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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.

©2007 Anne Applebaum (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
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  • E. R. Rothenberg
  • 16-01-2014

Riveting story, flawed performance

Would you listen to Gulag again? Why?

Perhaps parts of it. I will consult a hard copy in order to digest and remember some of the many facts, statistics and quotations cited by the author.

What other book might you compare Gulag to and why?

Holocaust histories. Applebaum's history is based on newly opened archival information.

Would you be willing to try another one of Laural Merlington’s performances?

Not if it's a performance of a Russian-related subject. Her style was over-dramatic in inappropriate places, but worse was her horrendous pronunciation of Russian names, places, and gulag terminology. And it was inconsistently horrendous -- she pronounced the same name two or three different ways -- almost always incorrect.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Way too long for that but in places it was definitely hard to stop. The author livens up her chronological historical survey of the prisons and camps with the fascinating, if dismal, tragedies of individuals.

Any additional comments?

I find other reviewers' negative comments interesting. Applebaum opens her history with an instructive analysis of the contrast between the west’s cultural fascination with Nazi atrocities and its willful ignorance and disregard of Soviet evils. The details of the story are grisly and mind-boggling, but all too true and they deserve attention. The gulag is an important part of 20th century history and it is still relevant in Russia.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • James A. Bretney
  • 11-05-2015

informative to a degree

Anne Applebaum's books are always informative. She is very smug and thin skinned on Twitter. She has a pro-Polish bias. She has a tendency to over hype lesser known Gulag writers at the expense of Solzhenitsyn. That said I will buy every single book she writes.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Thucydides
  • 03-08-2017

Nice compliment to Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archepelago is better because it gives you the soul and first hand account and is written by a great master--an enduring legacy worth even of re-reading. A master storyteller who can make you cry and cringe and almost relive the whole ghastly tragedy is the sort of history that plants deeply the will that this should never happen again. But Applebaum's account is good history and fills in many details from a variety of sources closed to Solzhenitsyn. in fact, Solzhenitsyn hoped that someone would do exactly this, and calls for it in his own magnum opus. I can see why Applebaum won the Pulizter prize.--well deserved. Applebaum leaves us with the cold assurance that such totalitarianism will most certainly happen again. Let's prove her wrong, even if our struggle is vanity and chasing after the sun. Imagine, Stalin with FB, Google, Microsoft, cloud drives and Twitter to hack, and complex algorithms to build cases against all who love freedom.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 23-11-2014

Torture of Russian names

If you could sum up Gulag in three words, what would they be?

Necessary, frightening, sad

What other book might you compare Gulag to and why?

"Iron Curtain" by the same author

What didn’t you like about Laural Merlington’s performance?

She ought to have been given at least a one-hour crash course of Russian pronunciation. Many names are simply not identifiable.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

That can't be done.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • CHET YARBROUGH
  • 06-08-2014

GULAG

“Gulag” is an important part of history. No one should forget the brutality, paranoia, and human degradation perpetrated by Joseph Stalin after the revolution of 1917. Anne Applebaum capitalizes on Russian glasnost by opening history’s door to forced labor camps during Stalin’s reign (1917-1953).

“Gulag” is well written and fairly documents a history of gulags in Stalinist Russia. Historians and descendants of gulag prisoners will be enlightened by Applebaum’s research but the book is too long and repetitive for general consumption. One doubts most Russian citizens wish to be reminded of gulags’ enforced labor, starvation, and death–just as most Americans would dislike being reminded of slavery.

Many gulag’ leaders were never punished for their crimes against humanity. Applebaum explains that the purpose of this book is to let the world know gulag-like imprisonment will occur again; if not in Russia, in some other country that succumbs to totalitarian rule, where the worst in human nature reveals itself.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • The Doggie Nanny
  • 12-03-2014

Compelling history of Soviet oppression

Would you consider the audio edition of Gulag to be better than the print version?

I am enjoying listening to the book-- however the narrator's pronunciation of Russian places and names drives me crazy! I find her rendition of Russian words very distracting in that it is so deliberate, and stilted. I can't stand it.
The story however is very compelling-- a history of Soviet cruelty that the west is woefully unaware of. With recent news events in Ukraine, this book is very revealing and helpful in understanding just why the people of the former Soviet Union do not want to go back under the control of the Russian communist regime.

What did you like best about this story?

A overview of the gulag system in the former Soviet Union.

Any additional comments?

The reader does a fine job-- except with Russian language words. You will see what I mean!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Noam
  • 20-06-2012

Comprehensive but rather tedious

Would you try another book from Anne Applebaum and/or Laural Merlington?

I don't think so

Would you recommend Gulag to your friends? Why or why not?

Probably not.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

I think that a less dramatic style of narration could have improved the overall quality of the book.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Maybe

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Stewart
  • 31-05-2018

A reader

Great book, but the narrator can’t pronounce Russian names and words, which is pretty exasperating. Also see the cover blurb: “fevently hoped ...” not “fervently”. Come on ...
But Anne Applebaum is great. I can’t wait for whatever she writes next to come out. I’ve read “Iron Curtain” and “Red Famine”, both of which are also great.

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  • Dani P
  • 17-05-2018

Great compilation of sources.

Besides the introduction and the epilogue, I think Applebaum manages to stay objective throughout the book. However if a hear the word “galvanized” again I’m going be sick!

I wish the emotion and the acting of the readers was toned down in History books though, I’m not listening to Anna Karenina FGS

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  • bballdave025
  • 30-04-2018

People should want to know! Possible required read

Before Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, and its people became wonderfully important to me, I was proud to at least be able to say in conversion that Stalin was likely worse than Hitler. I did not know enough.
I've spent over five years finding and investigating stories of wonderful people from these wonderful places. These people went through (and sometimes perpetrated) unimaginable horror. Many good people made mistakes. However, the most important thing to know is how these people went through these experiences, were able to be good people and raise good people.
I won't say it's only important to see how some people overcame these trials, though that has extreme value. It is also necessary to see how some people didn't make it through these trials. It's all part of history, and if we claim to value human life, we must see how many people in many places lived.
This book was a valuable addition to my knowledge. I appreciated the fact that people in the past were not judged according to today's standards, morals, and knowledge. I also appreciated that today's knowledge, morals, and standards were discussed in relation to these people.
The most important thing I can say about this book is not that it was able to add to my knowledge, but rather that its conclusion was a beautiful exposition of why what I have learned is important. A thorough and honest exploration of the past - one's personal past, one's family past, one's cultural past, one's national past - is necessary. Neither good nor bad must be ignored as we look at our reflection.
Most of all, we must remember!