The Gulag Archipelago
Overview
 
The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was aRussian and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of...

 based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a narrative relying on eyewitness testimony and primary research material, as well as the author's own experiences as a prisoner
Prisoner
A prisoner is someone incarcerated in a prison, jail or similar facility.Prisoner or The Prisoner may also refer to:* Prisoner of war, a soldier in wartime, held as by an enemy* Political prisoner, someone held in prison for their ideology...

 in a gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

 labor camp
Labor camp
A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons...

. Written between 1958 and 1968 (dates given at the end of the book), it was published in the West in 1973, thereafter circulating in samizdat
Samizdat
Samizdat was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader...

 (underground publication) form in the Soviet Union until its official publication in 1989.

GULag or Gulág is an acronym for the Russian term Glavnoye Upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovyh Lagerey (Главное Управление Исправительно-трудовых Лагерей), or "Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps", the bureaucratic name of the Soviet concentration camp main governing board, and by metonymy
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

, the camp system itself.
Quotations

I dedicate this to all those who did not live to tell it. And may they please forgive me for not having seen it all nor remembered it all, for not having divined all of it.

Dedication

For years, I have with a reluctant heart withheld from publication this already completed book: my obligation to those still living outweighed my obligation to the dead. But now that State Security has seized the book anyway, I have no alternative but to publish it immediately.

"Author's Note"'

We forget everything. What we remember is not what actually happened, not history, but merely that hackneyed dotted line they have chosen to drive into our memories by incessant hammering.

Part I The Prison Industry, Ch. 8 The Law as a Child

In 1944, investigator, proud of his faultless logic [...] told Babitsh: "Investigation and the process are merely juridical figaration, that can't change your destiny, which has been determined before. If it is necessary to shoot you, you'll be shot, even if you're completely innocent."

In 1946, a special rule by plenum of Supreme Court of the USSR (July 12, 1946, nr. 8/5/u) was necessary: "On the possibility of exercising punishment only on those persons, who have committed a certain crime." But this was freely bypassed.

Ch.2

In his instructions on the use of Red Terror, the Chekist M. I. Latsis wrote: "In the interrogation do not seek evidence and proof that the person accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The first questions should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? [There is your Sapropelite Committee for you!] These are the questions which must determine the fate of the accused."

Ch 2

Six geologists got Article_58_%28RSFSR_Penal_Code%29Summary|§58-7, everyone ten years, for "deliberate hiding (!-for not discovering!) of a lead deposit for the sake of German arrival"

Ch 2

In the winter of 1934, the agronomists of Pskovsk oblast sowed flax on the snow — exactly as Trofim Lysenko|Lysenko had ordered. The seeds expanded, grew mouldy and died. The vast fields stayed empty throughout the year. Lysenko of course couldn't call the snow a Kulak|kulak or himself an idiot. He accused the agronomists of being kulaks and distorting his technology. And the agronomists were sent to Siberia.

Ch 2

Encyclopedia
The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was aRussian and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of...

 based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a narrative relying on eyewitness testimony and primary research material, as well as the author's own experiences as a prisoner
Prisoner
A prisoner is someone incarcerated in a prison, jail or similar facility.Prisoner or The Prisoner may also refer to:* Prisoner of war, a soldier in wartime, held as by an enemy* Political prisoner, someone held in prison for their ideology...

 in a gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

 labor camp
Labor camp
A labor camp is a simplified detention facility where inmates are forced to engage in penal labor. Labor camps have many common aspects with slavery and with prisons...

. Written between 1958 and 1968 (dates given at the end of the book), it was published in the West in 1973, thereafter circulating in samizdat
Samizdat
Samizdat was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader...

 (underground publication) form in the Soviet Union until its official publication in 1989.

GULag or Gulág is an acronym for the Russian term Glavnoye Upravleniye ispravitelno-trudovyh Lagerey (Главное Управление Исправительно-трудовых Лагерей), or "Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps", the bureaucratic name of the Soviet concentration camp main governing board, and by metonymy
Metonymy
Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept...

