Winner of the Cundill History Prize
The House of the Dead tells the incredible hundred-year-long story of “the vast prison without a roof” that was Russia’s Siberian penal colony. From the beginning of the nineteenth century until the Russian Revolution, the tsars exiled more than a million prisoners and their families east. Here Daniel Beer illuminates both the brutal realities of this inhuman system and the tragic and inspiring fates of those who endured it. Siberia was intended to serve not only as a dumping ground for criminals and political dissidents, but also as new settlements. The system failed on both fronts: it peopled Siberia with an army of destitute and desperate vagabonds who visited a plague of crime on the indigenous population, and transformed the region into a virtual laboratory of revolution. A masterly and original work of nonfiction, The House of the Dead is the history of a failed social experiment and an examination of Siberia’s decisive influence on the political forces of the modern world.