Boris Pasternak, whose novel Doctor Zhivago occasioned the Soviet Union’s greatest cultural defeat just sixty years ago, utterly despised the groupthink encouraged by the regime and embraced by so many intellectuals. At a meeting of Soviet writers, Pasternak once bravely rejected the official requirement that novelists and poets take orders like so many factory engineers. When the other writers protested indignantly, Pasternak replied: “Don’t yell at me. Or if you must yell, at least do not do so in unison.” In the ussr, everything was, or was supposed to be, in unison.

What was it about this novel that so angered Soviet authorities? If one judges the book from David Lean’s 1964 film Doctor Zhivago—usually listed as one of the top ten grossing movies of all time—it...


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