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The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Volume 2

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Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression -- the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims -- men, women, and children -- we encounter secret police operat Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression -- the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims -- men, women, and children -- we encounter secret police operations, labor camps and prisons; the uprooting or extermination of whole populations, the "welcome" that awaited Russian soldiers who had been German prisoners of war. Yet we also witness the astounding moral courage of the incorruptible, who, defenseless, endured great brutality and degradation. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 -- a grisly indictment of a regime, fashioned here into a veritable literary miracle -- has now been updated with a new introduction that includes the fall of the Soviet Union and Solzhenitsyn's move back to Russia.


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Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression -- the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims -- men, women, and children -- we encounter secret police operat Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression -- the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims -- men, women, and children -- we encounter secret police operations, labor camps and prisons; the uprooting or extermination of whole populations, the "welcome" that awaited Russian soldiers who had been German prisoners of war. Yet we also witness the astounding moral courage of the incorruptible, who, defenseless, endured great brutality and degradation. The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 -- a grisly indictment of a regime, fashioned here into a veritable literary miracle -- has now been updated with a new introduction that includes the fall of the Soviet Union and Solzhenitsyn's move back to Russia.

30 review for The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Volume 2

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    Wow. The first volume of Soltzhenitsyn's book was fantastic, this one is so much better. Yes, part 3 (which consists about 597 of the 672 pages) drags after a while. In it he takes the reader through the Gulag, with chapters on the overseers, the children and pretty much every other aspect of the camps. We know it is vital to never forget the horrors of 20th century totalitarianism, and this book ought to be required reading to help us never forget. But it is the short part four where the best of Wow. The first volume of Soltzhenitsyn's book was fantastic, this one is so much better. Yes, part 3 (which consists about 597 of the 672 pages) drags after a while. In it he takes the reader through the Gulag, with chapters on the overseers, the children and pretty much every other aspect of the camps. We know it is vital to never forget the horrors of 20th century totalitarianism, and this book ought to be required reading to help us never forget. But it is the short part four where the best of the book comes in. Soltzhenitsyn talks about how the camp brought out who people really are. People, he argues, did not become evil in the camp. Rather, they were already evil and this brought it out. This reminds me of Jesus' teachings about those faithful in small things will be given more. Who are really are when you're poor and insignificant will be amplified if given the chance. At the same time, Soltzhenitsyn reminds us that it is not just that some are evil, for that dividing line runs through each of us (fun fact, that is the one quote you may be familiar with, and he says it twice, having said it early in volume 1). How does that work? How is it both true that people in the camps who became corrupt already were like that, as opposed to those in the campus who persevered? Soltzhenitsyn speaks about a moral core, a nucleus, and I think that's it. We are all capable of horrific things. If I look at those camp guards, the people who performed horrible acts, and recognize they are part of the same human race, that has to be humbling. I'm just as human as they are. I am just as capable of evil, for that line goes right through me. We need to be honest with who we are and discover that moral nucleus that would enable us to persevere in the worst circumstances. As our culture leaves some of its traditional foundations for morals behind...its easy to think we're in trouble as a culture. May we not be too quick to leave the wisdom of the past behind. This brings me back to Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, which I read recently. If the Gulag is too intimidating in its length, check that one out first. Then come back here. So slog through the first 600 pages and read closely the last 80. Its worth it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    The second volume of the Gulag trilogy is primarily focused on the work camps. He continues his excellent narrative with some amazing stories and describes the people of the archipelago as they really were. This is a remarkable work and should receive a wider audience than it does. This book is about humanity at its best--but more often at its worst. This is one of the most important works available to understand the human soul.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gator

    The fact that Solzhenitsyn made it out of the Gulag alive and blessed us with this book is an absolute gift. This is the most influential book I’ve read to date in my life. A Masterpiece! “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts ove The fact that Solzhenitsyn made it out of the Gulag alive and blessed us with this book is an absolute gift. This is the most influential book I’ve read to date in my life. A Masterpiece! “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains.... an unuprooted small corner of evil.”

