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Punishment and Repression in Russia under the Tsars and Soviets: Daniel Beer in Conversation with Anne Applebaum

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Daniel Beer and Anne Applebaum explore the history of punishment and repression in Russia and examine the contrasts and continuities between the tsarist and soviet regimes.

The discussion will look at how criminals, dissidents and revolutionaries who were exiled to penal camps and settlements lived and how they died; what the nature of the penal systems reveals about state power and ideology in both the tsarist and soviet periods and will ask how much of a fundamental rupture was 1917 in that history. How did the tsarist exile system and the Gulag each erode the moral foundations of the tsarist and soviet regimes both at home and abroad?

Beer's acclaimed book The House of the Dead, published last year, documents how, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the Russian Revolution, the tsarist regime exiled more than one million prisoners and their families beyond the Ural Mountains to Siberia. Anne Applebaum's Pulizer-winning book, published in 2003, Gulag: A History, is a fully documented history of the Soviet camp system, from its origins in the Russian Revolution to its collapse in the era of glasnost.

The tsars looked on Siberia as creating the ultimate political quarantine from the contagions of revolution. Generations of rebels - republicans, nationalists and socialists - were condemned to oblivion thousands of kilometres from European Russia. Over the nineteenth century, however, these political exiles transformed Siberia's mines, prisons and remote settlements into an enormous laboratory of revolution.

The House of the Dead was shortlisted for the Pushkin House Book Prize 2017, as well as the Wolfson History Prize 2017, Book of the Year 2016 for The Times, BBC History and TLS. This talk is part of the Pushkin Book Prize 2017 Shortlist Programme. 

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Daniel Beer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also the author of Renovating Russia. Read an exclusive Pushkin House interview with him here.

Follow Daniel Beer on Twitter



Anne Applebaum is a columnist for the Washington Post and a historian. She is also a visiting Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics’s Institute of Global Affairs. Anne was a member of the panel of judges for the 2017 Pushkin House Russian Book Prize

Visit Anne Applebaum's website