Stalin’s Meteorologist: One Man’s Untold Story of Love, Life, and Death

Written by Olivier Rolin
Review by Alan Cassady-Bishop

In 1934 Alexey Feodosievich Wangenheim, senior government meteorologist and loyal Communist Party member of long standing, is collected by the security services, summarily tried by an overworked “court” of three officers, then quickly sent via a terrifying prison, to a Gulag in Siberia. His crime? Allegedly criticising Stalin, who’d once hailed Wangenheim as a national hero. His accuser? A subordinate and jealous rival for his academic position.

Wangenheim is just one name in over one million Russians to suffer death at the hands of Stalin’s empire. Chance delivered a collection of letters and illustrations into the hands of Olivier Rolin who, fascinated, decided to uncover the story of one man, a loving husband and doting father and respected academic, who unwittingly fell afoul of a brutal and unjust regime. How did he maintain his love of the State that banished him to oblivion and death? This may be one biography of the hundreds of thousands of victims, but it’s a more personal account of the Stalin years of terror. It’s more effective than mere statistics. He wasn’t a number; he was a human.