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    As I read this account of the decades of abuses inflicted on tens of millions of those gulag unfortunates, I wondered for my character. How would I behave were I a zek? Would I find my way into the ranks of trusties? Would I have survived or died within the camps? What if I were a guard or an officer of guards? Would I devolve into one of the monsters to force the zeks out into -40F winter weather, insufficiently clothed, to labor in the forests, knowing many would die from the task? If I were a As I read this account of the decades of abuses inflicted on tens of millions of those gulag unfortunates, I wondered for my character. How would I behave were I a zek? Would I find my way into the ranks of trusties? Would I have survived or died within the camps? What if I were a guard or an officer of guards? Would I devolve into one of the monsters to force the zeks out into -40F winter weather, insufficiently clothed, to labor in the forests, knowing many would die from the task? If I were an ordinary citizen, fortunate to avoid the camps, how many family members, friends, coworkers or neighbors would I undermine to save my own skin? These questions, so far disconnected from today’s American lifestyle, create some personal difficulty connecting with our current social disorders, which seem rather trivial in comparison to the world Solzhenitsyn described. Where were, or are, the tears, for those tens of millions of souls, most arbitrarily subjected to conditions beyond our daytime imagination? All these questions.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joel Cuthbert

    'No matter how ruined a man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man's despair may become, as long as he continues to be a man his very humanity continues to tell him that life has a meaning.' - Thomas Merton (from the opening sentence of his No Man is An Island) I have spent the last few years reading this book. I began it some sunny day many different selves ago, having always been charmed by the bitter wisdom of the Russian literary type, and knowing that Solzhenitsyn estee 'No matter how ruined a man and his world may seem to be, and no matter how terrible man's despair may become, as long as he continues to be a man his very humanity continues to tell him that life has a meaning.' - Thomas Merton (from the opening sentence of his No Man is An Island) I have spent the last few years reading this book. I began it some sunny day many different selves ago, having always been charmed by the bitter wisdom of the Russian literary type, and knowing that Solzhenitsyn esteemed a strong religious belief and one that seemed confounding in light of Russian history. A history I will admit, I did not know much about. And I will continue to admit I do not know that much about. The Russian history is one long, storied, complicated, narrative. The kind the doubles over itself, with too many characters, with too many names, with too many individual moments to ever be fully grasped. I have read this book as one digests the heaviest of meals. One of the few things I recall about high school english class was a particular assignment when reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which we are asked to try and trace at which point the main character’s tragic fate was clinched. The idea was that at some point fate takes the lead of one’s life, and steers the car towards the inevitable cliff. Before that point life is lived in turns of sweet and sour, but at some point there crosses a point of no return. Russia it seems to me wanders for it’s own 40 years into that fate of a wilderness. And this book (these series of books) takes a few thousand pages to try and wrestle out the why’s, the who’s and how-come’s of inevitable tragedy. Of the devastation of a people, and what should ultimately be the destruction of the human soul. What staggers the mind, and overwhelms the reader, is not only the mind-numbing onslaught of detail and character, but the indefatigable voice that tells each new height of insurmountable violations on the dignity of the human spirit. Somehow in the final chapter of this volume the author stumbles out of the darkness and dares to declare some strange spirit of hope. And it is this spirit (that lies at the center of even it’s darkest passages) that makes this one of the most remarkable literary experiences of published print. Few books have so profoundly, and subconsciously seeped into my psyche, and shaped my understanding of suffering and hope, despair and life. This is not a pleasant, easy or enjoyable read. Is it too much? Yes. Is it verbose to the point of losing most readers? Yes. Is it plodding, meandering, difficult to follow? Yes. Is it also beautiful, poetic, life-affirming? Yes. How does one review a book like this? It is the testament of one man’s spirit. The history of one man’s life. An attempt to fully document an age. It sits on my shelf like an ikon. Will I reread it? Passages certainly, and if one day more-than-likely an abridged edition. But it is a book that has shifted, challenged and shaken so much in me. For it’s existence I am thankful.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    I started reading this series after a verbal altercation with an individual over my American upbringing and challenged notions about the Soviet Union and its actuality. As someone who does not like being challenged on their assumptions unfairly, I took up the challenge of reading the canon of the Gulgag in an attempt to gain an awareness of something that apparently I was fundamentally missing. Oh had sadly true that statement is. How fatefully unaware my assumptions regarding humanity tyranny a I started reading this series after a verbal altercation with an individual over my American upbringing and challenged notions about the Soviet Union and its actuality. As someone who does not like being challenged on their assumptions unfairly, I took up the challenge of reading the canon of the Gulgag in an attempt to gain an awareness of something that apparently I was fundamentally missing. Oh had sadly true that statement is. How fatefully unaware my assumptions regarding humanity tyranny and personal subjugation truly were. This book truly changed my life, my political leanings, my assumptions about humans, justice and capacity. Were it not so. May all the lives lost in this machine of death be remembered.