100 books like The Gulag Archipelago

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,

Here are 100 books that The Gulag Archipelago fans have personally recommended if you like The Gulag Archipelago. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Hope Against Hope: A Memoir

Lynne Viola Author Of Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine

From my list on Stalin’s Great Terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lynne Viola is a University Professor of Russian history at the University of Toronto. Educated at Barnard and Princeton, she has carried out research in Russian and Ukrainian archives for over 30 years. Among her books, are two dealing with Stalinist repression: Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine and The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. Both are based on work in previously classified archives, including the archives of the political police.

Lynne's book list on Stalin’s Great Terror

Lynne Viola Why did Lynne love this book?

Written by the wife of Russia’s great poet, Osip Mandelstam, this book is one of the most important—and brilliant--memoirs of the Stalin years. Perhaps more than any other book, it captures the atmosphere of fear and terror that surrounded members of the creative intelligentsia under Stalin.

By Nadezhda Mandelstam, Max Hayward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hope Against Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Suddently, at about one o'clock in the morning, there was a sharp, unbearably explicit knock on the door. 'They've come for Osip', I said'.

In 1933 the poet Osip Mandelstam- friend to Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova- wrote a spirited satire denouncing Josef Stalin. It proved to be a sixteen-line death sentence. For his one act of defiance he was arrested by the Cheka, the secret police, interrogated, exiled and eventually re-arrested. He died en route to one of Stalin's labour camps.

His wife, Nadezhda (1899-1980) was with him on both occasions when he was arrested, and she loyally accompanied…


Book cover of Intimacy and Terror: Soviet Diaries of the 1930s

Lynne Viola Author Of Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine

From my list on Stalin’s Great Terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lynne Viola is a University Professor of Russian history at the University of Toronto. Educated at Barnard and Princeton, she has carried out research in Russian and Ukrainian archives for over 30 years. Among her books, are two dealing with Stalinist repression: Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine and The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. Both are based on work in previously classified archives, including the archives of the political police.

Lynne's book list on Stalin’s Great Terror

Lynne Viola Why did Lynne love this book?

This is a collection of diaries written by a wide range of individuals during the Stalin era. The diaries address the terror in a variety of surprising ways, demonstrating the diversity of Soviet citizens in this time.

By Veronique Garros, Natalia Korenevskaya, Thomas Lahusen

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Intimacy and Terror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The private lives of a broad section of Russians who lived during Stalin's purge are revealed in this book. The nine diaries here capture the day-to-day thoughts of these people, and represent a vast selection of opinions, from those oblivious to the terror and those deeply affected by it.


Book cover of The Great Fear: Stalin's Terror of the 1930s

Lynne Viola Author Of Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine

From my list on Stalin’s Great Terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lynne Viola is a University Professor of Russian history at the University of Toronto. Educated at Barnard and Princeton, she has carried out research in Russian and Ukrainian archives for over 30 years. Among her books, are two dealing with Stalinist repression: Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine and The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. Both are based on work in previously classified archives, including the archives of the political police.

Lynne's book list on Stalin’s Great Terror

Lynne Viola Why did Lynne love this book?

Written by one of the UK’s best historians of the Soviet Union, this book explores how fears of conspiracy and foreign invasion influenced Stalin and the Great Terror. The introduction contains a valuable survey and critique of major historical interpretations of the terror.

By James Harris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Fear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between the winter of 1936 and the autumn of 1938, approximately three quarters of a million Soviet citizens were subject to summary execution. More than a million others were sentenced to lengthy terms in labour camps. Commonly known as 'Stalin's Great Terror', it is also among the most misunderstood moments in the history of the twentieth century. The Terror gutted the ranks of factory directors and engineers after three years in which all major plan targets were
met. It raged through the armed forces on the eve of the Nazi invasion. The wholesale slaughter of party and state officials was…


Book cover of Policing Stalin's Socialism: Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

Lynne Viola Author Of Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine

From my list on Stalin’s Great Terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lynne Viola is a University Professor of Russian history at the University of Toronto. Educated at Barnard and Princeton, she has carried out research in Russian and Ukrainian archives for over 30 years. Among her books, are two dealing with Stalinist repression: Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial: Scenes from the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine and The Unknown Gulag: The Lost World of Stalin’s Special Settlements. Both are based on work in previously classified archives, including the archives of the political police.

Lynne's book list on Stalin’s Great Terror

Lynne Viola Why did Lynne love this book?

This monograph changed the way historians understand the Great Terror. Shearer focuses on state fears not of foreign invasion, but of domestic social disorder. Based on voluminous archival research, he explores the structural prerequisites to the “mass operations” of the Great Terror by looking at the social purging campaigns of the mid-1930s and the practices of civil and political policing.

By David R. Shearer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Policing Stalin's Socialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Policing Stalin's Socialism is one of the first books to emphasize the importance of social order repression by Stalin's Soviet regime in contrast to the traditional emphasis of historians on political repression. Based on extensive examination of new archival materials, David Shearer finds that most repression during the Stalinist dictatorship of the 1930s was against marginal social groups such as petty criminals, deviant youth, sectarians, and the unemployed and unproductive.

