Garden of Broken Statues: Exploring Censorship in Russia

Garden of Broken Statues: Exploring Censorship in Russia

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Marianna Tax Choldin

ISBN: 9781618115010 (hardcover) / 9781618115447 (paperback)
Pages: 204 pp.; 5 illus.
Publication Date: June 2016

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Captivated at a young age by Russia, Marianna Tax Choldin immersed herself as a student at the University of Chicago in that country’s language and culture. In her book she describes the tension between her strong commitment to freedom of expression and her growing understanding of Russian and Soviet censorship. Fluent in Russian, she travels widely in post-Soviet Russia, speaking with hundreds of Russians about their own censorship history. She writes of the close friendships she formed in Russia, and reflects on her Jewish roots in the country her family had left behind 100 years earlier. 

Marianna Tax Choldin is a Russian scholar and librarian who studies censorship in imperial Russia, the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet Russia. Fluent in Russian, she has made more than 50 trips to Russia since 1960 and has traveled widely in the region, meeting with colleagues, curating exhibitions, and lecturing about censorship. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: My American Planet
Chapter 2: My Russian Planet
Chapter 3: Bangladesh and Babies
Chapter 4: Life in the Library
Chapter 5: Dissertation and Book
Chapter 6: My Soviet Censor
Chapter 7: My Soviet Planet
Chapter 8: Katia
Chapter 9: Galina Pavlovna’s Funeral and More Thoughts on Religion
Chapter 10: Madame Censorship Hits the Road
Chapter 11: The Garden of Broken Statues


Marianna Tax Choldin’s memoir is a refreshingly personal one. Her research on Russian censorship does figure throughout the book, but it is not really at center stage. ... For me, her brief chapter ‘Dissertation and Book,’ in which she describes how her first book, A fence around the Empire, came together, is the most valuable one in the book. We need more such accounts for graduate students, nearly all of whom struggle with the immensity of their first big project. Perhaps even more valuable for junior scholars in this day and age would be reading about the course that Tax Choldin’s career took. ... Garden of Broken Statues is a delightful and engaging read ... Tax Choldin’s stories of her friendships in the worlds of librarianship and scholarship, both here and on her ‘Soviet Planet,’ as she calls it, are what most make this a book worth reading. Such stories of personal connection get to the heart of what it means to be a Western student of Russian cultural history. As the scholars of Tax Choldin’s generation retire in ever greater numbers, let us hope that we will soon see the publication of many more books like this one.
— Joe Peschio, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, The Russian Review no. 76 vol. 2 April 2017
Garden of Broken Statues: Exploring Censorship in Russia covers a lot of territory: geographically, from Hyde Park to Moscow to East Bangladesh; ideologically, from Soviet “omni-censorship” to the less systemic challenges to free speech we find in the States; and, above all, interpersonally, as Choldin pays tribute to the people who have shaped her life ... it’s such a wide-ranging book, it might be recommended not only to those interested in Russia or censorship, but also just about all readers of this journal: namely, librarians and information professionals curious about the personal and professional lives of those who have committed the better part of their lives to the cause of international understanding.
— Scott Schoger, World Libraries Vol 22. No. 1 (2016)
Marianna Tax Choldin has written a delightful memoir that enlightens us on many topics: censorship, librarianship, Russian culture, and the special challenge of combining motherhood and scholarship. One of our leading Slavic librarians, she long ago left her mark on her profession, and now she beautifully widens that influence.
— Loren Graham, author of Science and Philosophy in the Soviet Union
Marianna Tax Choldin’s luminous Garden of Broken Statues takes the reader on a deeply personal journal that compellingly exposes the pernicious effects of censorship and the authoritarian impulses it reveals on ordinary human beings from Chicago to Tobolsk, with innumerable stops in between. Witness to some of the late twentieth century’s seminal events, Choldin translates the heroic through the private, revealing with knowing hand, how the genuinely historic is always deeply secluded in the fates of individual human beings.
— Blair A. Ruble, Vice President for Programs, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, D.C.
Marianna Tax Choldin has written a memoir of emotional intensity, intellectual depth, and professional expertise on censorship in the Soviet Union and Russia. The book is a wide sweep of personal ties, political and social context, and the changing meaning of public monuments. With a passionate commitment to freedom of speech, the author describes the difficulties and rewards of mounting exhibitions about censorship to a public from whom what has been left out, deliberately mistranslated, or forbidden altogether has been hidden.
— Ellen Mickiewicz, author of No Illusions: The Voices of Russia’s Future Leaders