Books and movies


The Revolutionary

2012 Irv Drasnin USA

The Revolutionary is a documentary film that deals with a fascinating chapter in the history of Chinese communism: That of American communist Sidney Rittenberg, the first American citizen to join the Chinese Communist Party. By the time he left China to return to the USA in 1977, he had served almost 16 years in solitary confinement across two different prison sentences for crimes that he was innocent of. He offers firsthand insight into the ruthless political leadership of Mao’s regime, including major political and economic campaigns such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). He also discusses how he struggled to reconcile his former convictions as a communist with the senseless violence and brutality he was surrounded by during his time in China.


The Lives of Others

2006 Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Germany

Set in 1984 East Berlin, The Lives of Others addresses the surveillance of citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) by the infamous Stasi secret police. The story follows Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler, who leads a surveillance operation against playwright and ostensible regime loyalist Georg Dreyman. However, Wiesler’s loyalty to the regime is called into question when, through the course of his surveillance, he begins to sympathise with Dreyman and his girlfriend as he learns how the GDR state has personally victimised them. The film offers some insight into the brutal methods the Stasi employed against its own citizens. Greater focus, however, is afforded to the human elements of an inhumane system; the ways in which the GDR regime drove wedges between friends and relationships, and how the perpetrators processed the sinister deeds they performed in the name of the socialist system.


The Family

2013 Stefan Weinert Germany

The Family is a documentary film that chronicles the stories of families whose loved ones were murdered on the border between East and West Germany under the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) regime. Such deaths often occurred when attempts by GDR citizens to escape to the West were interrupted by the regime’s border troops, with fatal consequences for the victim(s). The film deals with surviving family members’ search for closure and justice, raising difficult questions of accountability for atrocities committed in the context of totalitarian systems. The humanity of these stories is juxtaposed against the callous bureaucracy of the regime, and in particular that of the Stasi, the state security service of the GDR.


The Death of Stalin

2017 Armando Iannucci USA

The Death of Stalin is a black comedy film that humorously explores the politics of Stalin’s Soviet Union. Set in Soviet Russia, 1953, it depicts the dictator’s death and the subsequent struggle for power that breaks out among his potential successors. It does not pretend to embody the true historical events ‘accurately,’ and instead treads a fine line between comedy and terror to exhibit the perceived absurdity of this exceptionally violent era in human history.


In the Crosswind

2014 Martti Helde Estonia

An emotionally confronting experience, In the Crosswind follows the story of Erna Tamm, an Estonian philosophy student. Along with thousands of other Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, she is violently uprooted from her homeland and deported to Siberia in June 1941 by the oppressive institutions of the Soviet Union. Based on real-life events, the work is an experimental approach to conveying atrocity through film, encouraging viewers to reflect on and remember the unimaginable losses suffered by the victims of these deportations.


Good Bye, Lenin!

2003 Wolfgang Becker Germany

Good Bye, Lenin! is a comedic approach to dealing with the complex themes of everyday life under a communist regime and its aftermath. Alexander Kerner, a young citizen of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) swept up in the political fervour of 1989, is distraught when his mother, a strong supporter of the GDR regime, suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she awakens eight months later, the regime has collapsed, and the Berlin Wall has fallen. To prevent the shock of this news from further threatening his bedridden mother’s ailing health, Kerner must go to great lengths to recreate the GDR from her bedroom. The film tackles the struggle of some East German citizens to adapt to post-communist life, and the difficult ways in which the divide between East and West affected German families.


The Chronicles of Melanie

2016 Viesturs Kairišs Latvia

The Chronicles of Melanie is a biographical drama film based on the real-life experiences of Melānija Vanaga. Vanaga was forcibly separated from her husband and, along with her young son, deported from her homeland of Latvia to Siberia in June 1941 by the occupying forces of the Soviet Union. Vanaga, like the thousands of other Baltic people deported in this era, was innocent of any real crime, but was nonetheless branded an ‘enemy of the people’ and punished accordingly. The film features minimal dialogue, incorporating powerful visuals and an eerie soundtrack to depict Vanaga’s struggle to survive with her son in the unforgiving Siberian wilderness. Her will to live is sustained by the letters she writes to her husband, though she knows nothing of his fate. 



