Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gulag: A History

I just finished reading Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum. This is a harrowing book, that I had to put down at times. The incredible cruelty of the Soviet state towards its own people was hard to imagine. Years ago, I read Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago and Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I had forgotten just how terrible the Gulag was.

In the introduction Applebaum tries to explain why this story is almost forgotten in the West. She highlights how over the years many progressives were sympathetic to the Soviet Union, which has led them to soft pedal this story. That may be true, but I think more importantly this happened far away from America and most American didn't have a close connection to it.

I think it is too simplistic now to treat this tragedy as the usual liberal vs. conservative controversy. Isn't it more important to ask how a criminal gang could take over and enslave a whole country as big as Russia.