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The Spectre of Stalin

In a dramatic new docu-novel, one of the Soviet Union's leading
writers offers a vivid portrait of Stalin and a glimpse at the Great Terror

By John Ebon.
Reported by Antonina W. Bouis, Jean-Claude Bouis
and James 0. Jackson/Moscow

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To Rybakov, all this is not history in the abstract but the stuff of memory. Like his hero Pankratov, the author lived in the Arbat district, studied at the Moscow Transport Institute and for three years was a political prisoner in Siberia. "Sasha Pankratov has my biography," he says. "I was expelled and exiled for a similar college newspaper prank." After finishing his sentence, Rybakov was forbidden to live in a large city. He traveled a lot, picking up odd jobs-driving trucks, teaching ball-room dancing - that did not require him to fill out personnel forms. "As soon as I got to a new town he recalls, "I would make the acquaintance of a local woman. That way, I'd have a place to sleep, at least for the first night."

During World War II, was a transport officer in the 8th Infantry Corps of Guards. Then he decided to try his hand at writing. His first book was a 1948 adventure story for children called The Dirk, which was turned into a movie, a feature-length cartoon, a TV special and a play, all written by Rybakov. "That's the only way a writer can make money, by doing his own adaptations," he says. "It takes me two years to write a book and two weeks to do the screenplay-and I get four times as much for that!"


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