The overall theme of the novel is the disintegration of the Soviet society due to xenophobia, paranoia, and an extremist form of nationalism. The novel examines the social and political forces that help create a figuratively cannibalistic society.
Another theme in the novel is the tension between modern Communist values and morality. The Soviet Union during the Stalin and post-Stalin era was guided and controlled by state ideology—based on their interpretation of Karl Marx's political and economic philosophies—and concepts such as abortion were seen as an evil program, which is allegedly initiated by Jewish physicians.
The trial referred to in the title is both an actual trial that takes place in the story and a metaphor for a cosmic trial against the sins of humanity. In fact, supernatural or fantastical elements are major themes. An omniscient, omnipresent Joseph Stalin, referred to as Master in the story, is a guiding force in the narrator's actions.
Another underlying theme in the book is betrayal. The wife of Globov is betraying him with her suitor, Karlinsky, whilst Stalin's own comrades are betraying him by concocting a fictional coup d'état plot involving Jews.