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Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR by Pavel Polian

Rating: 1/5 Stars


I’ll begin this review with a quote from the afterword – “It seems to me that, all in all, the author managed to produce a book designed for a broad audience, and not merely an academic ‘monograph’ – although valuable – intended for a relatively narrow circle of experts.” For me, this could not seem further from the truth. This book does indeed seem like ‘an academic monograph … intended for a relatively narrow circle of experts.’

I will admit that history was always my worst subject, I typically have very little interest in historical non-fiction, especially military/political historical non-fiction, and I started with pretty much zero background knowledge on ‘forced migrations in the USSR.’ If you fall into a similar category I am going to say this book is definitely not for you.

I found this account leaning much farther toward geography than history – filled with endless figures, maps, percentages, charts of the ‘forced migration’ efforts and patterns of the many different peoples involved. Very well researched and thorough in this regard. However, what was lacking for me (and what I desperately needed to hold my interest) was the real substance – the meat of the story behind the numbers and figures. I wanted a deeper account of why these different groups were forced/coerced off of their home lands, what were their journeys like, what were their new lives like once they were transitioned. I’m not saying these bits were completely absent from the work – I just wish they were expanded upon ten-fold.

In conclusion, if you are looking for population figures and patterns for a USSR research paper this is the perfect resource. If you are inexperienced with the topic and just want some background knowledge, I would look elsewhere first.


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