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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going at times, but worth it
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...
Published on 22 Oct 2004 by Chris Chalk

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is mast for those who are wondering why Russians are like they are, 15 April 2014
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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. My uncle was in Gulag and I know some of those stories but it was only his own small point of view. Anne Applebaum made this picture big and fully supported by facts.
Enjoy this book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!!!, 2 April 2014
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Artur Hoffman (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (Paperback)
Great Book! Magnificent! Very professional! Anne Appelbaum did great job! Recommended for all British Communist Lovers...Hope its open your eyes:-)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of great scholarship and historical significance, 14 Feb 2012
By 
Philip Corsano "Book Lover" (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
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This is an incredible book written by a young woman at the perfect time for this research. It is well written. In her acknowledgements, Anne Applebaum acknowledges the timing of the opening of the archives in Moscow during Yeltsin's last term was perfect for writing this book. A monumental task. Anne was the right person in the right place at the right time to write this book. Just this fact makes it a special book.

This is not an easy book to read. Much chronicles the complete depravity of the ideology that permitted the enslavement of a perhaps at its peak in late 1930's early 1940's and in the post war peak of 1950, of nearly 3-4% of the entire soviet population. These statistics do not really give any sense pf the scale of the prison that the Soviet Union had become. A whole class of people was ready to be the warders of this prison system. This class of people was also the one that was responsible for managing the Vor v Zakonye, the 'criminal in law' that seems to have taken over much of the new Russian local and central government.

Unlike South Africa, there has been no effort in the current "Democratic Russia" to deal with the Gulag legacy. The inhumanity of children being encouraged to denounce their parents as revisionist bourgeois, the taint of being associated with an "enemy of the people".

The question one asks after having read this book is why there is no monument to the Gulag survivors, who were as de-humanised as survivors of the Nazi concentration camp system. The answer is because many who are now in power have no interest in having a light shone on their activities during this sinister dark past, and the masses want to forget, embrace the joys of consumerism, as some wag said, "the Soviet Union collapsed because the average housewife wanted to have western shoes and lingerie". Having lived in the former Soviet Union during the period Anne Applebaum wrote this masterpiece, I must say I was surprised with how prevailing the need to forget the past was. And to throw all energy into the brave new world of Russian Consumerism, regardless of its inequities, injustices and hypocritical burying of the past.

In conclusion Anne Applebaum states that the book was written because this history will happen again. Totalitarian philosophies will continue to have a profound appeal to millions of people. The destruction of an objective enemy is fundamental to dictatorship.

So this book is a memory of those individual stories which otherwise would be lost.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Weeping Song, 11 Jun 2010
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
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Compared to reading Grundrisse, Althusser, Poulantzas, Lukacs and Milliband this book is a page turning romp. A ride straight through the ripped backsides of 'Socialism in one country'.

When the woodworm creaks, out come the apologists. A mirror image of National Socialist holocaust denial-Treblinka, Auschwitz; out they squirm. Soviet Communists erase the oral history accounts of "revisionists" from memory.

The victims in reality were erstwhile "comrades". In Stalin's coup d'etat, the Old intellectual Guard followed Anarchists escorted after the Whites to labour camps.

Working in death camps transformed human beings into Soviet State machines. Enacted leadership paranoia stripped these humans of all dignity so they became cogs, worked to starvation, for greater societal benefit. The mass triumph of the weak over the intellectually stronger. Beria as the architect. Stalin as the designer. The same pscyhological trick utilised in South Africa, placing the politicals as slaves of the criminal, another degree of brutalisation. Cutting back rations, working long hours, unveiling the human animal.

Applebaum charts the inception; Tsars residences for red torture laterly becoming mass consumers of vast numbers of young men and women. The industrialisation programme enacted for free; Slaves arrested, sentenced and drafted to die in the greatest leap of proletarian progress. The ends justified the means, carrying on until the 50's. Millions dying during the backslapping years.

The dichotomy; these camps created the impetus for victory over National Socialism. Both regimes enacted similar principles, except as Applebaum highlights, National Socialism enacted an exterminating racial policy.

The Soviets wanted to leap ahead. Devastated in destroying National Socialism, Socialism in one country waned on the vine through psychological intertia. Never recovering from the 20 millions war deaths and the millions churned through the camps, it eventually succumbed to mass alcoholism.

Applebaum brings the claustrophobic terror of the Soviet to life. Believers still cling. It could never really have happened, could it?

Ever got the feeling you've been cheated?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars essential reading, 21 Nov 2011
This review is from: Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (Paperback)
This is spellbinding, essential history; meticulous research, measured writing and full of unforgettable, chilling details, such as the eight year old girl in a camp boasting about how she can satisfy an entire team of tree-fellers.

It is the prolonged, casual nature of the horror which stands out; a sort of wearying, leaden evil resting comfortably on the stout shoulders of human gullibility.

It is also striking for the way Soviet evil contrasted with the empty fire and brimstone of Nazi ravings. The obvious stupidity and self-destructive violence of Nazism is absent here. The Soviet system was carefully built to last - and did last longer than Nazism. It was a grander and more efficient deceit.

And it lingers on. The Soviet system is still viewed by the chattering class dilettanti with an ambivalence it simply does not merit. Applebaum had trouble getting this masterpiece published because it states the bald, ugly truth about the Soviet system. This is all the more reason to read it of course.

It is a perfect starting point for anyone with an interest not only in history but also the tragic possibilities afforded to powermongers once you have a fully politicised population. It is more approachable than Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago (superb though that it is). As a follow-up - because this stuff is gripping, both intellectually and in a grim, horror movie way - I would recommend Mochulsky's autobiographical Gulag Boss, which in some ways is even more revealing and scary.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag, 15 Mar 2009
By 
Mr. Y. Dubois - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (Paperback)
This is an immensely valuable one-volume presentation of the historical reality of Soviet oppression. At a time when in post-Soviet Russia the young generation has been brainwashed with State propaganda about an almost Christ-like Stalin, Anne Applebaum's book works like a vaccination against the fable that Stalin was Russia's Saviour. It should be displayed prominently in every school and public library.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The big and the small prison zone, 3 Dec 2007
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (Paperback)
Anne Applebaum's deeply moving human document brushes a raw picture of an, unfortunately, often recurring human tragedy: the use of slave labor in `work' camps, here in their soviet version.
The Gulag system reflected the whole political and social climate in the USSR. The State was a big prison zone and the camps the small ones.
The system was an integral part of the soviet regime. Its role was to speed up industrialization and to excavate natural resources in barely habitable places. There were camps near gold, coal and nickel mines, near chemical, metal-processing, fish canning and electricity plants, near public works (airports, highways, water ways, apartment blocks) and that all over the country.

History
The gulag system was founded after the October 1917 revolution and came under the control of the secret service in 1929. Another pivotal year was 1937, the beginning of the Great Terror, when Stalin imposed quotas for indiscriminate arrests and executions beginning with the CP hierarchy. There was a partial amnesty during WW II, but the inmates were sent in the front line. After Stalin's death, the system was dismantled, but the camps continued to be used for common criminals and as `reeducation' centers for dissidents.

Who were the inmates?
There was always a mixture of common and `political' criminals.
In the beginning, the political inmates were `counter-revolutionaries', members of the non-Bolshevik revolutionary socialist parties. Afterwards, they were mostly peasants (after the collectivization), national minorities, CP and even Gulag officials (during the Great Terror), prisoners of war (during and after the war) and dissidents.
A total of about 30 million people passed through the camps, of which about 10 % died.

Why?
Except the common criminals, people were arrested for what they were, not for what they had done. Their - avowed or not - crimes were imaginary and nonsensical.

The system
Every camp has to be profitable; of course, they weren't.
They were generally run by dump and corrupt bureaucrats, who had absolutely no respect for individual lives. The working practices were very bad.
After three weeks people were turned into wild animals, fighting a naked struggle for survival in an overcrowded world of stench, vermin, filth, promiscuity, prostitution, epidemics, hunger, revolting food, informants, self-mutilation, murders, suicides, punishment cells, tortures and deaths by exhaustion. The `normal' inmates were terrorized by common criminal bands.
After release, the psychological and social integration into the big prison zone was extremely difficult.

Russia as a country has still not digested its past: `Society is indifferent to the crimes of the past, because so many people participated in them.' `Former communists have a clear interest in concealing the past.'

Anne Applebaum illustrates all aspects of Gulag life and its dehumanization process with moving tragic individual fates.
This book is a must read for all those interested in the history of mankind. `The more we are able to understand the specific circumstances which led to mass torture and mass murder, the better we will understand the darker side of our own human nature.'
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 31 Jan 2004
This is an important, well documented writing which is also very readable. It's the result of a scrupulous research over many years that provides a highly impressive overview of the dreadful Gulag phenomenon. The book exposes the full horror of the soviet forced labour camps as well as the equally shocking and global amnesia towards the many millions who died in these camps.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 28 Sep 2003
Amidst the incredible horror of life for millions of 'innocents' shipped off to the Soviet gulag Ms Applebaum finds flashes of human spirit in the most unexpected places. This superbly constructed chronicle of the soviet Gulag covers every aspect of the subject from arrest to incarceration to release. The broad canvas of this shameful period in history is examined from every possible angle leaving the reader in no doubt as to how grim the camps were and the unbelievable suffering and hardships those who survived endured. Like Solzhenitsyn's heart wrenching account of the Gulag, Ms Applebaum remembers and recounts the agony of the millions of deaths in the camps and enroute. Particularly telling are the memories of a selection of survivors she liberally quotes from. Even if Russian / Soviet collective memory seems to have forgotten or even written off the industrial suffering and murder of those times, this book is a testament to those who died and man's inhumanity to fellow man.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling introduction., 16 Sep 2004
By 
D. Clarke - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (Paperback)
This is a compelling account of a history that is curiously capable of slipping out of sight. It doesn't engage at all with the ongoing British obsession with the Second World War - for whom the Russian contribution and suffering is something of a backdrop - or to the current geopolitical concerns of terror and Islam. And, if Anne Applebaum is right, many Russians seem content to have drawn a line under the uncomfortable pain of the past. All of which makes it clear we should remember the suffering of those that died, and those that survived, the extraordinary awfulness of the Gulag.
The book is clearly aimed at those coming fresh to the subject (something reflected in the discrepancy in the reviews posted here perhaps) and I thought it well organized in the manner of modern popular history books. It does have a slightly journalistic tone, with an echo of the house style of The Economist, for whom the author was a contributor. The account of the unravelling of the of system, and the period just prior to this from the late sixties onwards, is weak in comparison with the earlier sections of the book, with the sense that the burden of writing about so much pointless suffering was taking its toll. In addition, I thought the hook at the start about the selling of old Soviet style badges in Prague a rather standard piece of right wing polemic, and not worthy of what followed. Still, highly recommended - reading this is a small act of moral goodness in a crazy world.
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Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps
Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps by Anne Applebaum (Paperback - 29 April 2004)
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