Gulag: A History of the Soviet Concentration Camps by Anne Applebaum - review by Norman Stone

Norman Stone

Soviet Horror

Gulag: A History of the Soviet Concentration Camps

By

Allen Lane The Penguin Press 610pp £25 order from our bookshop
 

WHEN SOLZHENITSYN WROTE his great three-volume classic, The Gulag Archipelago, it had a huge impact, particularly in France. There, since the Second World war, a great part of the reading classes had been Communist. Denying that Stalin ran an enormous concentration-camp system was fairly routine - or at any rate it was routine just to say that omelettes needed broken eggshells, and that the prisoners probably deserved imprisonment. Even when The Black Book of Communism came out in France a few years ago, and Le Monde invited comments on the statement that Hitler killed far fewer people than Stalin, there were still a few breast-beaters around to say that, after all, the Communist experience could be excused because it was all part of a well-intended 'social ex~eriment'. But on the whole. Solzhenitsvn single-hanhedly, through his Gulag book, brought abou; a tectonic shift in French intellectual life.

In Anglo-Saxon countries. the effect was less marked - probably, in the first instance, because Russia was that much further away, and because the degree of Communist influence on intellectual life was so much less. There had been indications as to the extent of the horrors under Stalin - Malcolm Muggeridge, quite early on (in

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