The new vision for the Gulag faced many obstacles. Reeducation proved difficult to quantify, a serious liability in a statistics-obsessed state. The entrenched habits of Gulag officials and the prisoner-guard power dynamic mitigated the effect of the post-Stalin reforms. And the Soviet public never fully accepted the new policies of leniency and the humane treatment of criminals. In the late 1950s, they joined with a coalition of party officials, criminologists, procurators, newspaper reporters, and some penal administrators to rally around the slogan "The camp is not a resort" and succeeded in reimposing harsher conditions for inmates. By the mid-1960s the Soviet Gulag had emerged as a hybrid system forged from the old Stalinist system, the vision promoted by Khrushchev and others in the mid-1950s, and the ensuing counterreform movement. This new penal equilibrium largely persisted until the fall of the Soviet Union.
Over the course of several decades, the Soviet labor camp system drew into its orbit tens of millions of people -- political prisoners and their families, common criminals, prisoners of war, internal exiles, local officials, and prison camp personnel. This study sheds new light on the operation of the camp system, both internally and as an integral part of a totalitarian regime that "institutionalized violence as a universal means of attaining its goals." In Galina Ivanova's unflinching account -- all the more powerful for its austerity -- the Gulag is the ultimate manifestation of a more pervasive and lasting distortion of the values of legality, labor, and life that burdens Russia to the present day.
As part of the Allied forces, thousands of Kenyans fought alongside the British in World War II. But just a few years after the defeat of Hitler, the British colonial government detained nearly the entire population of Kenya's largest ethnic minority, the Kikuyu-some one and a half million people.
The compelling story of the system of prisons and work camps where thousands met their deaths has remained largely untold-the victim of a determined effort by the British to destroy all official records of their attempts to stop the Mau Mau uprising, the Kikuyu people's ultimately successful bid for Kenyan independence.
Caroline Elkins, an assistant professor of history at Harvard University, spent a decade in London, Nairobi, and the Kenyan countryside interviewing hundreds of Kikuyu men and women who survived the British camps, as well as the British and African loyalists who detained them.
The result is an unforgettable account of the unraveling of the British colonial empire in Kenya-a pivotal moment in twentieth- century history with chilling parallels to America's own imperial project.
Imperial Reckoning is the winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction.