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Other titles in the Annals of Communism series:
The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization To the Great Terror (Annals of Communism)by Oleg V. Khlevniuk
Synopses & Reviews
Josef Stalin exercised supreme power in the Soviet Union from 1929 until his death in 1953. During that quarter-century, by Oleg Khlevniukandrsquo;s estimate, he caused the imprisonment and execution of no fewer than a million Soviet citizens per year. Millions more were victims of famine directly resulting from Stalinand#39;s policies. What drove him toward such ruthlessness? This essential biography, by the author most deeply familiar with the vast archives of the Soviet era, offers an unprecedented, fine-grained portrait of Stalin the man and dictator. Without mythologizing Stalin as either benevolent or an evil genius, Khlevniuk resolves numerous controversies about specific events in the dictatorandrsquo;s life while assembling many hundreds of previously unknown letters, memos, reports, and diaries into a comprehensive, compelling narrative of a life that altered the course of world history.
In brief, revealing prologues to each chapter, Khlevniuk takes his reader into Stalinandrsquo;s favorite dacha, where the innermost circle of Soviet leadership gathered as their vozhd lay dying. Chronological chapters then illuminate major themes: Stalinandrsquo;s childhood, his involvement in the Revolution and the early Bolshevik government under Lenin, his assumption of undivided power and mandate for industrialization and collectivization, the Terror, World War II, and the postwar period. At the bookandrsquo;s conclusion, the author presents a cogent warning against nostalgia for the Stalinist era.
"Annals of Communism, Yale's acclaimed series, adds another major documentary history to its list. More than 100 documents from the Russian archives are translated, and interspersed with Russian historian Khlevniuk's extensive analysis. The result is a fascinatingly detailed depiction of that horrific symbol of the 20th century, the Soviet prison camp system. Khlevniuk argues that the gulag as it developed from 1929 was a new creation, a specifically Stalinist invention. He weaves together personal accounts by victims with the far more numerous documents written by Soviet bureaucrats. The documents provide surprises and revelations. In the early years, prisoners petitioned and went on strike for improvements in their conditions, sometimes successfully. Officials wrote innumerable memoranda documenting the abysmal food supplies and sanitary conditions and the excessive brutalities of camp guards. At the same time, production derived from forced labor became a major element of the Soviet economy. Attempts to ameliorate the camp situation were thwarted by the ineptitude of the Soviet bureaucracy and the severe crises of the 1930s. Khlevniuk demonstrates how every tightening of the overall political situation, such as the onset of forced collectivization and then the Great Terror, led to a worsening of conditions within the camps. Ultimately, the camps were 'almost [the] direct reflection' of the Soviet system and the outcome of decisions made by Stalin and a small group around him. This is an excellent companion to Anne Applebaum's Pulitzer-winning Gulag: A History. 39 illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The most authoritative and engrossing biography of the notorious dictator ever written
The human cost of the Gulag, the Soviet labor camp system in which millions of people were imprisoned between 1920 and 1956, was staggering. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and others after him have written movingly about the Gulag, yet never has there been a thorough historical study of this unique and tragic episode in Soviet history. This groundbreaking book presents the first comprehensive, historically accurate account of the camp system. Russian historian Oleg Khlevniuk has mined the contents of extensive archives, including long-suppressed state and Communist Party documents, to uncover the secrets of the Gulag and how it became a central component of Soviet ideology and social policy.
Khlevniuk argues persuasively that the Stalinist penal camps created in the 1930s were essentially different from previous camps. He shows that political motivations and paranoia about potential enemies contributed no more to the expansion of the Gulag than the economic incentive of slave labor did. And he offers powerful evidence that the Great Terror was planned centrally and targeted against particular categories of the population. Khlevniuk makes a signal contribution to Soviet history with this exceptionally informed and balanced view of the Gulag.
About the Author
Oleg V. Khlevniuk is senior researcher at the State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow.
What Our Readers Are Saying
History and Social Science » Crime » Prisons and Prisoners