Review Articles

The review article “Gulag Historiography: An Introduction”, written by Wilson T. Bell, a former visiting professor at Dickinson College, attempts to explain what an actual Gulag is. Although the term was originally used as an acronym for Stalin’s labor camps, it currently is used to describe various forms of labor camps all over the world along with having numerous definitions. The second review article, written by Steven Maddox and has no title, compares two books: Preserving Petersburg: History, Memory, Nostalgia–a compilation of essays edited by Helena Goscilo and Stephen M.… Read the rest here

Shhhh…It’s a Secret Speech

Khrushchev’s secret speech, given to party officials but not published for the general public, showed his desire for de-Stalinization.  Basically, Khrushchev has the same criticisms about Stalin that the rest of the world had: he was paranoid, rude, and killed too many people. Khrushchev believed that Stalin had given the world a bad example of socialism.  He also stated that many innocent lives had been lost.

When Khrushchev is speaking, he is careful to maintain the language of the party.  … Read the rest here

Gulag Historiography

Wilson T. Bell’s article on Gulag historiography does not seek to define what a Gulag is. Instead, it is a fascinating effort to clarify the several definitions of Gulag in addition to the speculated reasons they existed. He states that there is no clear agreement among scholars and proceeds to list several definitions and contexts that have been explored. Bell also goes through the often debated economic and political motives behind the Gulags. His last statement, and perhaps his the most important, is that there is far more research needing to be done on this topic to add to the motives, goals, and contexts of a Gulag.… Read the rest here

Structure and Function of Gulag Historiography

Wilson T. Bell’s article on Gulag Historiography is very interesting. He talks about the many different terms of a gulag and how it is difficult to give the term a specific definition, since they vary so much. The three principal terms which define gulags revolve around economic, population politics, and social factors. Gulags differ from place to place, but Bell focuses on the gulags that are in the Soviet Union during the Stalin-era.

The economic aspect is in reference to Stalin’s Five Year plan and wanting to create rapid industrialization.… Read the rest here

Secret Speech

We’ve talked about Khrushchev’s contradicting opinions of Stalin while he was the Party First Secretary and later Chairmen of the USSR, but his “Secret Speech” seems to finally put to rest his true opinion on Stalin’s dictatorship. The speech was known as such because it was read in a session without discussion and was not reported in the Soviet press. However, the Communist world knew of its existence and the claims within- that Stalin’s “Cult of Personality” was responsible of crimes such as the Terror of the later 1930s to the deportation of nationalities in the early 1940s- shocked and led many Western Communists to abandon Communism altogether.… Read the rest here

Urban development as a reflection of culture and politics

I found the reviewer’s last sentence, recommending the three books for those interested in issues of memory, history, and urban planning very interesting. Urban planning reflects both the values and dynamism of a society. Paris, for instance, along with many other European cities, remains fixated on the past; try building a skyscraper on the Champs-Élysées if you want a challenge. Other cities, like New York, promote their ostensibly forward-looking nature with hyper-modern architectural styles and a constant flow of major construction projects.… Read the rest here

The Role of Tobacco in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich places an inordinate amount of emphasis on the role of tobacco in the Gulag, a luxury one normal does not consider readily accessible to convicts stuck in the middle of Siberia. The main character, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov exemplifies the obsession with this drug, even to the point that he takes a loan out for it. After an unusually large portion for lunch, Shukhov cites an insatiable craving for it, a craving which is odd seeing how this man was previously just worrying about whether or not he would get extra food.… Read the rest here

What Makes a Good Soviet?

What makes one a good Soviet? Being faithful to Stalin? Being faithful to Marx? In his novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn examines these questions. Solzhenitsyn implies throughout his novella that a good Soviet is faithful to Marx and the ideals of communism, not the dictatorship that Stalin created.

Among the prisoners in the camp, there is a sense of camaraderie. For example, Fetiukov saves Shukhov’s breakfast for him when he is late (p.15).… Read the rest here

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich describes the working and living conditions of a Russian labor camp by examining the lives of its prisoners.  All of these men ended up in the camp by being deemed enemies of the state, and the purpose of the camp is to reteach them how to be productive members of the Communist party.  However, some of the values that are prominent in the camp ironically go against those of Communism. … Read the rest here

Stalin’s Accusations of Subversion

Stalin’s attempts to remove any political factions that were pitted against him provide an iconic example of a totalitarian rise to power.  These ambitions are summarized definitively in “Purges,” a document published in 1935.  In this passage, Stalin’s prose reveals his feelings that the extant companions of Lenin in the Soviet Union constituted a threat to his own political prowess and thus needed to be eliminated by whatever means necessary to decimate their power and credibility with the general public.… Read the rest here