Friday, September 23, 2011

Exiles, Gulags and the Bleakness of Siberia

Anne Applebaum reported that when the director of a Hollywood Movie, about an escape from a Soviet Gulag, The Way Back (based on the book, The Long Walk) , tried to get support for his movie, many in Hollywood had not heard of Soviet concentration camps, only German ones. The majority of high school students today would share the surprise. The Russian, and later Soviet Gulag system, is fading from modern memory. The camps are remote and the few survivors are quickly passing from the scene.  I have a fascination with traveling across Russia.  The Gulag system would be something I'd want to see out of historical curiosity.  A strangely compelling subject and I wonder about the souls that survived and those that did not.

1.  Gulag: A History, Anne Applebaum (2003).   Applebaum's story of the Gulag system is immediately compelling.  She had unprecedented access to Soviet archives  She is able to examine the lives of the prisoners, guards, the horror of transportationn and the culture of the camps.  Each camp worse than the next.  Full set of black and white pictures  Bought new and later inscribed by the author. 

2.  Siberia and the Exile System, George Kennan (1891).  Written by the extended cousin of 20th Century's George Kennan (the father of containment) during his time surveying Siberia for a Russian telegraph company.  Very detailed account.  More suitable for those with a deep interest in the exile system under the Tsars.  Illustrated.  Bought at the State Department used bookstore. 

3.  East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia, Benson Bobrick (1992).   Descriptions of the land of Siberia with significant sections devoted to exiles and Gulag prisoners. Illustrations.  Bought new.  

See also Colin Thubron, Siberia from earlier entry on Thubron.  He reports touring Gulags and provides fascinating history including one story about guards that were ordered to massacre an entire camp of prisoners; Stalin ordered a second set of guards to massacre those guards. 

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