Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Madness Far Beyond Hitler

The Soviet Gulag was intended for profit.  That incredible statement strips any brackets surrounding the depth of incredulity that this book describes.  Begun in the twenties, the Gulag was a two-headed scheme to rid the Soviet Union of undesirables and utilize them for the enrichment of the state and decidedly not the populace.  Stalin would decree, ‘We need a bridge.  Tell the NKVD to arrest some engineers.’  Then he might think there was an arctic oil field in need of exploitation so he ordered the arrest of geologists.  When he saw vast, empty steppes yielding nothing to the state, he ordered the forced relocation of entire cultures forcing the deportees to productively use the wasteland or die in failing to do so.  Perhaps most unbelievably, he proclaimed: ‘We need to go into outer space, arrest some scientists.’  Despite Stalin’s mania for forced labor, he actually set quotas for how many prisoners were to be shot each month and criticized camp commandants for failing to meet them.  Anne Applebaum has, in the rarified light of Russian willingness to open at least some archives, spent decades unearthing the magnitude of the Soviet Gulag system’s misuse of capital, resources and humanity.  The fact that slave labor never, ever showed a profit did not convince the Soviets, from Stalin through Gorbachev, to quit the concept, despite their own proof that it was a failed theory.

Gulag is a chilling history lesson that clarifies the nature of America’s wartime ally.  It also defines the wrongness, incompetence and total futility of the Soviet system, and by extension, communism and socialism.  The reader will be stunned by the immensity of the Gulag, its incomprehensible cruelty, ineptitude and the capriciousness with which it was run.  Finally, Anne Applebaum’s insight into how the Gulag was ultimately responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union is an eye-opening hypothesis.  This massive work is highly readable and entertaining as well as informative.

Price $11.99 (I got burned at B&N for more than that)
Word count?  Oh, there are a great many words here.

Buy at Amazon

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