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Alexander Dolgun's Story: An American in the Gulag

4.48  ·  Rating Details ·  234 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Alexander Dolgun, from embassy employee, to prisoner, then falsely convicted of being a terrorist against Russia and sentenced to hard labor. Released after eight long years he is finally able to recount the experience of being transported to and between prisons, interactions and friendships with other prisoners, the day to day drudgery of trying to stay alive under horren ...more
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published January 1st 1975 by Random House (NY)
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Community Reviews

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Matt Jasper
Oct 29, 2009 Matt Jasper rated it it was amazing
I read this book long ago yet just ran into it again and thought to list it here. The story is told with a rich, expansive clarity. It shows people at the extremes of what they can endure and the various ways they succumb to their environment or devise strategies to survive. The way he uses his multiple languages and innovative negotiating skills to get by is instructive and at times funny (especially when he is trying to manipulate his guards into just inventing interrogation reports etc. Ah ye ...more
Thom Sutton
Feb 13, 2014 Thom Sutton rated it it was ok
Dolgun comes across as an archetypal American tough-guy, sly and crafty like a noir hero. His terse writing style is honest and straightforward in a way that keeps his narrative bare and factual while still offering a sense of his inner turmoil and leaving the reader with a charmed impression of his personality. It's refreshing to read something on this subject that's neither too academic nor overly concerned with wallowing in the misery of the situation. While Dolgun's story is rife with horrib ...more
Douglas White
Mar 05, 2011 Douglas White rated it it was amazing
Picked this book up because it was mentioned in a newsletter I get. What a fantastic read. A truly troubling look at the horror of what was Stalinist Russia. The only thing that makes Mr. Dolgun's story unique, is that he is an American when he is kidnapped and falsely accused of spying. (One question that is never really answered is why the US Embassy and Government did not do more to save/rescue Mr. Dolgun.) What follows are almost unbelievable horrors of torture and eventually exile to the pr ...more
Eugene Boytsov
Nov 01, 2011 Eugene Boytsov rated it it was amazing
Excellent writing, very good insight (ha-ha) into the grotesque nature and structure of the so-called Soviet/Russian "justice" apparatus; and if you think much has changed in the Soviet (now Russian) punishment system under Putin and/or Medvedev, you are in for a big surprise!!! Same system, same tortures, same sadism, they just shut down some camps in Siberia, but not too many. Gulag is Gulag, then or now, with a few little differences. And Alexandr should be admired for surviving the
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Joe
Jun 05, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it
This is another book that I read years ago (and am reading again). It was one of those books that I couldn't put down. I had to read it from start to end; spent a full Sunday just reading it.

The author is a good story teller and in fact used that skill to survive 25 years + in the Russian prison system on false charges. It's an amazing story (and more so because it is true).
Gwynneth
Jan 22, 2014 Gwynneth rated it it was amazing
If you're American and if you ever wanted to know or truly understand just what it's like to be tossed into the Soviet gulag, this is it. Alexander Dolgun, an American citizen who was deliberately thrown into this system, brings clarity to the idea of so-called 'work camps' that still exist today (think of where the Pussy Riot members were recently sent).

