Applebaum's book weighs in heavily in support of Solzhenitsyn on almost every point, and her account is backed not only by a careful use of the vast memoir literature but also by a thorough mining of the long-closed Soviet archives. Most important, she supports Solzhenitsyn's central argument: that the gulag was not some incidental Stalinist accretion to Lenin's visionary concept of Socialism. The cancer of police terror was embedded in the original DNA of Lenin's creation, ''an integral part of the Soviet system,'' in Applebaum's words. Under Lenin, the first concentration camps were created; the first mass executions were carried out. He bequeathed to his successor a well-functioning police state. — Steven Merritt Miner
Anne Applebaum's Gulag is an epic portrait of this crime against humanity. Applebaum needs all of her 600 pages of text to describe the rise and fall of the Gulag, along with the repressive prison systems that preceded and replaced it. More important, she sets before us "the experience of the victims" who were caught up in a cold vortex of senseless cruelty. Her book is a vast synthesis of all the available Gulag memoirs, supplemented by archival research. — Lars T. Lih
Nearly 30 million prisoners passed through the Soviet Union's labor camps in their more than 60 years of operation. This remarkable volume, the first fully documented history of the gulag, describes how, largely under Stalin's watch, a regulated, centralized system of prison labor-unprecedented in scope-gradually arose out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution. Fueled by waves of capricious arrests, this prison labor came to underpin the Soviet economy. Applebaum, a former Warsaw correspondent for the Economist and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, draws on newly accessible Soviet archives as well as scores of camp memoirs and interviews with survivors to trace the gulag's origins and expansion. By the gulag's peak years in the early 1950s, there were camps in every part of the country, and slave labor was used not only for mining and heavy industries but for producing every kind of consumer product (chairs, lamps, toys, those ubiquitous fur hats) and some of the country's most important science and engineering (Sergei Korolev, the architect of the Soviet space program, began his work in a special prison laboratory). Applebaum details camp life, including strategies for survival; the experiences of women and children in the camps; sexual relationships and marriages between prisoners; and rebellions, strikes and escapes. There is almost too much dark irony to bear in this tragic, gripping account. Applebaum's lucid prose and painstaking consideration of the competing theories about aspects of camp life and policy are always compelling. She includes an appendix in which she discusses the various ways of calculating how many died in the camps, and throughout the book she thoughtfully reflects on why the gulag does not loom as large in the Western imagination as, for instance, the Holocaust. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Gulag, the searing acronym for the Soviet bureaucracy that administered penal labor camps, ruled a sprawling empire comprising 476 complexes. Each complex contained thousands of individual camps, through which more than 18 million people passed between 1929 and 1953, maybe 3 million or more of whom perished. Applebaum examines this monster from many angles, including its origins, its "function," especially in the Stalinist system, its exponential growth after 1929 and in the 1940s, as well as moments in the "meat grinder" (as it was known): arrest, transit, in, out, and back. Her separate portraits of the guards, the "thieves in law," the common criminals (whose crime may have been coming to work ten minutes late), and the political prisoners (whose transgression may have been telling a political joke) have a special vividness and poignancy. Gulag is a tightly told, complex, heartbreaking, and mind-bending story.
