In This Review

The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements
The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin's Special Settlements
By Lynne Viola
Oxford University Press, 2007, 320 pp

Russian agriculture will long be scarred by the ravages of collectivization -- not merely because of its economic idiocy but also because of what it did to the best portions of the Russian peasantry. Stalin, to finance his "forced-draft" industrialization and wipe out political opposition to the plundering of agriculture, did not simply repress large numbers of the better-off peasants, or "kulaks." He dictated that a class of society be wiped out forever, setting quotas for how many in each of three state-designated categories of kulaks were to be dispatched, including quotas for those to be shot. Viola, a leading historian of collectivization, lays out the proportions, warped rationality, politics, and indiscriminate implementation of the enterprise and then focuses on what happened next. Banished to the vast reaches of four harsh, undeveloped regions, whole families, with scarcely the shirts on their backs and weak from the brutal transit, were dumped in the middle of nowhere and told to meet production targets. After years of archival and field research, Viola not only dots the statistical i's and crosses the technical t's but also reproduces whole an obscured segment of Stalinism's barbarity in which half a million perished and nearly two million agonized.