Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent archival revolution, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s famous “literary investigation” The Gulag Archipelago was the most authoritative overview of the Stalinist system of camps. But modern research is developing a much more thorough and nuanced understanding of the Gulag. There is a greater awareness of the wide variety of camps, many not isolated in far-off Siberia; prisoners often intermingled with local populations. The forced labor system was not completely distinct from the “free” labor of ordinary Soviet citizens, as convicts and non-prisoners often worked side-by-side. Nor was the Gulag unique when viewed in a global historical context.
Still, the scale and scope of the Soviet Gulag was unprecedented. Intrinsic to Stalinist modernization, the Gulag was tasked with the construction of massive public works, scientific and engineering projects, and such mundane work as road repairs. Along with the collectivization of agriculture, the Soviet economy (including its military exertions in World War II) was in large part dependent on compulsory labor. The camp system took on an outsized economic significance, and the vast numbers of people taken in by zealous secret police were meant to fulfill material, not just political, goals. While the Soviet system lacked the explicitly dedicated extermination camps of its Nazi counterpart, it did systematically extract work from inmates to the verge of death then cynically “released” them to reduce officially reported mortality rates.
In an original turn, the book offers a detailed consideration of the Gulag in the context of the similar camps and systems of internment. Chapters are devoted to the juxtaposition of nineteenth-century British concentration camps in Africa and India, the Tsarist-era system of exile in Siberia, Chinese and North Korean reeducation camps, the post-Soviet penal system in the Russian Federation, and of course the infamous camp system of Nazi Germany. This not only reveals the close relatives, antecedents, and descendants of the Soviet Gulagit shines a light on a frighteningly widespread feature of late modernity.
Overall, The Soviet Gulag offers fascinating new interpretations of the interrelationship and importance of the Gulag to the larger Soviet political and economic system, and how they were in fact parts of the same entity.
About the Author
Michael David-Fox is professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Department of History, Georgetown University. He is the author of Crossing Borders: Modernity, Ideology, and Culture in Russia and the Soviet Union; Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921-1941; and Revolution of the Mind: Higher Learning among the Bolsheviks, 1918-1929. David-Fox is also coeditor of Fascination and Enmity: Russia and Germany as Entangled Histories, 1914-1945 and The Holocaust in the East: Local Perpetrators and Soviet Responses.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations vii
Foreword David R. Shearer ix
Chapter 1 Introduction: From Bounded to Tuxtapositional-New Histories of the Gulag Michael David-Fox 1
Part I Evidence and Interpretation
Chapter 2 The Gulag and the Non-Gulag as One Interrelated Whole Oleg Khlevniuk 25
Chapter 3 Destructive Labor Camps: Rethinking Solzhenitsyn's Play on Words Golfo Alexopoulos 42
Chapter 4 Lives in the Balance: Weak and Disabled Prisoners and the Biopolitics of the Gulag Dan Healey 65
Chapter 5 Scientists and Specialists in the Gulag: Life and Death in Stalin's Sharashka Asif Siddiqi 87
Chapter 6 Forced Labor on the Home Front: The Gulag and Total War in Western Siberia, 1940-1945 Wilson T. Bell 114
Chapter 7 (Un)Returned from the Gulag: Life Trajectories and Integration of Postwar Special Settlers Emilia Koustova 136
Chapter 8 A Visual History of the Gulag: Nine Theses Aglaya K. Glebova 162
Part II Comparison
Chapter 9 Penal Deportation to Siberia and the Limits of State Power, 1801-1881 Daniel Beer 173
Chapter 10 Britain's Archipelago of Camps: Labor and Detention in a Liberal Empire, 1871-1903 Aidan Forth 199
Chapter 11 Camp Worlds and Forced Labor: A Comparison of the National Socialist and Soviet Camp Systems Dietrich Beyrau 224
Chapter 12 "Repaying Blood Debt": The Chinese Labor Camp System during the 1950s Klaus Mülhahn 250
Chapter 13 The Origins and Evolution of the North Korean Prison Camps: A Comparison with the Soviet Gulag Sungmin Cho 268
Chapter 14 The Gulag as the Crucible of Russia's Twenty-First-Century System of Punishment Judith Pallot 286
Chapter 15 The Gulag: An Incarnation of the State That Created It Bettina Greiner 314