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The House of the Dead


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An epic work of Russian history from a major new talent.

About the Author

Daniel Beer is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of Renovating Russia- The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930, 2008.


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 -- Douglas Smith * Literary Review *
A splendid example of academic scholarship for a public audience. Yet even though he is an impressively calm and sober narrator, the injustices and atrocities pile up on every page. -- Dominic Sandbrook * The Sunday Times *
An absolutely fascinating book, rich in fact and anecdote. -- David Aaronovitch * The Times *
In many ways Siberia truly was a House of the Dead - as Daniel Beer, who borrows the title of Fyodor Dostoevsky's prison novel for his masterful new study, recounts in horrific and gripping detail. Because of its far greater scale and brutality, the Soviet gulag has eclipsed the memory of the Tsarist penal system in the popular imagination. Beer redresses that imbalance by bringing the voices of the million-plus victims of katorga vividly to life. -- Owen Matthews * Spectator *
Although Beer's subject is grim, his writing is not. Grace notes of metaphor elevate The House of the Dead above standard histories; it is also ground-breaking and moving -- Oliver Bullough * The Telegraph *
If the scale of the Siberian penal exile inspires a sense of dreadful awe, then the detail is tragic, heart-breaking and marked with individual horror. The vast, Steppe-like sweep of Daniel Beer's work is impressive, sustaining a narrative that ranges from 1801 to 1917, and involves more than one million exiled souls into an area that is one and a half times bigger than the continent of Europe ... An extraordinary, powerful and important story -- Hugh MacDonald * Herald *
[This] masterly new history of the tsarist exile system... 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. * Economist *
Daniel Beer's The House of the Dead is a detailed, rich and powerful account of the inhumane system of imprisonment and exile in Tsarist Siberia that shows how little changed between Tsarism and Stalinism. Both were built on the bones of ordinary Russians -- Neil Robinson * Irish Examiner *
An eye-opening, haunting work that delineates how a vast imperial penal system crumbled from its rotten core * Kirkus Reviews *
Impeccably researched, beautifully written -- Donald Rayfield * Guardian *
Masterful, gripping and deeply researched. It's filled with astonishing, vivid and heartbreaking stories of crime and punishment, of redemption, love and terrifying violence. It has an amazing cast of despots, murderers, whores and heroes, and takes place in godforsaken mines, Arctic villages and beautiful taiga. It's a wonderful read. -- Simon Sebag Montefiore * BBC History Magazine *
The wretched existence of those banished to Russia's freezing expanses east of the Urals is vividly described in this excellent study... if you want to read the most remarkable recent study of Siberian exile under the Tsars, [read] Beer -- Paul Dukes * History Today *
Daniel Beer's The House of the Dead: Siberian exile under the Tsars (Allen Lane) is both a gripping read and an extraordinary feat of scholarly analysis, delivered with the scope and empathy of a novelist - appositely, as both Dostoevsky and Chekhov are part of Siberia's story. The microhistories as well as the grand narrative illuminate a terrible swathe of Russian (and Polish) history. -- Roy Foster * TLS *

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