An epic work of Russian history from a major new talent.
It was known as 'the vast prison without a roof'. From the beginning of the nineteenth century to the Russian Revolution, the tsarist regime exiled more than one million prisoners and their families beyond the Ural Mountains to Siberia. Daniel Beer's new book, The House of the Dead, brings to life both the brutal realities of an inhuman system and the tragic and inspiring fates of those who endured it. This is the vividly told history of common criminals and political radicals, the victims of serfdom and village politics, the wives and children who followed husbands and fathers, and of fugitives and bounty-hunters.
Generations of rebels - republicans, nationalists and socialists - were condemned to oblivion thousands of kilometres from European Russia. Over the nineteenth century, however, these political exiles transformed Siberia's mines, prisons and remote settlements into an enormous laboratory of revolution.
This masterly work of original research taps a mass of almost unknown primary evidence held in Russian and Siberian archives to tell the epic story of both Russia's struggle to govern its monstrous penal colony and Siberia's ultimate, decisive impact on the political forces of the modern world.
“Masterful, gripping . . . the Soviet gulag has eclipsed the memory of the Tsarist penal system in the popular imagination. Beer redresses that imbalance. The House of the Dead tells the story of how modern Russia was born among the squalor of the world's largest open-air prison”
Owen Matthews, Spectator
“Gripping, horrifying . . . numerous stories of human resilience in the face of adversity”
Richard J. Evans, The Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year
“Excellent . . . manages to combine a broad history of the Romanovs' Gulag with heart-rending tales of the plights of individual prisoners . . . remarkable”
Douglas Smith, Literary Review Douglas Smith, Literary Review
“It is hard to imagine the hell of Siberia's penal colonies under the tsars. This history paints a vivid and grisly picture ... An absolutely fascinating book, rich in fact and anecdote”
David Aaronovitch, The Times