2019 Craig Mazin and Johan Renck USA

HBO’s highly-acclaimed mini-series Chernobyl is a harrowing, often confronting indictment on the Soviet system’s inability to effectively deal with the greatest nuclear disaster in human history. It tells of the extraordinary valour of everyday citizens of the Soviet Union, who meet unimaginably difficult situations in the days and months following the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant with courage and self-sacrifice. Protagonists range from first responders and clean-up crews (the so-called “liquidators”) to scientists and sympathetic politicians. Often, they tread a fine line between fact and fiction, where the latter is state-sponsored and the former can mean persecution and threats to one’s safety.Their endeavours are contrasted against the criminally incompetent bureaucracy of the Soviet state, who at every step undermine efforts to contain the disaster to protect their own political and ideological interests, regardless of the humanitarian cost.


Ashes in the Snow

2018 Marius A. Markevicius Lithuania

Ashes in the Snow follows the story of a young girl who, along with her family, is forcibly deported from her homeland of Lithuania to Siberia in 1941. A talented artist, she struggles to maintain her craft, her culture and her humanity in spite of the daily horrors and atrocities she is confronted with. The film puts a human face to the thousands of innocent people that were deported from their home countries by Soviet forces in 1941, and tells of what they had to endure to survive life in the Soviet labour camps.


The Fencer

2015 Klaus Härö Estonia

Based on true events, The Fencer follows the story of Endel Nelis, who leaves Leningrad to return to his homeland of Estonia for fear of persecution following the victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Fleeing the Soviet secret police, he settles in the town of Haapsalu to work as a teacher. However, he draws attention to himself and his complicated past through his background in fencing, which he begins to teach to his students despite the school principal’s denouncement of the sport as being ill-suited to the proletarian “working man.” Accordingly, Nelis begins to face a difficult choice between self-preservation and the bonds he has forged with his students.

The Populist Dimension to African Political Thought: Critical Essays in Reconstruction and Retrieval

Book 2003 P. L. E. Idahosa USA

WR: Mysteries of the Organism

Movie 1971 Dušan Makavejev Yugoslavia, West Germany

The Lives of Others

Movie 2006 Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Germany

The Last Bolshevik

Documentary 1992 Chris Marker France

Good Bye Lenin!

Movie 2003 Wolfgang Becker Germany

The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union

Book 1993 Loren Graham USA


Movie 1992 Aleksandr Rogožkin Russia

Gulag: A History

Book 2003 Anne Applebaum USA

The Red Flag: A History of Communism

Book 2009 David Priestland Great Britain

Animal Farm

Book 1945 George Orwell Great Britain

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Book 2009 Barbara Demick USA

From the Gulag to the Killing Fields: Personal Accounts of Political Violence and Repression in Communist States

Book 2006 Paul Hollander USA

The Great Terror: A Reassessment

Book 1990 Robert Conquest Great Britain

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Book 2010 Timothy D. Snyder USA

Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962

Book 2013 Yang Jisheng China

The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism

Book 2014 S.A. Smith Great Britain

The Rise and Fall of Communism

Book 2009 Archie Brown Great Britain

The Gulag Archipelago

Book 1973 Aleksandr Solženitsin Russia

Homage to Catalonia

Book 1938 George Orwell Great Britain

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life

Book 1997 Jon Lee Anderson USA

The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction

Book 2002 S.A. Smith Great Britain

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Book 1991 Jung Chang Great Britain

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956

Book 2012 Anne Applebaum USA

The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia

Book 2007 Orlando Figes Great Britain

A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924

Book 1996 Orlando Figes Great Britain

Letters from Russian Prisons

Book 1925 The International Committee for Political Prisoners Great Britain

Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire

Book 1993 David Remnick USA

The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-famine

Book 1986 Robert Conquest Great Britain

My Further Disillusionment in Russia

Book 1924 Emma Goldman USA

Sofia Petrovna

Book 1965 Lydia Chukovskaya Russia

Mao: The Unknown Story

Book 2005 Jung Chang, Jon Halliday Great Britain

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

Book 2012 Blaine Harden USA

Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared

Book 2004 Henry Rousso ja teised France

The Communist Manifesto

Book 1948 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels Germany

The Black Book of Communism

Book1997 Stéphane Courtois ja teised France

The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957

Book 2013 Frank Dikötter Netherlands

Crimes against humanity under communist regimes - Research review

Book 2008 Klas-Göran Karlsson, Michael Schoenhals Sweden

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West

Book 2012 Blaine Harden USA

North Korea's Hidden Revolution: How the Information Underground Is Transforming a Closed Society

