Solovki: The Story of Russia Told Through Its Most Remarkable Islands

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Yale University Press, Oct 1, 2008 - History - 320 pages
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Located in the northernmost reaches of Russia, the islands of Solovki are among the most remote in the world. And yet from the Bronze Age through the twentieth century, the islands have attracted an astonishing cast of saints and scoundrels, soldiers and politicians.

The site of a beautiful medieval monastery—once home to one of the greatest libraries of eastern Europe—Solovki became in the twentieth century a notorious labor camp. Roy Robson recounts the history of Solovki from its first settlers through the present day, as the history of Russia plays out on this miniature stage. In the 1600s, the piety and prosperity of Solovki turned to religious rebellion, siege, and massacre. Peter the Great then used it as a prison. But Solovki’s glory was renewed in the nineteenth century as it became a major pilgrimage site—only to descend again into horror when the islands became, in the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the “mother of the Gulag” system.

From its first intrepid visitors through the blood-soaked twentieth century, Solovki—like Russia itself—has been a site of both glorious achievement and profound misery.

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Contents

1 Stones
1
2 Saints
6
3 Prosperity
26
4 Struggle
41
5 Guardian
54
6 Triumph
68
7 Defiance
81
8 Rebellion
94
12 War
155
13 Pilgrims
170
14 Revolutions
186
15 Gulag
202
16 Life
226
17 Denouement
240
Memory
252
Notes
261

9 Emperor
115
10 Prison
132
11 Reform
146
Essay on Sources
291
Index
297
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About the author (2008)

Robson is associate professor of history at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

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