A History

Book - 2003
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The Gulag--the vast array of Soviet concentration camps--was a system of repression and punishment whose rationalized evil and institutionalized inhumanity were rivaled only by the Holocaust.
The Gulag entered the world's historical consciousness in 1972, with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's epic oral history of the Soviet camps, The Gulag Archipelago . Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, dozens of memoirs and new studies covering aspects of that system have been published in Russia and the West. Using these new resources as well as her own original historical research, Anne Applebaum has now undertaken, for the first time, a fully documented history of the Soviet camp system, from its origins in the Russian Revolution to its collapse in the era of glasnost. It is an epic feat of investigation and moral reckoning that places the Gulag where it belongs: at the center of our understanding of the troubled history of the twentieth century.
Anne Applebaum first lays out the chronological history of the camps and the logic behind their creation, enlargement, and maintenance. The Gulag was first put in place in 1918 after the Russian Revolution. In 1929, Stalin personally decided to expand the camp system, both to use forced labor to accelerate Soviet industrialization and to exploit the natural resources of the country's barely habitable far northern regions. By the end of the 1930s, labor camps could be found in all twelve of the Soviet Union's time zones. The system continued to expand throughout the war years, reaching its height only in the early 1950s. From 1929 until the death of Stalin in 1953, some 18 million people passed through this massive system. Of these 18 million, it is estimated that 4.5 million never returned.
But the Gulag was not just an economic institution. It also became, over time, a country within a country, almost a separate civilization, with its own laws, customs, literature, folklore, slang, and morality. Topic by topic, Anne Applebaum also examines how life was lived within this shadow country: how prisoners worked, how they ate, where they lived, how they died, how they survived. She examines their guards and their jailers, the horrors of transportation in empty cattle cars, the strange nature of Soviet arrests and trials, the impact of World War II, the relations between different national and religious groups, and the escapes, as well as the extraordinary rebellions that took place in the 1950s. She concludes by examining the disturbing question why the Gulag has remained relatively obscure, in the historical memory of both the former Soviet Union and the West.
Gulag: A History will immediately be recognized as a landmark work of historical scholarship and an indelible contribution to the complex, ongoing, necessary quest for truth.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 2003.
ISBN: 9780767900560
Characteristics: xl, 677 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill. ;,24 cm.


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Jun 15, 2019

A classic.

Mar 29, 2019

To start this read it's like setting in for a long siege. Excellent research packed with history info. No way I could get through this in 30 days.

Nov 22, 2017

It will never replace Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece. Whenever Applebaum quotes Solzhenitsyn the contrast between a workman-like writer and a literary genius is evident. Just the same, someone interested in the Gulag should really go to the trouble of reading both.
Married to the former Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, American-born Applebaum betrays her loyalty to her adopted country when she writes: “the NKVD began to shoot inmates in the prisons of Lwów, the Polish-Ukrainian city [should be Lvov, Ukrainian SSR] near the German-Soviet front line”. on several occasions in Gulag. Later she is even worse when she writes: “departing NKVD troops and Red Army soldiers murdered nearly 10,000 prisoners in dozens of Polish and Baltic towns and villages, Wilno, (Vilnius), Drohobycz, [should be “towns and villages near the border, Vilnius, Drogobych”] Pinsk”. The Russian names Lvov and Drogobych have since been replaced by the Ukrainian names, Lviv and Drohobych, which arguably could have been used instead. The book could have and should have had an appendix with the different names of towns and cities whose names have changed. Vilnius is the capital of Latvia and Pinsk is now part of Belarus, so none of the places named are now Polish cities. If any of them had been Polish cities at the time of the German invasion then the NKVD would not have been active there, would they? So it is misleading to use Polish names like Lwów and Drogobych. If she believes that existing borders are unfair to Poland, she could make that argument elsewhere.
On p.44 Applebaum writes: “Economic experiments of various kinds _ the New Economic Policy, War Communism _ had been tried and abandoned”. Tthis inverts the order in which these policies were enacted; War Communism from 1918 to March 21, 1921, and the New Economic Policy from March 21, 1921 until 1928 (the first Five Year Plan was introduced on October 1, 1928); War Communism was not an experiment, but expressed the strong ideological views of the Bolsheviks.
As an economic statistician I found the driveby slanders of economics and statistics offensive: On p.277 Applebaum writes: “economic jargon enabled the camp leadership to justify anything, even death: all was for the greater good”. This is followed by a dialogue between Colonel Tarasyuk, a camp commander, and a camp doctor who argues in vain for giving prisoners an anti-pellagra ration that will keep them alive. Nothing in what Tarasyuk says contains a single economic term. He is simply a mass murderer.
On the next page Applebaum tells us: “Speaking in the purely neutral language of statistics, Comrade Avrutsky made [a proposal to starve Group B, which continues to grow, since Group A is sufficient to do the work].” It isn’t explained how having only one group alive made it easier to fulfill work targets. In any case, Avrutsky’s immoral statements are in no sense statistical.
On p.47 Applebaum writes: “The transformation [collectivization of agriculture] permanently weakened Soviet agriculture, and created the conditions for the terrible, devastating famines in Ukraine and southern Russia in 1932 and 1934 _ famines that killed between six and seven million people. Collectivization also destroyed _ forever _ rural Russia’s sense of continuity with the past.” H er source is Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow, published in 1986, and its estimates of the death toll of the famines is too high; John Paul Himka thought that 2.5 million to 3.5 million died in the Ukrainian famine, which claimed most of the deaths.

kapucha Sep 02, 2013

good book,

Oct 25, 2012

Next time you're unable to stuff your fat face, think about these poor bastards and shut up.

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