Stalin’s Secret Pogrom is a fascinating volume that presents many challenges as a historical source. Much of the information about the JAC and its associates contained in the transcript ought to be treated with great caution. Not only were the charges trumped-up, but the defendants were tortured, and their testimony was coerced. Nor should the transcript itself be studied as an orchestrated spectacle of Stalinist propaganda, inasmuch as the trial was held in secret and lacked much of the hyperbole characteristic of the show trials of the 1930s. Instead, the transcript testiªes to the bravery of many of the defendants, who sought throughout the trial to retract their confessions, proclaim their innocence, and exonerate themselves. Although Nikolai Bukharin is famous for having attempted to use his 1938 show trial to turn the tables on the prosecutor Andrei Vyshinskii, his rhetorical game of cat-and-mouse pales before the aggressive defense mounted by the JAC defendants. Their testimony ultimately spurred Aleksandr Cheptsov, the presiding judge at the JAC trial, to ask Georgii Malenkov (Stalin’s top aide) whether the proceedings could be suspended to allow for further investigation—a futile request that had no tangible effect on the murderous outcome of the affair.

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Copyright © 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This article first appeared in Journal of Cold War Studies 6:3 (2004), 172-174.

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