, the camp system itself. The original Russian title of the book is Arkhipelag GULag, the rhyme supporting the underlying metaphor deployed throughout the work. The word archipelago
Archipelago
An archipelago , sometimes called an island group, is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek ἄρχι- – arkhi- and πέλαγος – pélagos through the Italian arcipelago...

 compares the system of labor camps spread across the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 with a vast "chain of islands", known only to those who were fated to visit them.

Since the Soviet Union's dissolution
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 and the formation of the Russian Federation, The Gulag Archipelago is included in the high school program in Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 as mandatory reading in 2009.

Structure and factual basis

Structurally, the text is made up of seven sections divided (in most printed editions) into three volumes: parts 1–2, parts 3–4, and parts 5–7. At one level, the Gulag Archipelago traces the history of the Soviet concentration camp and forced labour system from 1918 to 1956, starting with V.I. Lenin's original decrees shortly after the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 establishing the legal and practical frame for a slave labor economy, and a punitive concentration camp system. It describes and discusses the waves of purge
Purge
In history, religion, and political science, a purge is the removal of people who are considered undesirable by those in power from a government, from another organization, or from society as a whole. Purges can be peaceful or violent; many will end with the imprisonment or exile of those purged,...

s, assembling the show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

s in context of the development of the greater gulag system with particular attention to the legal and bureaucratic development.

The legal and historical narrative ends in 1956, the time of Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

's Secret Speech
On the Personality Cult and its Consequences
On the Personality Cult and its Consequences was a report, critical of Joseph Stalin, made to the Twentieth Party Congress on February 25, 1956 by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. It is more commonly known as the Secret Speech or the Khrushchev Report...

 at the 20th Party Congress of 1956 denouncing Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's personality cult, his autocratic power, and the surveillance that pervaded the Stalin era. Though the speech was not published in the USSR for a long time, it was a break with the most atrocious practices of the concentration camp system; Solzhenitsyn was aware, however, that the outlines of the gulag system had survived and could be revived and expanded by future leaders.

Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront this Soviet system, the realities of the camps remained taboo into the 1980s. While Khrushchev, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union's supporters in the West viewed the gulag as a deviation of Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and the opposition tended to view it as a systemic fault of Soviet political culture—an inevitable outcome of the Bolshevik
Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 political project. This view, politically unpopular inside and outside the USSR during the Cold War because it ascribed to Lenin the theoretical and practical origins of the concentration camp system, has become the prevalent view of most writers and scholars since the USSR's demise.

Parallel to this historical and legal narrative, Solzhenitsyn follows the typical course of a zek (a slang term for inmate) through the concentration camp system, starting with arrest, show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

 and initial internment; transport to the "archipelago"; treatment of prisoners and general living conditions; slave labor gangs and the technical prison camp system (where Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. He earned renown as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the...

 and his team of prisoner-scientists developed the Soviet Union's first hydrogen bomb); camp rebellions and strikes (see Kengir uprising
Kengir uprising
The Kengir uprising was a prisoner uprising that took place in the Soviet prison labor camp Kengir in May and June 1954. Its duration and intensity distinguished it from other Gulag uprisings in the same period ....

); the practice of internal exile following completion of the original prison sentence; and ultimate (but not guaranteed) release of the prisoner. Along the way, Solzhenitsyn's examination details the trivial and commonplace events of an average zek's life, as well as specific and noteworthy events during the history of the gulag system, including revolts and uprisings.

Aside from using his experiences as a zek at a scientific prison (a sharashka
Sharashka
Sharashka was an informal name for secret research and development laboratories in the Soviet Gulag labor camp system...

), the basis of the novel The First Circle
The First Circle
In the First Circle is a novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn released in 1968. A fuller version of the book was published in English in 2009....

