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Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps [Hardcover]

Anne Applebaum
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 May 2003
We know a great deal about the Nazi death camps, but almost nothing about the vast network of labour camps which were once scattered across Russia - from the White Sea to the Black Sea, and from the Arctic circle to the plains of Central Asia. This work draws together the mass of memoirs published in Russia and digests the vast archival materials now available. The gulag had antecedents in Czarist Russia but took its modern form in the Soviet era. But it is wrong to believe that it came to an end with the Stalinist era. Throughout the 70 years of the Soviet Union, the camps remained the state's ultimate weapon, serving the same purpose: to punish, to isolate and, above all, to frighten.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713993227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713993226
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 16 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Anne Applebaum is a journalist who writes about international relations, an historian who writes about the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and a columnist for Slate and the Washington Post. She writes in the US and Britain for, among others, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic and the Spectator.
Her most recent book, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956, was a finalist for the National book Award. Her previous book, Gulag: A History won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction.
She currently runs the Global Transitions program at the Legatum Institute in London. In the academic year 2012-2013 she holds the Phillipe Roman chair in International History at the London School of Economics. She is married to Radek Sikorski, the Polish politician and writer - and is also the author of a cookbook, From a Polish Country House Kitchen.

Product Description


"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 theGulag." -"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 andspecialists." --"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" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Anne Applebaum studied Russian at Yale and International Relations and East European politics at the London School of Economics and St Antony's College, Oxford. She has been a writer and editor at the Economist and deputy editor at the Spectator, writing about European and British politics, as well as Warsaw correspondent for the Boston Globe and The Independent. She is now a columnist and a member of the editorial board of the Washington Post.

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First Sentence
IN THE YEARS 1917, two waves of revolution rolled across Russia, sweeping Imperial Russian society aside as if it were destroying so many houses of cards. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going at times, but worth it 22 Oct 2004
One thing I will agree with other reviews on this book is that is certainly heavy going at times, but to counter this one must understand that the subject matter we are dealing with here is in itself very heavy going.
Anna Applebaum, I think, offers a reasonable balanced historical review of what was however one looks at is a tragedy of the human race. One review remarked that the statistics used in the book where way off the mark, stating the reported deaths at the hands of Stalin were far lower. Even at this lower amount I think we can all agree it was still a tragedy and to be honest genocide.
What shocked me most in the book was not the numbers though, and I would urge anyone who is going to read this to look past them and really try and delve into the human stories and aspects of the book - from all participants. Now you must be careful with any eye witness account as we all know but the stories that come out of this book are at times truly horrific.
I don't want anyone how reads this to think that the book glorifies the violence of the time, Applebaum actually deals with it quite sensitively and in truth doesn't spend a huge amount of time on it. That is what makes it horrific.
The vivid accounts of the treatment these prisons received belies believe and even having read in detail the practises I cannot begin to imagine what life must have been like during these times. Having feelings such as this after having finished reading is what makes the book as powerful as it is. No dramatics, no song and dance, just short accounts that could honestly make your toes curl.
I would hope that anyone reading this book is adult enough to make up their own mind and not to be swayed into changing their entire belief system over one book. If you don't believe areas of the book, read other books that I am sure will offer a different, and most certainly valid point. Take this for what it is and I hope from it you will learn something, just as I did.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood, toil, tears and sweat 19 Nov 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What an epic! But so heavy (subject- and object-wise) and morbid. This book pulls you down after a while. For all those little human kindnesses that its protagonists encounter during their slavery are just tiny drops in an ocean of pointless suffering. This book paints a very bleak picture of human nature. After a while you get desensitized to all those numbers and statistics. Which is probably how it all started in the first place -- both people shuffling paper being removed from the reality those documents represent and others removed from the wider picture, just doing what they're told. Surely it's no coincidence that underneath the dustjacket this book's cover and endpapers are completely crimson? The colour of blood.

