Anne Applebaum first lays out the chronological history of the camps and the logic behind their creation, enlargement, and maintenance. She concludes by examining the disturbing question of why the Gulag has remained relatively obscure, in the historical memory of both the former Soviet Union and the West.
Anne Applebaum has been a very distinguished student of matters Russian and East European all along. She never fell for the idiotic line peddled in Academe in the 1980s about the Soviet camps, and has now managed the very difficult feat of constructing a new version of Solzhenitsvn’s classic – one with all the fury under control. and reinforced by source-literature that Solzhenitsyn could not possibly at the time he wrote, have used. Applebaum’s book is an important complement ... The bulk of the book concerns arrest, transportation, feeding, work, clothing, survival, revolt and release. The book is well planned around these themes, and the existing literature, memoirs for the most part, has been surveyed in extraordinary width and depth. What can a reviewer say? Every page is a horror story ... Anne Applebaum has immersed herself in the whole gruesome story, and any writer can only be speechless with admiration for her fortitude and her scholarship: she is Solzhenitsyn’s amanuensis, or exegetist. It is not a book that this reviewer could ever have managed to write. but it needed to be written. and the task-could not have been done better. It deserves a prize.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the gradual opening of KGB archives, the full horror of the Gulag is gradually emerging, and Applebaum has done a masterful job of chronicling the origin, growth, and eventual end of this monstrous system ... Now, we are left with the evidence, the memory of survivors, and the moral obligation to uncover the full story. This brilliant and often heartbreaking work is a giant step in the fulfillment of that obligation.
... a great deal of what Applebaum writes about in 'Gulag: A History has been told before...But that does not lessen her achievement ... Applebaum's book weighs in heavily in support of Solzhenitsyn on almost every point, and her account is backed not only by a careful use of the vast memoir literature but also by a thorough mining of the long-closed Soviet archives. Most important, she supports Solzhenitsyn's central argument: that the gulag was not some incidental Stalinist accretion to Lenin's visionary concept of Socialism ... Particularly useful is Applebaum's account of the camps during World War II ... It is fervently to be hoped that people will read Anne Applebaum's excellent, tautly written and very damning history. Even more fervently, one hopes that it will soon be translated into Russian.