Though Stalin is never actually seen or heard from throughout the novel, his presence nevertheless looms behind every scene. It is Josef Stalin who annexes Lithuania as part of the Soviet Union, and it is he who orders the NKVD to deport anyone considered to have committed “anti-Soviet” activities. This is how Lina, her family, and the rest of the deportees come to essentially become slaves to the Soviet state. Out of all the characters, Lina in particular is vocal about her hatred towards the new leader who has caused the destruction of both her country and her life. Stalin becomes the looming evil behind the tangible torture committed by the guards. His inescapable presence throughout the novel is what makes his representation even more oppressive, since Lina derives all her misery from his rise to power and every subsequent misfortune that befalls the Vilkases. Furthermore, the epilogue points out that unlike with the fall of the Nazis after the Holocaust, the Soviet Union continued to maintain power after the end of World War II, thus rendering all former prisoners of the camps silent. The suffocating presence of Stalin, Communism, and the Soviet Union is what pushes Lina to document her deportation.
Josef Stalin Quotes in Between Shades of Gray
“Jonas,” said Mother, stroking my brother’s face. “I can’t trust them. Stalin has told the NKVD that Lithuanians are the enemy. The commander and the guards look at us as beneath them. Do you understand?”