I didn't have any problems with anything the author wrote, any numbers or statistics she cited. As far as I could see they were all accompanied by the necessary caveats. In any case, it surely goes without saying that (1) the author's opinions are her opinions and she needn't state that obvious fact before every opinion, (2) the writings of the slave labourers are likely to be biased to some extent and show the author in a favourable light, and (3) the NKVD's documents are likely to be biased. But just in case the reader can't draw those conclusions for himself, Applebaum does it anyway. The only thing I would have liked a little more of is maps. I don't know who draws them, but I like the ones that appear in Beevor's "Stalingrad" and a few other history books.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OF TUNDRA, MINES AND HUMAN WASTE. 6 April 2005
Anne Applebaum's 'Gulag' is a literary and historiographical vanguard. 'Gulag', at last, recognises the necessity for the acknowledgement and understanding of a political system that demanded the wholesale and tragically meaningless disownment and butchering of entire communities. Even entire races, when we consider, for example, Kruschev's hatred of, and intentions towards the Chechens; something trodden over and often overlooked in the haste with which some historians rush to appraise the figure of Stalin.
Applebaum writes at length about the needless suffering of the hundreds, thousands, and then millions, who were abused, starved, and worked to death daily, under the auspices of the Soviet camp system. Importantly, the individual punishing regimes implemented by the guards and commanders themselves are not ignored, although there is recognition that cruelty and criminality was not universal among them. Having said this, one need look no further for a vision of Hell itself, than to read the depictions of life aboard the transport ships which sailed between the Kamkatchka area and ports such as Vladivostok, built by Gulag labour.
The 'Gulag' itself has become an almost iconic term of oppression and dictatorial power in studies of twentieth century Russia, and what the reader witnesses in Applebaum's book, is the dragging of this Soviet holocaust into the light for all to see. Contrary to the opinions of the obviously misled and misread Mr Podmore, it is not socialism that is portrayed in such excruciatingly horrific detail, but a degenerative communist political system in the guise of Stalinism.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag 22 Nov 2004
By A Customer
A powerfully engrossing and thought provoking boook in sharing the history and personal perspective (prisoner, criminal, jailor) etc of the Soviet Gulag system. Well researched and even balanced with countless notes, personal accounts. etc. A must read
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning book
I speak Russian and have studied the Soviet Union professionally but this book opened a whole new window on Soviet culture and mentality that had only been hinted at before. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars It is mast for those who are wondering why Russians are like they are
Behind this book there is tremendous work done to collect all those facts and reports.
Reading is very easy and I made it over 3 nights. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Robert Iniarski
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!!!
Great Book! Magnificent! Very professional! Anne Appelbaum did great job! Recommended for all British Communist Lovers...Hope its open your eyes:-)
Published 3 months ago by Artur Hoffman
5.0 out of 5 stars A profoundly disturbing and moving account of The Gulag
This work obviously owes a debt to the Gulag Archipelago but has the advantage of access to more modern sources. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Conrad Flynn
1.0 out of 5 stars Hides the fact that most Gulag Camp Heads were Jews
The book is based on first hand accounts of the Gulag (notably Shalamov) and effectively shows the horror of the camps as do other authors such as Solzhenitsyn, Klevniuk, Sgovio or... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Baraniecki Mark Stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and intensely detailed.
I haven't finished this book yet but amazon asked me what I thought. Obviously this is bleak stuff but then if you read a book about the Gulag, you shouldn't expect anything less. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Geekkid
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard yakka
The content is intriguing, tragic and extremely well researched but the book presents a real effort to read. My stubborness ensured I finished it but boy it wasn't enjoyable.
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A History of the Soviet Camps
This was a leaving present moving to Russia, I believe that he has enjoyed this book, I am sure he has.
Published 11 months ago by Christine Yvonne Hanney
5.0 out of 5 stars Ex
Well researched and clearly documented account of a gulags in Russia, there early beginning and reasons for original installation, chilling
Published 11 months ago by Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars I-M-P-R-E-S-S-I-V-E-!! An extremely important book on slavery in...
This is a major non-fiction book, one of those which I believe everybody SHOULD read once in their life. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Maciej
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