* The House of the Dead by Daniel Beer


The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars offers a detailed, scholarly account of how the stars used the vast and remote land of Siberia to stash away anyone who did not agree with them (and many others who did not agree with their neighbors!) For me, Siberian exile meant the Soviet gulag, as described by Solzhenitsyn, but the hateful tradition is much older. So what did I learn in this book: that pre-Soviet exile was horrendously harsh and killed many prisoners before they even reached their destinations — on foot, half-starved, through the cold. That spouses and children of prisoners often went with them, and were exploited and mistreated and similar ways. That one could buy one’s way out of the worst treatments, as could be expected. The author compares the banishment in Siberia to deporting British convicts to Australia. I suppose the very different climates dictated the very different outcomes. In any case, 350 pages on the horror of labor camps seemed a bit much for me.

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