Book 2016 Jieun Baek Great Britain

Vietnam's Communist Revolution: The Power and Limits of Ideology

Book 2016 Tuong Vu USA

Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare

Book 2000 Philip Short Great Britain

A Cambodian Prison Portrait. One Year in the Khmer Rouge's S-21

Book 1998 Vann Nath Cambodia

Afro-Marxist Regimes: Ideology and Public Policy

Book 1987 Edmond J. Keller, Donald Rothchild USA

Wars of Latin America, 1948-1982: The Rise of the Guerrillas

Book 2013 Rene de la Pedraja USA

The Shining Path: World's Deadliest Revolutionary Force

Book 1992 Simon Strong USA

Comandante: Myth and Reality in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela

Book 2013 Rory Carroll Great Britain

A Quarter Century of Post-Communism Assessed

Book 2017 M. Steven Fish, Graeme Gill, Milenko Petrovic Great Britain

Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship

Book 2011 Andrew Wilson USA

Postcommunism from Within: Social Justice, Mobilization, and Hegemony

Book 2013 Jan Kubik USA

Communism, Fascism, and Democracy: The Theoretical Foundations

Book 1996 Carl Cohen USA

Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy

Book 2001 Richard D. Anderson, M. Steven Fish, Stephen E. Hanson, Philip G. Roeder USA

Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise

Book 2012 Carl Walter USA

Cuban Communism 10th Edition

Book 2000 Irving Louis Horowitz USA

I Little Slave: A Prison Memoir from Communist Laos

Book 2006 Bounsang Khamkeo USA

Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro`s Gulag

Book 2001 Armando Valladarese Cuba

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Movie 2007 Cristian Mungiu Romania

Land and Freedom

Movie 1995 Ken Loach Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, France

Human Harvest

Documentary film 2014 Leon Lee Kanada

A Trial in Prague

Documentary film 2000 Zuzana Justman Czech Republic

Under the Sun

Documentary film 2015 Vitaly Mansky Russia, Germany, Czech Republic, Latvia, North Korea

The Missing Picture

Documentary film 2013 Rithy Panh Cambodia, French

Man of Iron

Movie 1981 Andrzej Wajda Poland

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Movie 1970 Caspar Wrede Great Britain, Norway

Children of Glory

Movie 2006 Krisztina Goda Hungary

Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead

Documentary film 2007 Stuart Urban Great Britain

World War Two: 1941 and the Man of Steel

Documentary film 2011 Russell Barnes Great Britain

The Eternal Road

Movie 2017 Antti-Jussi Annila Finland, Estonia, Sweden

A Pin for the Butterfly

Movie 1994 Hannah Kodicek Great Britain, Czech Republic

Seeing Red

Documentary film 1983 Jim Klein, Julia Reichert USA

300 Miles to Heaven

Movie 1989 Maciej Dejczer Poland, Denmark, France

Between Hitler and Stalin

Documentary film 2003 Slavko Nowytski Canada, Ukraine

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu

Documentary film 2010 Andrei Ujica Romania

World War II Behind Closed Doors: Stalin, the Nazis and the West

Documentary film 2008 Laurence Rees, Andrew Williams Great Britain

S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine

Documentary film 2003 Rithy Panh Cambodia, France

Returned: Child Soldiers of Nepal's Maoist Army

Documentary film 2008 Robert Koenig USA

The Baader Meinhof Complex

Movie 2008 Uli Edel Czech, Germany, France


Movie 2007 Andrzej Wajda Poland, Russia , Germany

The Blue Kite

Movie 1993 Zhuangzhuang Tian China, Hong Kong

The Killing Fields

Movie 1984 Roland Joffé Great Britain

The Soviet Story

Documentary film 2008 Edvīns Šnore Latvia

The Cambridge History of Communism (3 volumes)

Book 2017 Silvio Pons (Ed.) Great Britain

Comrades!: A History of World Communism

Book 2010 Robert Service USA

A Dictionary of 20th-Century Communism

Book 2012 Silvio Pons, Robert Service USA

The Collapse of Communism (Witness to History)

Book 2004 Stewart Ross Great Britain

Transnational influences in the Transition from Communism

2008 Johannes Autorinimi India

by Brown, A. for The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Working Paper 273, April (2000)