Subsequent to Solzhenitsyn's landmark Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Applebaun, former Warsaw correspondent for the Economist and currently on the editorial staff at the Washington Post, has captured the full brutality and economic engine for the Soviet state that was the Gulag prison system. This book is perfectly timed to follow such recent works as Golfo Alexopoulos's Stalin's Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State 1926-1936. With a finely honed writer's skill, Applebaum thoroughly describes in minute detail the system of camps, the prisoners, camp administration, camp life, and Stalin's obsession with slave labor. "GULAG is an acronym, meaning Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei, or Main Camp Administration. Over time, the word `Gulag' has also come to signify not only the administration of the concentration camps but also the system of Soviet slave labor itself." Intellectually, Americans and Western Europeans know roughly what happened in the Soviet Union, but the crimes of Stalin do not inspire the same visceral reaction as do the crimes of the Third Reich. This first complete history of the Gulag system not only points out the similarities with the Nazis and their concentration camps but also puts Stalin and his Gulag on the same ghastly level. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A searing, engrossing history of the most extensive, longest-lived experiment in "rationalized evil" the world has ever known. From 1929 to 1953--the years in which Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union--at least 18 million people passed through the massive penal and slave-labor system known as the Gulag. Though that system had antecedents in tsarist Russian, former Economist correspondent Applebaum writes, it took Stalin to shape the Gulag into an enormous machine; Stalin believed, she asserts, that "the Gulag was critical to Soviet economic growth," offering an endless source of free labor to the state. Stalin’s successors, however, saw it as "a source of backwardness and distorted investment," and within days of Stalin’s death began to dismantle the most infamous camps--though not before untold millions had died within them. Applebaum (Between East and West, 1994) charts the inception and development of the Gulag, showing how it served to channel the millions of deportees during the famines of the 1920s and ’30s, the victims of political purges before WWII, and whole nations--including the Chechens and Tartars--during the war against Germany. Drawing on accounts by survivors, she also documents daily life inside the Gulag, a Dante-esque existence of individual rituals in the face of death: "Never on any account take more than a half-hour to consume your ration," one such account warns. "Every bite of bread should be chewed thoroughly. . . . Eat it all at one sitting; if, on the other hand, you gobble it down too quickly, as famished people often do in normal circumstances, you will also shorten your days." Throughout, Applebaum’s account runs a large question: Why did the West do nothingabout the Gulag, even though its existence and the reality of other Soviet crimes against humanity were well known? Perhaps because we can’t admit that we allied ourselves with one mass murderer to battle another. But, she adds in closing, we had better not deny such crimes the next time they occur--as they certainly will. Extraordinary in its range and lucidity: a most welcome companion to Bernard-Henri Levi’s Barbarism With a Human Face, Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, and, of course, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago.
“An important book. . . . It is fervently to be hoped that people will read Anne Applebaum’s excellent, tautly written, and very damning history.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The most authoritative—and comprehensive—account of this Soviet blight ever published by a Western writer.” —Newsweek
“A titanic achievement: learned and moving and profound. . . . No reader will easily forget Applebaum’s vivid accounts of the horrible human suffering of the Gulag.” —National Review
“A tragic testimony to how evil ideologically inspired dictatorships can be.” –The New York Times
“Lucid, painstakingly detailed, never sensational, it should have a place on every educated reader’s shelves.” –Los Angeles Times
“Magisterial. . . . Certain to remain the definitive account of its subject for years to come. . . . An immense achievement.” —The New Criterion
“An excellent account of the rise and fall of the Soviet labor camps between 1917 and 1986. . . . A splendid book.” —The New York Review of Books
“Should become the standard history of one of the greatest evils of the 20th century.” —The Economist
“Thorough, engrossing . . . A searing attack on the corruption and the viciousness that seemed to rule the system and a testimonial to the resilience of the Russian people. . . . Her research is impeccable.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“An affecting book that enables us at last to see the Gulag whole. . . . A valuable and necessary book.” –The Wall Street Journal
“Ambitious and well-documented . . . Invaluable . . . Applebaum methodically, and unflinchingly, provides a sense of what it was like to enter and inhabit the netherworld of the Gulag.” –The New Yorker
“[Applebaum’s] writing is powerful and incisive, but it achieves this effect through simplicity and restraint rather than stylistic flourish. . . . [An] admirable and courageous book.” –The Washington Monthly
“Monumental . . . Applebaum uses her own formidable reporting skills to construct a gripping narrative.” –Newsday
“Valuable. There is nothing like it in Russian, or in any other language. It deserves to be widely read.” –Financial Times
“A book whose importance is impossible to exaggerate. . . . Magisterial . . . Applebaum’s book, written with such quiet elegance and moral seriousness, is a major contribution to curing the amnesia that curiously seems to have affected broader public perceptions of one of the two or three major enormities of the twentieth century.” –Times Literary Supplement
“A truly impressive achievement . . . We should all be grateful to [Applebaum].” –The Sunday Times (London)
“A chronicle of ghastly human suffering, a history of one of the greatest abuses of power in the story of our species, and a cautionary tale of towering moral significance . . . A magisterial work, written in an unflinching style that moves as much as it shocks, and that glistens with the teeming life and stinking putrefaction of doomed men and rotten ideals.” –The Daily Telegraph (London)
“No Western author until Anne Applebaum attempted to produce a history of the Gulag based on the combination of eyewitness accounts and archival records. The result is an impressively thorough and detailed study; no aspect of this topic escapes her attention. Well written, accessible…enlightening for both the general reader and specialists.” —The New York Sun
“For the raw human experience of the camps, read Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich or Irina Ratushinskaya’s Grey is the Color of Hope. For the scope, context, and the terrible extent of the criminality, read this history.” —Chicago Tribune