Anne Applebaum, author of the Pulitzer prizewinning Gulag: A History and Washington Post columnist, fascinated me a few months ago with her talk during the Hoover Archives Summer Workshop. She described how the Communist Party coopted and squashed small civic organizations in Eastern Europe as a way to undermine the whole of its society – but who in the West would have given much importance to the suppression of, say, the Boy Scouts?
Applebaum, an American journalist based in London and Warsaw, has been in the limelight for years – she’s married to Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs.
But I didn’t know this about her: she has donated some of the fruits of her research to Stanford’s Hoover Institution. It’s the aptly titled Anne Applebaum Collection.
Anne’s collection consists of one box and contains original documents from one of the Gulag camps. The collection is from the Kedrovyi Shor camp, a part of the Vorkutpechlag, a system of camps in Vorkuta-Pechora area in Siberia. The documents include office paper, correspondence memoranda, accounting documents, correspondence, directives, instructions, etc., mostly relating to food and clothing supplies and rations for inmates, as well as the details of their daily routine.
Now that’s kind of cool.
Applebaum has been a Hoover media fellow. Her affinity with the institution is obvious, given the institution’s “longstanding interest in the history of totalitarianism.”
“The range and quantity of the material at Hoover is really astonishing, and compares almost to nothing else,” she told me.
While digging through the online material about her, I found this article, “Lest We Forget,” in the Hoover Digest. The whole piece is worth a read; it ends with this amazing paragraph:
“The more we are able to understand how different societies have transformed their neighbors and fellow citizens from people into objects, the more we know of the specific circumstances that led to each episode of mass torture and mass murder, the better we will understand the darker side of our own human nature. Totalitarian philosophies have had, and will continue to have, a profound appeal to many millions of people. Destruction of the “objective enemy,” as Hannah Arendt once put it, remains a fundamental object of many dictatorships. We need to know why—and each story, each memoir, each document in the history of the Gulag is a piece of the puzzle, a part of the explanation. Without them, we will wake up one day and realize that we do not know who we are.”