The "Annals of Communism" series is Yale University Press's invaluable publishing enterprise that makes available previously unopened documents from the Soviet state and party archives on key topics, and this is the 16th volume in the series. So much has been written about Stalin's terror and the gulag, yet to read the secret internal documents chills as almost nothing else. Khlevniuk, one of Russia's most seasoned historians, has sifted through an immense quantity of material and then deftly winnowed it to clusters of documents revealing the origins of the camps, the gruesome impact of the early 1930s famine, the stabilization of the system, and its rapid swelling during the height of the terror. He provides brief, dispassionate, and very helpful commentaries on each section. Although, as Khlevniuk notes, much remains to be known, if ever it can be, so much has already been learned from these cold, bureaucratic memos and lists.
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