 (1968), Solzhenitsyn draws from the testimony of 227 fellow zeks, the first-hand accounts which base the work. One chapter of the third volume of the book is written by a prisoner named Georg Tenno, whose exploits enraptured Solzhenitsyn to the extent that he offered Tenno a position as co-author of the book; Tenno declined.

The sheer volume of firsthand testimony and primary documentation that Solzhenitsyn managed to assemble in The Gulag Archipelago made all subsequent Soviet and KGB attempts to discredit the work useless. Much of the impact of the treatise stems from the closely detailed stories of interrogation routines, prison indignities and (especially in section 3) camp massacres and inhuman practices.

There had been works about the Soviet prison/camp system before, and its existence was known to the Western public since the 1930s. However, never before had the wide reading public been brought face to face with the horrors of the Soviet system in this way. The controversy surrounding this text in particular was largely due to the way Solzhenitsyn definitively and painstakingly laid the theoretical, legal and practical origins of the gulag system at Lenin's feet, not Stalin's. According to Solzhenitsyn's testimony, Stalin merely amplified a concentration camp system that was already in place. This is significant, as many Western intellectuals viewed the Soviet concentration camp system as a "Stalinist aberration."

Historical impact of the text

Solzhenitsyn argued that the Soviet government could not govern without the threat of imprisonment, and that the Soviet economy depended on the productivity of the forced labor camps, especially insofar as the development and construction of public works and infrastructure were concerned.

This put into doubt the entire moral standing of the Soviet system. In Western Europe the book came, in time, to force a rethinking of the historical role of Lenin. With The Gulag Archipelago, Lenin's political and historical legacy became problematic, and the fractions of Western communist parties
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 who still based their economic and political ideology on Lenin were left with a heavy burden of proof against them. George F. Kennan
George F. Kennan
George Frost Kennan was an American adviser, diplomat, political scientist and historian, best known as "the father of containment" and as a key figure in the emergence of the Cold War...

, the influential U.S. diplomat, called The Gulag Archipelago, "the most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be levied in modern times."

In an Interview with German weekly Die Zeit
Die Zeit
Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

 British historian Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes
Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London.-Overview:Figes is the son of the feminist writer Eva Figes. His sister is the author and editor Kate Figes. He attended William Ellis School in north London from 1971-78...

 claims that many gulag inmates he interviewed for his research identified so strongly with the book's contents that they became unable to distinguish between their own experiences and what they read. Thus, he claims "The Gulag Archipelago spoke for a whole nation and was the voice of all those who suffered".

Publication

After the KGB had confiscated Solzhenitsyn's materials in Moscow, during 1965-1967, the preparatory drafts of The Gulag Archipelago were turned into finished typescript in hiding at his friends' homes in Estonia
Estonia
Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

. While in the KGB's Lubyanka Prison
Lubyanka (KGB)
The Lubyanka is the popular name for the headquarters of the KGB and affiliated prison on Lubyanka Square in Moscow. It is a large building with a facade of yellow brick, designed by Alexander V...

, Solzhenitsyn had befriended Arnold Susi
Arnold Susi
Arnold Susi was a lawyer and the Minister of Education in the Estonian Otto Tief's government established on 18 September 1944 during WWII. He befriended Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Soviet prison. -References:...

, a lawyer and former Estonian Minister of Education. After completion, Solzhenitsyn's original handwritten script was kept hidden from the KGB in Estonia by Arnold Susi's daughter, Heli Susi, until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 seized one of only three extant copies of the text still on Soviet soil. This was achieved by torturing Elizaveta Voronyanskaya
Elizaveta Voronyanskaya
Elizaveta Voronyanskaya was a typist for the manuscript of The Gulag Archipelago, first published 26 December 1973, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The manuscript for The Gulag Archipelago had already been smuggled out of the Soviet Union on microfilm...

, Solzhenitsyn's typist who knew where the typed copy was hidden; within days of her release by the KGB, she hanged herself on 3 August 1973.

