The Soviet Gulag – Evidence, Interpretation, and Comparison



Review by g emil reutter


“global spread of institutions of mass internment illustrates how, within a relatively short time span, these institutions and their underlying concepts were appropriated across borders, as ruling elites around the globe looked for potent strategies to end opposition and resistance to their projects of expansion and consolidation.” -Klaus Mühlhahn


In this collection, Editor Michael David-Fox has brought the modern voices of Gulag Scholars into the mix to create a broad understanding of the impact of the Gulag, Soviet society and the communist experiment. Oleg KhlevniukIt estimates that over 25 million people were forced into labor during the Stalin era of the Soviet Union into a system of Gulag’s between 1930 and 1952. Mühlhahn’s statement reinforces the thought that the ruling elites even in todays’ world support ideas to eliminate opposition and resistance to their projects that would expand globalization and consolidation. The Gulag and related systems used in other countries during the Stalin era were the extreme, however it should be noted that the extreme can be reached quickly when people’s freedom is eliminated.


These essays study the impact the Gulags had on the overall society in the Soviet Union, the interaction between “free” society and the Gulag system. How the system was influenced by the British concentration camps in South Africa and how the Gulag system influenced camps in North Korea, China and Germany. Unlike Feudalism, which was ended in the 1860’s with the emancipation of the serfs in Russia, the Gulags treated everyone as property of the state regardless of class based on the need of the Gulag. When the system used up those imprisoned either mentally or physically they were simply discarded. There was no value to human life except as it related to the work in the Gulag.


It sounds cliché, but one has to know history not to repeat it. Humans are not good at this for every step forward there are several backward. The loss of individual identity and national identity led to the horrors of the Gulag system which is a common theme throughout these essays. It seems no matter the system of government when the elites believe they know what is best for the masses and impose that will, people suffer and humanity is lost.


You can find the book here:


g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

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