Gulag: A History

Gulag: A History

by Anne Applebaum
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Gulag: A History 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
JohnP51 More than 1 year ago
A definite eye-opener to the murderous Stalin regime and his scheme of developing his communist ideal by the use of slave laboe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Soviet Gulag was intended for profit. That incredible statement strips any brackets surrounding the depth of incredulity that this book describes. Begun in the twenties, the Gulag was a two-headed scheme to rid the Soviet Union of undesirables and utilize them for the enrichment of the state and decidedly not the populace. Stalin would decree, ‘We need a bridge. Tell the NKVD to arrest some engineers.’ Then he might think there was an arctic oil field in need of exploitation so he ordered the arrest of geologists. When he saw vast, empty steppes yielding nothing to the state, he ordered the forced relocation of entire cultures forcing the deportees to productively use the wasteland or die in failing to do so. Perhaps most unbelievably, he proclaimed: ‘We need to go into outer space, arrest some scientists.’ Despite Stalin’s mania for forced labor, he actually set quotas for how many prisoners were to be shot each month and criticized camp commandants for failing to meet them. Anne Applebaum has, in the rarified light of Russian willingness to open at least some archives, spent decades unearthing the magnitude of the Soviet Gulag system’s misuse of capital, resources and humanity. The fact that slave labor never, ever showed a profit did not convince the Soviets, from Stalin through Gorbachev, to quit the concept, despite their own proof that it was a failed theory. Gulag is a chilling history lesson that clarifies the nature of America’s wartime ally. It also defines the wrongness, incompetence and total futility of the Soviet system, and by extension, communism and socialism. The reader will be stunned by the immensity of the Gulag, its incomprehensible cruelty, ineptitude and the capriciousness with which it was run. Finally, Anne Applebaum’s insight into how the Gulag was ultimately responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union is an eye-opening hypothesis. This massive work is highly readable and entertaining as well as informative.
Brodk 3 months ago
This won the Pulitzer Prize a few years ago. It is a very good book and I recommend it, particularly for those with little knowledge of the Soviet penal/punishment system. Applebaum had access to files that she used to show the origin and evolution of the Gulag, in particular how the actual prisons and camps would disregard the directives from headquarters in ways that were invariably inimical to the inmates and harsher than the directives ordered. She liberally quotes from survivors and these quotes tend to emphasize her points. If I have an issue with the book, it is that it seems to add little to The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books I-II by Solzhenitsyn. But this is a quibble.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book because a book on German concentration camps, mentioned the camps in the Gulag, about which I knew very little. This book is well written. The style reminds me of books by Erik Larson who writes non-fiction like fiction, i.e. Isaac's Storm, etc. It starts with political information in the 20's, then leads into on those arrested, description of the camps, work done, punishment, food, guards. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
       In the non-fiction novel “Gulag” Anne Applebaum intends the reader to become well informed about what horrific things took place by the hands of the Soviet Union. In this novel Applebaum describes the type of treatment they received from living spaces to their jobs. “Most prisoners in most camps lived in barracks.” (p. 195). These barracks were built by the prisoners when they arrived. Due to poor hygiene “a plague of bedbugs and lice” (p. 202) was developed. Also, the “soup was revolting” (p.206). This revolting soup was made of fish or animal lungs and a few potatoes. But the main thing in these camps was work. “It was the main occupation of prisoners.” (p.217). Prisoners  built airplanes, ran nuclear power plants, fished and farmed. About 2,000,000 million were killed in the Gulags. And about “28.7 million”  (p.581) were forced laborers in these camps.        In this novel I dislike the fact that it was very repetitive. But I did like the fact that the author was able to gather all this information and was able to put it all in chronological order. I also like how he was able to find these very graphic photos of some of the prisoners throughout  the years. I would recommend this to those who have never heard of the Gulags and that are very advanced readers because it is difficult to follow sometimes. 
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cinbarb More than 1 year ago
A terrific read, compelling history well written
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms Applebaum follows in an inglorious tradition that started with a certain Mr Josef Goebbels. He was the first to claim that 'countless millions' perished in Soviet labour camps. Why did he do this? To try to justify the Nazis' genocidal attacks on the Soviet Union. Presentday anti-socialist propagandists repeat these old lies in order to scare people off socialism and into the arms of their capitalist exploiters. Ms Applebaum appears to claim that Stalin, killed about 4.5 million Soviet citizens in the camps. However, the recently opened Russian archives show that the true figure is far lower, at about 300,000 deaths for the 1930s. Ms Applebaum, like most writers on the subject, relies not on the archives, but on Robert Conquest¿s estimates. But Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, has explained how Conquest reached his figures: ¿Robert Conquest¿s The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror Famine (New York, 1986) argues that the `dekulakization¿ of the early 1930s led to the deaths of 6,500,000 people. But this estimate is arrived at by extremely dubious methods, ranging from reliance on hearsay evidence through double counting to the consistent employment of the highest possible figures in estimates made by other historians.¿ For another example, the American historian Charles Maier stated that Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler. But Evans observed that Maier could only reach this conclusion by accepting ¿Conquest¿s implausible and inflated estimates without question, while omitting deaths caused by Nazi aggression in the East (which also, apart from military and exterminatory action, led to famines and deportations). The number of deaths caused by Nazism¿s eastward drive may itself have been as many as 20 million.¿ (Richard Evans, In Hitler¿s shadow, Tauris, 1989, page 170.) In fact, to reach his judgement of comparative responsibility, Maier simply omitted all the 50 million people killed in the world war that Hitler started. Perhaps in Ms Applebaum's next book, she might do some research into the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century, Adolf Hitler. She might even study how the Soviet Union smashed 70% of Hitler's divisions, making the decisive contribution to the defeat of Nazism and the freeing of so many nations from Nazi tyranny.