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Extended Audio Sample The House of the Dead: Siberian Exile Under the Tsars, by Daniel Beer Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Daniel Beer Narrator: Arthur Morey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A visceral, hundred-year history of the vast Russian penal colony.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century to the Russian Revolution, the last tsarist regimes exiled more than one million prisoners and their families to Siberia. Common criminals, political radicals, prostitutes, and alcoholics arrived desperate and half-starving in a land of harsh weather, grueling work, and pestilential conditions. A place of brutal realities, it was known as “the vast prison without a roof.”

In his riveting new history, Daniel Beer takes readers deep inside Siberia, unearthing true-life tales of inhuman punishments and the crimes that occasioned them. Focusing his gaze on the last four tsars (1801 to 1917), Beer sheds light on how the massive penal colony, a project of correction and colonization, became an incubator for the radicalism of revolutionaries who would one day rule Russia.

As comprehensive as it is bloody, The House of the Dead delves beneath the statistics and dares to imagine the human experience of Siberian exile. Beer’s original scholarship—examining letters, petitions, and court records in Russian and Siberian archives—tells the story of Russia’s struggle to master its prison continent as revolution loomed.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Beer gracefully brings to life the immensely rich and tragic history of Siberia…In this lush mosaic laced together with fluent prose, [he] profiles prisoners of all sorts, narrating their ordeals and the stomach-turning punishments they endured. Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs
  • An elucidating study of Russia’s far-flung penal system…Beer ably shows how educated dissidents…transformed Siberia from a political wasteland into a crucible of the nascent Russian revolutionary movement. An eye-opening, haunting work that delineates how a vast imperial penal system crumbled from its rotten core. Kirkus Reviews
  • Enlightening…meticulously researched…dense with memorable anecdotes and images…Beer details the systemic incompetence of the penal administration and the brutal physical punishments inflicted on exiles, as well as the violence that escaped convicts unleashed on the indigenous population…[and] shows that populating and cultivating the resource-rich expanse east of the Ural Mountains was a test that the czars failed spectacularly. Publisher’s Weekly 
  • [A] masterly new history of the tsarist exile system...Mr Beer’s book makes a compelling case for placing Siberia right at the centre of 19th-century Russian—and, indeed, European—history. But for students of Soviet and even post-Soviet Russia it holds lessons, too. Many of the country’s modern pathologies can be traced back to this grand tsarist experiment—to its tensions, its traumas and its abject failures. The Economist 
     
     
  • Beer’s fascinating book teems with human detail…By bringing the voices of the million-plus victims of katorga vividly to life…The House of the Dead tells the story of how modern Russia was born among the squalor, the cockroaches and the casual violence of the world’s largest open-air prison. Owen Matthews, The Spectator
     
     
  • A superb history of the [Russian] exile system…a splendid example of academic scholarship for a public audience. Though [Beer] is an impressively calm and sober narrator, the injustices and atrocities pile up on every page. Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times
     
     
  • Ground-breaking…moving…[A] deeply humane account of the way the tsars used Siberia as a giant open-air prison. Beer’s account uses both the telescope and the microscope. He sketches out the broad parameters of tsarist policy, as well as detailing the lives of individual exiles. Although Beer’s subject is grim, his writing is not. Grace notes of metaphor elevate The House of the Dead above standard histories. Oliver Bullough, The Telegraph
     
  • Excellent...an expansive work that neatly manages to combine a broad history of the Romanovs' Gulag with heart-rending tales of the plights of individual prisoners. With admirable insight and sensitivity, [Beer] has rescued from the obscurity of archives in Tobolsk and Irkutsk a number of remarkable individual stories. Douglas Smith Literary Review
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