Customer Reviews for

Gulag: A History

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2003

    A Mistake is to Forget the Past

    It is unfortunate that this book will not read as widely as it should. As the author points out, the horrors of Nazi Germany are still remembered today. But the horrors of the Soviet Union are ignored and forgotten. This is true within Russia as well as outside of Russia. The author points out that the world and Russia seem to have forgotten what Stalin did to the Chechens. Otherwise, why would thousands of them would be killed, during the 1990's and no one gets upset. The indignation applied to Nazi Germany is not applied to contemporary Russia today or to Russia's past. Most people seem to have forgotten that Stalin starved millions, in the Ukraine, before Hitler became a serious land grabber. One of the memoirs cited by the author--John Noble's, 'I Was a Slave in Russia,' 1960--I read over 40 years ago. This topic is an interest of mine. I believe it is the result of hearing the June 1941 deportations in Latvia from my parents, other family and the Latvian community. If the topic of the book were not so serious, many of the examples of what happened could be considered 'theatre of the absurd.' There was an 'official' policy. Then there was what really happened. For example, prisoners were supposed to get a certain amount of food and water in transport. But there was no incentive for guards to fetch water for thirsty prisoners. If the guard got water for the prisoners, then later they would want to use the toilet. Both the getting of the water and letting prisoners go to the toilet were serious inconveniences to guards.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2003

    A Warning Which Will Be Ignored

    There are times when one is reading something that is so disturbing that you can feel physically repulsed by it. I first felt that way when reading the ¿rat in a cage¿ scene in ¿American Psycho¿. I felt it again in numerous parts of this book- the fact that it is a history book makes it all the more sickening. Despite the ample evidence to the contrary, communism/socialism/nazism all have a strong pull over many. This book, a masterfully researched indictment of the end product of socialism, will be largely ignored. Hence all the events portrayed in this book will happen again.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2003

    Terrific Overview of the Soviet Gulag!

    With the publication of ¿The Gulag Archipelago¿ in the early 1970s, Alexander Solzhenitsyn shocked and dismayed the Western world by masterfully detailing the existence of a horrific shadow culture within the Soviet Union, a culture comprised of a mass society of slave laborers scratching out their bare-knuckled survival in unbelievable difficulty and squalor, and having been recruited into the Gulag for a variety of economic, social, and political reasons. Given the inherent limitations of this superb albeit shocking fictional work, the West had to wait for the fall of the Soviet bloc for a more definitive and more complete treatise on the nature of the Gulag. This new book by scholar-turned-journalist Anne Applebaum represents such a work. The work is both massive and comprehensive, dealing not only with the ways in which the Gulag came into existence and then thrived under the active sponsorship of Lenin and Stalin, but also with a plethora of aspects of life within the Gulag, ranging from its laws, customs, folklore, and morality on the one hand to its slang, sexual mores, and cuisine on the other. She looks at the prisoners themselves and how they interacted with each other to the relationships between the prisoners and the many sorts of guards and jailers that kept them imprisoned. For what forced the Gulag into becoming a more or less permanent fixture within the Soviet system was its value economically in producing goods and services that were marketable both within the larger Soviet economy as well as in international trade. As it does in China today, forced labor within the Gulag for the Soviets represented a key element in expanding markets for Soviet-made goods ranging from lamps to those prototypically Russian fur hats. The Gulag came into being as a result of the Communist elite¿s burning desire for purges of remaining vestiges of bourgeoisie aspects of Soviet culture, and its consequent need for some deep dark hole to stick unlucky cultural offenders into to remove them semi-permanently from the forefront of the Soviet society. Stalin found it useful to expand the uses of the camp system to enhance industrial growth, and the camps became flooded with millions of Soviets found wanting in terms of their ultimate suitability for everyday life in the workers¿ paradise. Thus, the Gulag flourished throughout the 1920s and 1930s and even through the years of WWII, when slave labor provided an invaluable aid in producing enough war goods to help defeat the Axis powers. By the peak years of Gulag culture in the 1950s, the archipelago stretched into all twelve of the U.S. S. R.¿s time zones, although it was largely concentrated in the northernmost and least livable aspects of the country¿s vast geographical areas. One of the most interesting and certainly more controversial aspects of the book can be found in its consideration of the relative obscurity with which both the existence and horrors associated with the Gulag has been treated to date. Compared to the much more extensively researched and discussed Holocaust of Europe¿s Jewish population perpetrated by the Nazi Third Reich over a twelve year period, almost nothing is known about the nearly seventy reign of the Gulag. Given the fairly recent demise of the Soviet state, and the dawning availability of data revealing the particulars of the existence of the Soviet system of political imprisonment, forced labor camps, and summary executions, one expects this massively documented, exhaustively detailed, and memorably written work will serve as the standard in the field for decades to come. This is a terrific book, and one I can heartily recommend to any serious student

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent

    A definite eye-opener to the murderous Stalin regime and his scheme of developing his communist ideal by the use of slave laboe.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2008

    You Can't Handle the Truth

    Excellent book by Anne Appelbaum. What's amazing is there are still those who claim the statistics listed in the book are false. Sort of like when Stalin tried to blame the deaths of Polish in the Katyn Forest on the Nazi's, some still are blinded by the truth about the horrors of Stalin and Soviet Russia How sad. Thank you Anne Appelbaum for a fantastic book about the truth.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2012

    A terrific read, compelling history well written

    A terrific read, compelling history well written

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 27, 2011

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    Posted April 10, 2013

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    Posted January 22, 2011

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    Posted March 13, 2011

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    Posted October 27, 2008

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