It was because Soviet leaders regarded social disorder as more of a danger to the state than political opposition that they instituted a new form of class war to defend…


Book cover of The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1

Jasna Koteska Author Of Communist Intimacy

From my list on understanding trauma and how to heal it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 14 years old when my dad was imprisoned by the communist police of ex-Yugoslavia. My dad spent his childhood working as a shepherd in a small Macedonian village with 11 inhabitants. Later, he became a poet, and he belonged to the last group of political prisoners in the former Yugoslavia. When my dad was sent to prison, my family and I dealt with great trauma. 

Jasna's book list on understanding trauma and how to heal it

Jasna Koteska Why did Jasna love this book?

I consider this one of the most important books about the 20th century. A document of the suffering of millions of people, with a clear message that people are capable of the most horrible evils, was conducted with the most precise bureaucratic consistency.

In the sense in which Hannah Arendt described evil as already a banal evil. However, this book has a clear catharsis regarding the trauma. The duty of humans is to preserve, nurture, and value the existence of every human, animal, plant, stone, and mineral, with the Earth as our home and the skies as our potential. 

By Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE 20TH CENTURY.” —Time

Volume 1 of the gripping epic masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn's chilling report of his arrest and interrogation, which exposed to the world the vast bureaucracy of secret police that haunted Soviet society. Features a new foreword by Anne Applebaum.

“The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever leveled in modern times.” —George F. Kennan

“It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century.” —David Remnick, The New Yorker

“Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece. . . . The Gulag Archipelago…


Book cover of Cannibal Island: Death in a Siberian Gulag

Roger R. Reese Author Of The Imperial Russian Army in Peace, War, and Revolution, 1856-1917

From my list on Stalinism from every angle.

Why am I passionate about this?

Roger Reese has studied, researched, and or taught Soviet history since 1984. He has been on the faculty of Texas A&M University since 1990. He has published five books and numerous articles and book chapters on the military history of Russia and the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. book prize for his most recent book, The Imperial Russian Army in Peace, War, and Revolution, 1856-1917.

Roger's book list on Stalinism from every angle

Roger R. Reese Why did Roger love this book?

I love this book because it “names names.” It is a tragic recounting of the sending of petty criminals combined with a mostly random rounding up of innocent “undesirables” off the street by the police in the USSR in 1934 who are then shipped to exile in Siberia where they were expected to work for the good of the Soviet state. In a matter of months thousands of them died from maltreatment, exposure, and starvation. The book traces the chain of events from inspiration by head of the Gulag Berman and chief of the secret police Iagoda all the way down the chain of command of the Party and police officials to the man responsible for stranding the people on a river island in Siberia. The book gives a glimpse into the nature of the repressive organs and mentality of the Soviet state in a way that humanizes the experience…

By Nicolas Werth, Steven Rendall, Steven Rendall

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cannibal Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During the spring of 1933, Stalin's police rounded up nearly one hundred thousand people as part of the Soviet regime's "cleansing" of Moscow and Leningrad and deported them to Siberia. Many of the victims were sent to labor camps, but ten thousand of them were dumped in a remote wasteland and left to fend for themselves. Cannibal Island reveals the shocking, grisly truth about their fate. These people were abandoned on the island of Nazino without food or shelter. Left there to starve and to die, they eventually began to eat each other. Nicolas Werth, a French historian of the…


Book cover of Gulag: A History

Jane Rogoyska Author Of Surviving Katyn: Stalin's Polish Massacre and the Search for Truth

From my list on the recent history of Russia and Ukraine.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent the past few years writing about the 1940 Katyń Massacre of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war by Stalin’s NKVD and the decades-long cover-up of their crime. My research has taken me far and wide across the recent history of eastern Europe but until the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 I was convinced the events I was studying belonged firmly in the past. Now, more than ever, we need to make an effort to understand the ways in which history informs the present. I most admire writers who combine a forensic attention to detail with a deep compassion for the individuals at the heart of every story.

Jane's book list on the recent history of Russia and Ukraine

Jane Rogoyska Why did Jane love this book?

A magisterial account of the brutal system of labour camps to which hundreds of thousands of people were consigned as criminals by the Soviet state. Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Varlam Shalamov offer us vivid first-hand accounts of the experience of being a prisoner in the gulag, but what Applebaum has achieved is to tell the history of an entire system without ever losing sight of the individuals who were its victims.

By Anne Applebaum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gulag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • This magisterial and acclaimed history offers the first fully documented portrait of the Gulag, from its origins in the Russian Revolution, through its expansion under Stalin, to its collapse in the era of glasnost.

