Despite the abundance of internet memes ridiculing New York Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s questionable grasp of economics, the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist’s rising star confirms what disturbing recent polls are showing: that socialism has a burgeoning appeal for millennial Americans. As historian Bruce Thorntonhas written for FrontPage Mag, trying to reason young people out of supporting socialist policies is likely a doomed strategy, so how can they be made to see the light about what many call “the gateway drug to communism”? The most effective way may be through the compelling personal experiences of those who have escaped its confinement, and there is arguably no better current record of that than Oleg Atbashian’s just-published memoir titled Hotel USSR.
A writer and graphic artist from Ukraine, disillusioned Soviet propagandist Atbashian emigrated to the United States in 1994 and created the hilarious The People’s Cube, a Communist-themed satirical website that brilliantly captures the tone and perspective of the totalitarian left. Rush Limbaugh has accurately called it “a Stalinist version of The Onion.” Atbashian is also the author of Shakedown Socialism, an illustrated study of why that economic system cannot work. David Horowitz has said of it, “I hope everyone reads this book.”
Hotel USSR, Atbashian’s second book, is the riveting, darkly comic, and poignant story of his coming of age in a totalitarian state, a real-life “Hotel California” (in homage to The Eagles song) that one could never leave – at least until it collapsed. The book follows his tragicomic adventures from childhood through his stages as a worker in Siberian oil fields, an army conscript, an inmate at a forensic psychiatry facility, a visual propaganda artist, a Soviet dissident, and finally an immigrant to America. It is illustrated with many examples of Atbashian’s own colorful, perceptive artwork which includes portraits of himself, loved ones and strangers, and landscapes both real and fantastical – all of which help immerse the reader in the artist’s own perspective of his world.