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The Left Side of History

World War II and the Unfulfilled Promise of Communism in Eastern Europe

edited by: Kristen Ghodsee
published by
: Duke University Press
pp: 57
ISBN: 9780822358350
price: Hardcover $66.68 | £61.00
         Paperback $17.97 | £16.99 (only £12.74 if you quote
         CSL0215LSOH when you order here )

Book's frontpage

In The Left Side of History Kristen Ghodsee tells the stories of partisans fighting behind the lines in Nazi-allied Bulgaria during World War II: British officer Frank Thompson, brother of the great historian E.P. Thompson, and fourteen-year-old Elena Lagadinova, the youngest female member of the armed anti-fascist resistance. But these people were not merely anti-fascist; they were pro-communist, idealists moved by their socialist principles to fight and sometimes die for a cause they believed to be right. Victory brought forty years of communist dictatorship followed by unbridled capitalism after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Today in democratic Eastern Europe there is ever-increasing despair, disenchantment with the post-communist present, and growing nostalgia for the communist past. These phenomena are difficult to understand in the West, where “communism” is a dirty word that is quickly equated with Stalin and Soviet labor camps. By starting with the stories of people like Thompson and Lagadinova, Ghodsee provides a more nuanced understanding of how communist ideals could inspire ordinary people to make extraordinary sacrifices.


Table of contents

Maps and Illustrations 

Prologue: Communism 2.0?

A Note on Transliteration

1. Te Mysterious Major Frank Tompson
2. A Communist by Any Other Name...
3. “I Simply Want to Fight”
4. Te Brothers Lagadinov 
5. A Failed Petition
6. Lawrence of Bulgaria?
7. Ambushed in Batuliya
8. Guerillas in the Mist
9. Everyday Life as a Partisan
10. Blood of a Poet
11. Te Head Hunted
12. Words of One Brother on the Death of Another

13. Te Retired Partisan
14. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
15. History Is Written by the Victors
16. On Censorship and the Secret Police
17. Te Politics of truth
18. Cassandra’s Curse
19. Te Red Samaritan
20. Te Past Is a Foreign Country 
21. A Moment of Redemption

Conclusion: On the Outskirts of Litakovo

Selected Bibliography 



"The Left Side of History bears witness to Kristen Ghodsee's intellectual courage, analytic gifts, and profound compassion. She offers portraits of people for whom communism was a living ideology, a belief system that compelled self-sacrifice and nobility, and she does this by looking at their actions rather than criticizing or deconstructing their beliefs."
by Elizabeth Frank, author of Louise Bogan: A Portrait

"The marvel of this beautifully written book is to address a complex set of historical questions in intimate and personal terms. It's stunning as ethnography, but also part memoir—an account of Kristen Ghodsee's quest to satisfy her curiosity about the fate of Frank Thompson, a British partisan killed fighting the Nazis in Bulgaria in 1944. The story she ends up telling is much larger: about communism as an aspiration and a political system; about the economic and social impacts of democracy and free markets after 1989; about the preservation and erasure of public memory; about the relationship of individuals to history. It's a small story with vivid characters and a very large resonance. Best of all, it's a gripping and compelling read."
by Joan W. Scott, Institute for Advanced Study


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