Translated into English by American Thomas Whitney
Thomas P. Whitney
Thomas Porter Whitney was an American diplomat, author, translator, philanthropist and Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder....

, the English and French translations of Volume I appeared in the spring and summer of 1974. Solzhenitsyn had been in touch with them about the upcoming publication, which he knew he could not put off much longer, but the final decision was taken by the YMCA Press itself with the author's implicit approval (two years previously, it had published August 1914).

Solzhenitsyn had wanted the manuscript to be published in Russia first, but knew this was impossible under conditions then extant. The international impact of the work was profound. Not only did it provoke a very vivid debate in the West, a mere six weeks after the work had left Parisian presses Solzhenitsyn himself was forced into exile.

Because possession of the manuscript incurred the risk of a long prison sentence for 'anti-Soviet activities', Solzhenitsyn never worked on the manuscript in complete form. Due to the KGB's constant surveillance of him, Solzhenitsyn only worked on parts of the manuscript at any one time, so as not to put the book as a whole into jeopardy if he happened to be arrested. For this reason, he secreted the various parts of the work throughout Moscow and the surrounding suburbs, in the care of trusted friends, and sometimes purportedly visiting them on social calls, but actually working on the manuscript in their homes. During much of this time, Solzhenitsyn lived at the dacha of the world-famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Rostropovich
Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich, KBE , known to close friends as Slava, was a Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor. He was married to the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya. He is widely considered to have been the greatest cellist of the second half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of...

, and due to the reputation and standing of the musician, even with Soviet authorities, he was reasonably safe from KGB searches there.

Solzhenitsyn did not think this series would be his defining work, as he considered it journalism and history rather than high literature. However, with the possible exception of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a novel written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in November 1962 in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir . The story is set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s, and describes a single day of an ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov...

, it is his best-known and most popular work, at least in the West.

Finished in 1968, The Gulag Archipelago was microfilmed and smuggled out to Solzhenitsyn's main legal representative, Dr Kurt Heeb of Zürich, to await publication (a later paper copy, also smuggled out, was signed by Heinrich Böll
Heinrich Böll
Heinrich Theodor Böll was one of Germany's foremost post-World War II writers. Böll was awarded the Georg Büchner Prize in 1967 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972.- Biography :...

 at the foot of each page to prove against possible accusations of a falsified work).

Solzhenitsyn was aware that there was a wealth of material and perspectives that merited to be continued in the future, but he considered the book finished for his part. The royalties and sales income for the novel were transferred to the Solzhenitsyn Foundation for aid to former camp prisoners, and this fund, which had to work in secret in its native country, managed to transfer substantial amounts of money to those ends in the 1970s and 1980s.

TV documentary

On 12 December 2009, the Russian channel Rossiya K showed the French television documentary L'Histoire Secrète de l'Archipel du Goulag made by Jean Crépu and Nicolas Miletitch
Nicolas Miletitch
Nicolas Miletitch was the Editor-in-Chief of the Agence France-Presse from 2006 to June 2009.He joined the AFP in 1977. In 1978-81, he served as a correspondent in Moscow from where he was expelled owing to his connections with dissidents. Later, he was a director of the AFP office in Belgrade ...

 and translated into Russian under the title Taynaya Istoriya “Arkhipelaga GULAG” (Secret History: The Gulag Archipelago). The documentary covers events related to creation and publication of The Gulag Archipelago.

See also

  • The Black Book of Communism
    The Black Book of Communism
    The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression is a book authored by several European academics and edited by Stéphane Courtois, which describes a history of repressions, both political and civilian, by Communist states, including genocides, extrajudicial executions, deportations, and...

  • Julius Margolin
  • Le Mondes 100 Books of the Century
    Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century
    The 100 Books of the Century is a grading of the books considered as the hundred best of the 20th century, drawn up in the spring of 1999 through a poll conducted by the French retailer Fnac and the Paris newspaper Le Monde....


External links

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