The Gulag, as It Really Was

It was bold, as well as ambitious, for Anne Applebaum to take on the gigantic task of writing a history of the late Soviet Union’s Gulag, and it pleases me to say that she has proved herself right. Her book, Gulag: A History, is an outstanding achievement.

Unmarked Monuments

Chances are you’ve seen Auschwitz-Birkenau. Perhaps you’ve also toured one or more of the museums at Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, and Terezin, hauntingly familiar names. But what about Ukhta, Iskitim, Karaganda, and Kolyma?

A world built on slavery

The word Gulag (an acronym from the Russian for the more cumbersome “Main Administration of Labour Camps”) has become synonymous with the accumulated evils of 70 years of Soviet dictatorship. Yet the West knows little about the Soviet concentration camp system. Even to call them “concentration camps”, equivalent to the much better-known Nazi system, will …

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Honouring souls lost in history

Some years ago Anne Applebaum was walking through the newly democratic city of Prague when she saw tourists, mostly Americans and West Europeans, buying up Soviet military paraphernalia: caps, badges, belt buckles, decorated with the hammer and sickle, or pictures of Soviet leaders.

Doomed men and rotten ideals

When a man was arrested in Soviet Russia and disappeared into the benighted Gulag concentration-camp system, he stepped off a precipice into a detached, parallel netherworld with its own laws and language and its own terrible destiny.

Deep inside the Soviet Gulag

In truth, the genocidal events of the 20th century are often too cataclysmic to wrap our minds around. It’s not due to a lack of compassion; it’s simply that the revolting efficiency and sheer figures involved often dehumanize genocide into abstraction.

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