When Your Grandfather Was Stalin's Bodyguard

When the poet Osip Mandelstam was arrested by the Soviet secret police in the 1930s, he was taken to the notorious Lubyanka prison for interrogation. He drew a distinction between the guards “on the outside” — village youths doing terrible things out of a dim sense of duty — and the interrogators “on the inside,” who seemed like specialists in cruelty. “To do that job, you have to have a particular vocation,” Mandelstam said. “No ordinary man could stand it.”

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