Stalin's Gulag at War: Forced Labour, Mass Death, and Soviet Victory in the Second World War
Stalin's Gulag at War places the Gulag within the story of the regional wartime mobilization of Western Siberia during the Second World War. Far from Moscow, Western Siberia was a key area for evacuated factories and for production in support of the war effort. Wilson T. Bell explores a diverse array of issues, including mass death, informal practices such as black markets, and the responses of prisoners and personnel to the war. The region's camps were never prioritized, and faced a constant struggle to mobilize for the war. Prisoners in these camps, however, engaged in such activities as sewing Red Army uniforms, manufacturing artillery shells, and constructing and working in major defense factories.
The myriad responses of prisoners and personnel to the war reveal the Gulag as a complex system, but one that was closely tied to the local, regional, and national war effort, to the point where prisoners and non-prisoners frequently interacted. At non-priority camps, moreover, the area's many forced labour camps and colonies saw catastrophic death rates, often far exceeding official Gulag averages. Ultimately, prisoners played a tangible role in Soviet victory, but the cost was incredibly high, both in terms of the health and lives of the prisoners themselves, and in terms of Stalin's commitment to total, often violent, mobilization to achieve the goals of the Soviet state.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 280 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.8in x 9.0in
Reviews"...an excellently researched and thought-provoking study which will no doubt inﬂuence the direction of future research."
"Although Bell touches on and evaluates various theories and arguments, his book is a close, source-based archival study of what happened in practice, on the ground. [This] is a good example of careful empirical research. He went where his sources took him and lets readers make up their own minds rather than prosecuting an a priori theoretical case."
J. Arch Getty
"As a careful empirical researcher, Bell eschews a single overarching argument, pointing repeatedly to paradoxes and contradictions in administrative intention and ground-level reality. While he insists on the primacy of economic motivations in running individual Gulag outposts, he reveals Gulag labor as costly and inefficient compared to alternative approaches to economic output. While he highlights the contribution that Gulag labor made to Soviet victory, he reminds us that those contributions were a tiny part of the total mobilization of the Soviet workforce outside the Gulag during the war."
Steven A. Barnes, George Mason University
"Wilson Bell's well-researched and carefully argued book presents the first English language account of the gulag in West Siberia during the period of the Great Patriotic War, 1941-45."
Judith Pallot, Emeritus Professor of the Human Geography of Russia, University of Oxford
"Tremendously evocative, Stalin’s Gulag at War describes and critically evaluates the working arrangements and historical significance of the forced labour camps of the Soviet Union’s Gulag in World War II, focusing particularly on the example of Western Siberia."
Mark Harrison, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Warwick
Author InformationWilson T. Bell is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, History and Politics at Thompson Rivers University.
Table of contents1. Ready for Total War?
2. Total War, Total Mobilization
3. Patriotic Prisoners
4. Patriotic Personnel
5. The Gulag’s Victory
Subjects and Courses