“A tragic testimony to how evil ideologically inspired dictatorships can be.” –The New York Times

The Gulag—a vast array of Soviet concentration camps that held millions of political and criminal prisoners—was a system of repression and punishment that terrorized the entire society, embodying the worst tendencies of Soviet communism. Applebaum intimately re-creates what life was like in the camps and links them…


Book cover of Kolyma Tales

Elliot Lord Author Of The Potter

From my list on engaging stories of historical adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have chosen this area of literature because I enjoy expanding my horizons. I love to find out about stories from different cultures and different times that will open my eyes to things I would never have thought about before. The depth of the writing is important to convey the emotions felt by the characters. This is what inspires me in my writing and my book that I have chosen to highlight here is also a story of historical fiction, influenced by my experience of living in Slovakia and finding out from residents about how incredibly different life had been in their country.

Elliot's book list on engaging stories of historical adventures

Elliot Lord Why did Elliot love this book?

Shalamov was a political prisoner in the Soviet Union and was sent to the gulags in northeastern Siberia. This book is life-changing in that he nonchalantly tells stories of extreme discomfort and how the men would kill each other without a second thought if they didn't like what the other was doing. Narrating tales over many years of desperation, Kolyma Tales puts the reader in the shoes of someone who knows they can't escape but can't lose the survival instinct, either. This is easily one of the best books I've ever read.

By Varlam Shalamov, John Glad (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kolyma Tales as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is estimated that some three million people died in the Soviet forced-labour camps of Kolyma, in the northeastern area of Siberia. Shalamov himself spent seventeen years there, and in these stories he vividly captures the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances, whose hopes and plans extended to further than a few hours This new enlarged edition combines two collections previously published in the United States as Kolyma Tales and Graphite.


Book cover of Khrushchev's Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform after Stalin

Susanne Schattenberg Author Of Brezhnev: The Making of a Statesman

From my list on Pre-Putin’s Soviet Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I had to choose another elective subject at school, my grandmother advised me: "Take Russian. We will have to deal with the Russians – for better or for worse.” So I chose Russian as my third foreign language and my grandmother was right – first it came good: perestroika and glasnost, then it came bad: Putinism. So I studied Russian and history, did my doctorate and habilitation in Russian-Soviet history, and today I am a professor of contemporary history and culture of Eastern Europe and head of the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. 

Susanne's book list on Pre-Putin’s Soviet Russia

Susanne Schattenberg Why did Susanne love this book?

This book took me into the abysses of Soviet society, but in a very different way than the books on terror: Dobson does an incomparable job of describing what it meant for Soviet people to take in millions of Gulag returnees after 1953, and to do so in a society that was far from leaving the ravages of war behind, that itself had barely any housing and enough to eat, that on the one hand was severely traumatized by Stalin's terror, but on the other hand was in large part unwilling to accept the Gulag returnees as innocent victims. They were perceived as troublemakers and competitors for the few resources, their language as vulgar and outrageous, their culture as an attack on Stalinist "culturedness." Anyone who wants to understand what Stalinism did not only to the victims, but to society as a whole, must read this book. But be aware:…

By Miriam Dobson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Khrushchev's Cold Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between Stalin's death in 1953 and 1960, the government of the Soviet Union released hundreds of thousands of prisoners from the Gulag as part of a wide-ranging effort to reverse the worst excesses and abuses of the previous two decades and revive the spirit of the revolution. This exodus included not only victims of past purges but also those sentenced for criminal offenses.

In Khrushchev's Cold Summer, Miriam Dobson explores the impact of these returnees on communities and, more broadly, Soviet attempts to come to terms with the traumatic legacies of Stalin's terror. Confusion and disorientation undermined the regime's efforts…


Book cover of Memoirs

Istvan Hargittai Author Of Buried Glory: Portraits of Soviet Scientists

From my list on scientific discovery unfavorable Soviet realities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been interested in the nature of scientific discovery, in scientific discoverers, and in particular in how science may operate and even be successful under oppressive regimes. I have lived under a variety of political systems, which has strengthened this personal interest. I have known a number of the heroes of these books and have written about them, too.

Istvan's book list on scientific discovery unfavorable Soviet realities

Istvan Hargittai Why did Istvan love this book?

For me, the most interesting aspect of this autobiography is its honesty. I already knew a lot about Sakharov when I read this book. I learned about Sakharov’s development that he was initially a devoted team member providing the most lethal weapons to a dictatorship, and how he evolved and eventually became a most fearless and forceful human rights advocate in a ruthless dictatorship—in the post-Stalin Soviet era.

I learned how he had opposed the Soviet leader Khrushchev and how he then became enemy No. 1 of the regime under Brezhnev. I found it also instructive how Gorbachev continued playing the role of his predecessors and how he found a formidable opponent in Sakharov. All this I find sadly relevant when I look at today’s Russia and its dictator.

By Andrei D. Sakharov,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The late Soviet physicist, activist, and Nobel laureate describes his upbringing, scientific work, rejection of Soviet repression, peace and human rights concerns, marriage and family, and persecution by the KGB


5 book lists we think you will like!

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