Gulag

  • by Anne Applebaum
  • Narrated by Laural Merlington
  • 27 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2004
The Gulag - a vast array of Soviet concentration camps that held millions of political and criminal prisoners - was a system of repression and punishment that terrorized the entire society, embodying the worst tendencies of Soviet communism. In this magisterial and acclaimed history, Anne Applebaum offers the first fully documented portrait of the Gulag, from its origins in the Russian Revolution, through its expansion under Stalin, to its collapse in the era of glasnost.
Applebaum intimately recreates what life was like in the camps and links them to the larger history of the Soviet Union. Immediately recognized as a landmark and long-overdue work of scholarship, Gulag is an essential book for anyone who wishes to understand the history of the 20th century.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A tragic history fantastically depicted

Russia is synonymous with the gulag, before listening to this book, the only thing I knew about Russia was the little I heard on the news "that place far away that you don't want to be", friends would joke about someone moving to middle of nowhere to live in "some gulag". I really didn't appreciate the true horror of that word before reading this book.

The book however is not just about the gulag, these places have defined Russia itself and its people. There is a saying that "the people get the government they deserve", and this book really brings that to life. These horrific things could not have occurred without the cooperation of the population, its as if a person woke up one day and suddenly decided that it would be a good idea to cut off their own hand for no good reason. The people colluded with the government to criminalize and commit unspeakable acts on themselves.

There is a lot of humor but of course very dark, how could it not be? All of human behavior is laid bare; the often graphically depicted debasing, grisly and degrading conditions that bring out different reactions. Mostly and naturally people will debase themselves and attempt to do that to others around them or commit suicide since these places are so terrible, some can be stoic and bear an extraordinarily frightful set of conditions with apparent nonchalance and indifference, others still are heroic either tragically or successfully. It also shows what happens in a situation with no controls and people start simply behaving with abject depravity.

This is a no-holds barred retelling of a tragic history and it is baffling that some Russians look back at the leaders during this period and put them on a pedestal; in terms of the number of people killed as a direct result it makes Hitler look like a bumbling amateur.

It could be argued that the gulag has had a greater effect in shaping the Russian people than the horrors of Hitler's concentration camps had on the Jews, in the west we just don't really hear much about it other than "its a dreadful place".

Why only four stars? I felt that the book was too long for the material it depicted, it was the laws of diminishing returns as you get towards the end and there was over repetition of themes but I can forgive this because it can be difficult to write a complete work on a topic so massive and yet relatively unknown. Also the value in terms of relieving one's ignorance is absolutely worth the time investment.

If you have any interest in politics, history, human behavior, or want to appreciate some of what has shaped Russia, YOU MUST READ OR LISTEN TO THIS BOOK!
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- Ozzymandias

Very comprehensive and well written

A very depressing and yet fascinating book. Very well written, and well read - it didn't feel like a 20+ hours book. Although shame that the lector struggles with the Slavic surnames. There seems to be a small mistake in my version - the Soviet invasion of Poland took place 17th of September, not 7th.
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- Mikolaj

Book Details

  • Release Date: 15-03-2012
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio