Reading Russian history usually depresses me. Somehow events and people always get sucked into that morose black hole known as Siberia. I generally avoid Russian history as a result. But for some reason, I picked up Anne Applebaum's Pulitzer Prize-winning 'Gulag'
and I'm glad I did, though I'm definitely going to have to read a light Robert Parker novel
afterward just to clear my head. What's great about Applebaum's book is that, through interviews and recently-released Soviet documents, she humanizes the almost unimaginably vast horror of the Gulag system under Stalin. In particular, I've often wondered what happened to the millions of kulaks condemned to exile by the Soviets. It's all here -- the round ups, the herding of peasants onto trains and boats, the dumping of survivors in remote Siberia, the slave work in forests and in mines. It is, indeed, depressing. But it's important history. So I highly recommend it with the warning: It's Russian history. ... BTW: Anne writes a fine column
for the Washington post. A sample
from late 2006:
On the day James Baker's Iraq report was published, I gritted my teeth and waited for the well-earned, long-awaited, Franco-German "Old Europe" gloat to begin. I didn't wait long.
She lets them gloat -- then gently lets them have it for not offering up alternatives. ...