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The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements Paperback – February 10, 2009


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The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements + A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland + Stalinist Terror: New Perspectives
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195385098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195385090
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.9 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This scholarly, nuanced work shines light on Stalin's forced resettlement of two million Soviet peasants in the 1930s. A professor of history at the University of Toronto, Viola shows how a combination of repressive central government policies and out-of-control regional officials ruined the lives of so many Soviet citizens by deporting them to these "special settlements" to perform forced labor in the harsh tundra. Viola draws on newly opened archives to paint a complete portrait of the lives of the citizens, labeled "kulaks," or wealthy peasants. Hundreds of thousands died of disease or famine. As one child later remembered: "People began to swell and die" and were buried "without coffins, in collective graves." Viola writes clearly, but she is often understandably focused on larger, political questions, such as the nature of the Soviet state and how much of the repression was ordered by Stalin, and how much was ad hoc and locally ordered. This focus might limit Viola's readership, but this book is likely to become the scholarly standard on one of the 20th century's most horrific crimes. 25 b&w photos. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


"After years of archival and field research, Viola reproduces whole an obscured segment of Stalinism's barbarity in which half a million perished and nearly two million agonized."--Foreign Affairs


"Magnificently wide-ranging."--Times Literary Supplement


"A path-breaking and authoritative work."--Douglas Smith, The Seattle Times


"This scholarly, nuanced work shines light on Stalin's forced resettlement of two million Soviet peasants in the 1930s. Likely to become the scholarly standard on one of the 20th century's most horrific crimes."--Publishers Weekly


"Historians have long been aware of the scale of collectivization and the exile of the kulaks. But The Unknown Gulag provides the human voices that were secreted away for decades in formerly closed archives. Ms. Viola's painstaking research lays the foundation for a compelling and, in certain ways, surprising narrative."--The Wall Street Journal


"A seamless and quite moving narrative. A social historian at the top of her game."--Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Slavic Review



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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Gulag is the abbreviation for the vast agglomeration of prisons, penal camps and settlements that held the millions of citizens the Marxist/Leninist Communists enslaved. This scholarly work covers the establishment of the settlements populated by the expropriated "kulaks" -- rich peasants, the definition of which changed constantly.

Millions of people, mostly entirely families, denounced as enemies of the socialists were arrested because they owned a cow, a tractor, had employees, had more goods than a neighbor, were simply disliked or because a Communist functionary needed to meet a quota. They were forced into box cars without adequate food, water or sanitation and sent hundreds or thousands of miles away into exile. Thousands died enroute, still more thousands were executed. And many more thousands died when they were forced to labor in forests, mines and on primitive farms in the name of socialist glory.

Lynne Viola has conducted extensive research, including many hours in the formerly sealed archives of the security organs. Her unadorned prose is all the more horrifying: "The survivors noted that the people whom Soviet sources labeled non-able-bodied and who some of the bosses called "ballast" were the most vulnerable during the famine." There are extensive quotes from the letters of the exiled, letters which of course were confiscated by the socialist authorities. There are excerpts from the endless reports of the bureaucrats who spent enormous time blaming others for their failures to extract more work from their slaves.

Most people will be unable to tolerate reading "The Unknown Gulag". It is not likely to find favor among the left-wing who prefer to pretend that socialism didn't kill and enslave hundreds of millions of people in Europe, Asia and Africa. For the few who can deal with the truth, Lynne Viola has performed a great service.

Jerry
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul E. Richardson VINE VOICE on October 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We well know that, before the Gulag, there was Solovki. But, as Viola shows, between Solovki and the Gulag there were the spets - poselki (special villages) built by two million peasant kulak in 1930 and 1931, after they were forcibly removed from their villages and dropped in remotest Siberia without food or shelter. Some half-million souls died in these deadly precursors to the Gulag, whose existence was defended as a State Secret until recently - long after the crimes of the Gulag had been well chronicled by Solzhenitsyn and others. Thank fully, there are tenacious researchers like Viola bringing such things to light, honoring the victims in a society that seems determined to forget. (Reviewed in Russian Life)
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on September 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I got interested in the subject of the gulag by reading a book called "Cannibal Island" which told the horrifying story of one settlement in the gulag.

This book is a more scholarly and detailed examination of the gulag. It is a truth "that was suppressed for nearly sixty years, locked in Soviet archives and buried in the memories of frightened survivors" (p 2).

The communist party, and Stalin in particular, declared war on the kulak class during the 1930's. A kulak was a slang word for a tightfisted person, and the communists were certain that the country would flourish if only they could be rid of those peasants who hoarded food and goods.

In fact, the country was in a state of chaos and the people who were branded kulaks were as likely to be already starving as hoarding anything.
Yet, "In the violent context of the First Five-Year Plan, the countryside became a foreign country to be invaded, occupied, and conquered" (p 32).

Millions were swept up, wrenched from their families and their land, sent in over packed trains to the gulags. And millions died. Typhus and smallpox, exhaustion and starvation claimed the poor peasants who were sent to the gulag.

In their desperation, many tried to escape the gulag, only to perish in the vast emptiness of Siberia. Some rebellions occurred, and were swiftly put down. The dry reports from those in charge make for grim reading, containing such statistics as half of the women had ceased to menstruate due to hunger (p 133).
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