I read this as part of a grad thesis I wrote regarding how political prisoners in the then-USSR coped with their arrest, sentencing, transport,
...more
Tomi
Feb 10, 2014 Tomi rated it really liked it
Excellent story about life in the USSR under Stalin and the prisons and camps in the gulag system. Might not be the best choice to read while watching the Olympics in Sochi...this book will break your heart and make you furious.
Mykl
Nov 17, 2008 Mykl rated it it was amazing
An amazing story of courage and survival in or itself. Also leads one to consider why for political reasons that the histories of gulags has received so little attention in U.S. history classes.
Deborah
May 08, 2009 Deborah rated it it was amazing
The first book I ever read about the Soviet gulag system. It's a great introduction to the subject, since it's well-written, informative, and not too long. I am amazed by this mans will to survive.
Claudia
Jul 28, 2011 Claudia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
amazing, amazing, amazing read this over 20 years ago and it really changed my view of the world. One of the best books I have ever read. would highly recommend.
Angela
Aug 03, 2012 Angela rated it it was amazing
This is my favourite all time book. Have read it about 30 times!
Ashley
Feb 09, 2014 Ashley rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I love Russian history yet this book made me so angry at Russia! The way that the USSR treated Alexander just angered me! But Alexander's tale is written wonderfully. I understand that it is difficult to relive the horrors that he faced in the many prisons and camp, so it must have taken Mr. Dolgun lots of courage to write down what happened to him. This book is a good read if you are looking to learn more about Stalin's GULAGs and life in the many prisons. Such a g ...more
Laura
May 18, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating and educational. Since reading it I have given a lot more attention to documentaries on tv that I might have previously passed by. It's a clearly written account of his experiences and I was amazed by how much he could recall. I think many, myself included, might have "blanked out" a lot just for self-preservation. It's not a depressing book and some might hesitate to read it thinking it will be too dark or maybe a "dry" historical read. I found his resilience and c ...more
JC
Oct 04, 2010 JC rated it really liked it
A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, but in real life. This is the true story of Alexander Dolgun and his experience in Soviet prison and then his 8 or so years in the Gulags. Alexander spent most of his life in the Soviet Union after his father began work there and was unable to leave. He worked for the US Embassy and was accused of espionage against the Soviet Union. This book takes a direct look at what it was really like to be taken in by the police for doing nothing and how terrible life w ...more
Michael Brown
Jan 15, 2015 Michael Brown rated it it was amazing
One of the great harrowing memoirs to come from the charnel-house of a totalitarian regime. Heartbreaking and enraging, with a plot worthy of an epic movie. Those who like this book might also like the less-famous "A Boy in the Gulag" by Jerzy Kmiecik.
Diane Wachter
Alexander Dolguns Story: An American In The Gulag, Alexander Dolgun with Patrick Watson, RDC-M, #5-1975, 1977. The true story of an American embassy employee in Russia, who was accused of spying, tried, convicted and sentence, and spent eight years in the Gulag. Very good.
Robby
Dec 27, 2014 Robby rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone-perhaps Veterans
I recall reading this book enroute to Ramstein AFB.,Germany. I recall purchasing it at the terminal. Of course,it was not the one pictured here and it was not a hardback. I can't really remember the cover of the paperback that I actually did read. What I do know is that I was totally engrossed in the story; enough so that I had finished the book by the time we landed. Keep in mind - that it was a long flight. At any rate, some details of that book I've never forgotten; especially those details p ...more
Lee Yahnker
Jan 12, 2015 Lee Yahnker rated it it was amazing
Intriguing story of survival, courage, and determination to survive. So sad that his parent's lives were destroyed and that he died at 60 years of age.
Rebecca Lentz
Apr 16, 2014 Rebecca Lentz rated it it was amazing
A real-life tragedy, mixed with courage and spirit.
Shane
May 11, 2015 Shane rated it it was amazing
unforgettable and unputdownable.
Catherine Mateo
Mar 20, 2014 Catherine Mateo rated it it was amazing
Well written, but quite depressing.
Ben
Sep 12, 2007 Ben rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: history
One of the greatest stories of personnal triumph I have ever read. Truly inspiring. I read Dolgun's story after reading Night, and even after reading Night a secong time, I felt more inspired and more shocked by Dolgun's story. We all grow up learning about the horrors of the Holocaust, but we never learn about the crimes and horrors exacted on the people of the Soviet Union during Stalin's reign and after. Everyone should read this book, everyone needs to read this book. Absolutely the greatest ...more
Chris
Aug 13, 2013 Chris rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book. If you are ever having a bad day, read this book and your life won't seem so unfair. Russian government had such an interesting way of thinking, to say the least. It makes you very grateful to live in this wonderful country. I have read four or five books on the gulag and this is one of my favorites. Alexander's will to live was inspiring.
Liz
Aug 23, 2012 Liz rated it it was amazing
Truly incredible story of American in 1950s caught by KGB and served 20 years hard labor. I read this book whenever I feel my life is tough. So many inspiring and beautiful stories of how humans under unbearable conditions help their fellow man. Very sad as well as immensely inspiring
Kcastro
I read this book about 30 years ago and have thought of it often. This is one of the few books that I remember in detail. The author's attitude that helped him to survive is amazing and that is what my thoughts have gone to these many years.
Bird
Jan 30, 2008 Bird rated it really liked it
Dolgun, an American citizen, was arrested as a spy and sent to the Lubayanka and from there to the gulags. torture, starvation, depridation, slave labor, very cold, you know the drill. A personal description like Solzy.
Eric
May 31, 2008 Eric rated it it was amazing
The first book I ever read about the Soviet gulag system. It's a great introduction to the subject, since it's well-written, informative, and not too long.
Elena
May 14, 2016 Elena rated it it was amazing
Perhaps flawed, but well written and accurate. This book should be read in all high schools.
Catherine Suddaby
Dec 30, 2010 Catherine Suddaby rated it it was amazing
One of only a few books I have read on Gulags
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