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Professor Barnes is a specialist in the history of the former Soviet Union. His first book, Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society, published by Princeton University Press in 2011, was awarded the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize from the American Historical Association and the Baker-Burton Award from the European Section of the Southern Historical Association for best first book in European history. It was also short-listed for the Central Eurasian Studies Society book prize. Death and Redemption offers a fundamental reinterpretation of the role of the Gulag—the Soviet Union’s vast system of forced-labor camps, internal exile, and prisons—in Soviet society. Soviet authorities undoubtedly had the will to exterminate all the prisoners who passed through the Gulag, but unlike the Nazis they did not conceive of their concentration camps as instruments of genocide. In this provocative book, Barnes argues that the Gulag must be understood primarily as a penal institution where prisoners were given one final chance to reintegrate into Soviet society. Millions whom authorities deemed “reeducated” through brutal forced labor were allowed to leave. Millions more who “failed” never got out alive.
Drawing on newly opened archives in Russia and Kazakhstan as well as memoirs by actual prisoners, Barnes shows how the Gulag was integral to the Soviet goal of building a utopian socialist society. He takes readers into the Gulag itself, focusing on one outpost of the Gulag system in the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan, a location that featured the full panoply of Soviet detention institutions. Barnes traces the Gulag experience from its beginnings after the 1917 Russian Revolution to its decline following the 1953 death of Stalin.
Death and Redemption reveals how the Gulag defined the border between those who would reenter Soviet society and those who would be excluded through death.
Additionally, with the National Parks Service and the Gulag Museum in Perm, Russia, Dr. Barnes was historical consultant for a traveling museum exhibit on the history of the Gulag. Working with the Center for History and New Media, Dr. Barnes built a website on the history of the Gulag. Information on both these projects can be found at Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives.
Dr. Barnes is the founder and a co-blogger at the Russian History Blog.
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