43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
OF TUNDRA, MINES AND HUMAN WASTE.,
This review is from: Gulag: A History of the Soviet Camps (Paperback)
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. Applebaum makes comparisons between the Gulag and the Nazi's system of concentration camps, but reveals such a connection to be inconclusive and limited, the intended ethos of each differing widely from the other.
Applebaum also reveals in her lucid, and painstakingly researched book, much about the rationale behind the Soviet system and its attitude towards its people at all levels, with disgraced ex-party members often occupying cells or camp barracks alongside peasant farmers and criminals, who were commonly favoured by the camp staff. The story of the Gulag is synonymous with that of Stalinism and its immediate aftermath, and it is refreshing to read a book that points equally to the facts that: a) the Gulag spread rapidly under Stalin, its workforce being the pivotal unit in the Five Year Plans, but that: b) the numbers of inmates in the camps wasn't at its highest during the purges of the thirties, but following the Second World War, in fact peaked in the early 1950s.
For a broad and felicitous understanding of twentieth century Russian history, this work is essential. It demonstrates that although corrupt regimes may rise and fall over time, they are ever in the present with regard to their effects on the human psyche. In some respects, Applebaum's book illustrates exactly where the communist dream went wrong in Russia, and where the system's scorn of its own limitations was focused most acutely. It was called the 'Gulag'. Absolutely superb!
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Feb 2014 08:51:08 GMT
The saddest part of the book is at the end.Even those who had been granted amnesties found when they went home that they only ever really felt comfortable with people who were failures.Anyone else made them feel inadequate and reminded them too vividly of what they had lost.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›