Beyond the Book: Background information when reading House of Meetings

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House of Meetings

by Martin Amis

House of Meetings
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2007, 256 pages
    Jan 2008, 256 pages

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Beyond the Book

A Short History of the Gulag

The Soviet system of forced labor camps known as the Gulag spanned nearly four decades of Soviet history and affected millions of individuals. GULAG is an acronym of Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagereian which, depending on the source, translates as "The Main Directorate for Corrective Labor Camps" or "Main Camp Administration". The earliest camps were established in 1919, by 1939 about 1.6 million were incarcerated. Over time, the word "Gulag" has come to signify not only the administration of the concentration camps but also the system of Soviet slave labor itself, in all its forms including labor camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women's camps, children's camps and transit camps.

Prisoners included murderers, thieves and other common criminals, plus many political and religious dissenters. During World War II Gulag numbers declined significantly with the mass conscription of prisoners - penal battalions were sent ...

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