In Women of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives, Gregory highlights the tragedy among women during one of the most egregious dictatorships of the twentieth century

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Women of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives by Hoover fellow Paul Gre
Women of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives by Hoover fellow Paul Gre

Hoover Institution Press released Women of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives by Hoover research fellow Paul Gregory, a profound work that relied heavily on material in the Hoover Archives.

This book encompasses Gregory’s expansive research on the little-known women victims of the Gulag (Stalin’s vast network of forced labor camps and settlements for families) and reveals just how far-reaching and frightening the Gulag was. The volume begins with Stalin’s rise to power, the roots of the Gulag, and the scheming and plotting that led to and persisted in one of the bloodiest, most egregious dictatorships of the twentieth century.

In researching the memoirs and oral reminiscences of five women who were victimized in the Gulag, Gregory has stitched together stories from the female perspective, a view in short supply in the literature. Capturing the fear, paranoia, and unbearable hardships that were the hallmarks of Stalin’s Great Terror, Gregory relates the stories of these five women–from different social strata and regions–in vivid prose, from their pre-Gulag lives, through their struggles to survive in the repressive atmosphere of the late 1930s and early 1940s, to the difficulties facing the four who survived as they adjusted to life after the Gulag.

“In this carefully researched collection of stories, Paul Gregory portrays a wide range of women Gulag victims, including workers, peasants, intellectuals, even two wives of high officials.  His description of their lives–from hard labor and starvation to their search for rehabilitation in later years–leave us with a much fuller picture of what it meant to be female in Stalin’s Soviet Union,” said Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History (2004) and Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1945-1956 (2012).

“Fascinating, heartbreaking, revelatory and important, Paul Gregory’s Women of the Gulag is filled with new material and impressive scholarship. Written with sensitivity to both intimate family life and the highest power politics and compelling to general readers as well as experts, the book reveals the brutality and heartlessness of the Stalinist system through the stories of its female victims, both elite and ordinary,” said Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar (2005).

Drawing from the Soviet archives that were opened in the 1990s and from personal, handwritten, and typed accounts that have languished for decades, Gregory reveals the particular punishments reserved for women, such as sexual enslavement and the same hard labor as men, and describes the difficulty the four surviving women had in adjusting to a post-Gulag life.  Woven throughout the narratives are accounts of Stalin and his henchmen as they drafted their draconian decrees in his Kremlin office.  These firsthand accounts illustrate how the wrong word or the errant father or husband could become a crime against the state.

A documentary on the same subject, Women of the Gulag, to be released in 2014, will include some of the women profiled in the book, as well as original characters.  For more information, view the trailer at The e-book version, also scheduled to be released soon, contains interviews with survivors and their daughters gathered in the process of researching the film. The film will also be profiled on CSPAN Book TV on Saturday, August 17, 2013.

Paul Gregory directs the Hoover Archives Workshop on Totalitarian Regimes at the Hoover Institution, where, as a research fellow, he is able to draw on the world-renowned resources of the Hoover Archives. He is also the Cullen Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Houston.  The holder of a PhD in economics from Harvard University, Gregory is the author or coauthor of twelve books and more than one hundred articles on Stalin and Stalinism, the Soviet economy, transition economies, comparative economics, and dictatorship.

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