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    In Volume 1 of his influential and magnificent The Gulag Archipelago, Russian writer and camp-survivor Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about how the system of prison and forced labour camps arose in the 1920’s in the Soviet Union. More than a reaction to the Soviets’ victory in the Civil War, the Gulag-system was a direct offshoot from communist ideology. Communism, as instated by Lenin and intensified by Stalin, preached a radical collectivism: mass confiscation by the state of all property and me In Volume 1 of his influential and magnificent The Gulag Archipelago, Russian writer and camp-survivor Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about how the system of prison and forced labour camps arose in the 1920’s in the Soviet Union. More than a reaction to the Soviets’ victory in the Civil War, the Gulag-system was a direct offshoot from communist ideology. Communism, as instated by Lenin and intensified by Stalin, preached a radical collectivism: mass confiscation by the state of all property and means of production and the erection of a totalitarian bureaucracy to redistribute products and property. Forced labour – really a system of concentration camps through which hundreds of millions of innocents passed, and where tens of millions perished – was a logical outcome of communism, but also an important pillar on which the ideology rested. People who, in a healthy society, are considered prisoners – thieves, murderers, rapists – were considered to be victims of bourgeois society; people who, in a healthy society, are considered ordinary citizens, were considered to be prisoners. Communism inverted guilty and innocent – or rather, it eradicated the concept of ‘guilt’ – the camp was the destination for anyone whom the state deemed it to be expedient to be a prisoner. Quotas had to be fulfilled; bureaucrats had to make careers; the state had to produce food, products and services for low costs (i.e. free) – hence, millions of prisoners were needed. In Volume 1 of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn not only explained how this system started and developed; how Lenin created the Law Codes to justify these crimes; how Stalin sent wave after wave to disappear in this system of sewage disposal; most of all, he explained what arrest, imprisonment, interrogation and transport (to distribution centres and to camps) meant to the person involved. And how it felt. Throughout Volume 1, Solzhenitsyn is able to give detailed descriptions of the horrible conditions under which prisoners were treated, and how prisoners were gradually broken down and worn out, to make them submit to the even more brutal conditions of the Gulag. In Volume 2, Solzhenitsyn leaves this period of arrest, imprisonment, interrogation, conviction and transport. This book – again a huge tome, spanning almost 700 pages – is focused solely on the Gulag, the camps. He starts by explaining how the first camps already started functioning in the early twenties (even when the Civil War was still raging). Back then, the churches on the Solovsky Islands, an inhospitable, harsh region in north-western Russia, were confiscated by the state and prisoners were gradually sent there. The whole region soon developed into a brutal forced labour regime, where prisoners had to dig out entire canals. It is almost impossible to convey the brutality the prisoner faced: logging trees, digging in mines or building canals for more than twelve hours a day, on 150 grams of bread and a cup of water. They had to do all this without any tools or technology; if they had some, they were built from wood and were so primitive that they either broke down or that the construction project was a complete failure. (And we all know the consequences this latter option implicated…). To show the deranged nature of the Soviet system: even locks had to be created from wood. Since the Soviet Union was based on communism, and communism portrays itself to be an economic ideology, it is interesting to make an analysis of the costs and benefits of this way of structuring society. The benefits? Canals that were dug so primitively and under such idiotic conditions, that they were never officially taken into use. Solzhenitsyn describes the building of the White Sea-Baltic Sea and the Moscow-Volga canals by forced labour – but of course this has to be multiplied by hundreds, or even thousands, of such projects. The costs? 250.000 people perished building the White Sea-Baltic Sea canal; 200.000 people perished building the Moscow-Volga canal. But never mind this – labour force, after all, is infinitely replaceable. It has cost the state absolutely nothing; well, maybe the food and clothes (if one can speak of these things, at all), but anything else was build on exploitation of human beings. And this was just in the 1920’s, when the Soviet Union was still in tatters and when Lenin even introduced policies of market economy to recover as quickly as possible (Oh, hypocrisy!). When Stalin took over, the whole Gulag system spread far and wide and intensified – in duration (sentences ranged from 10-25 years), in brutality (many millions of people died) and in number (at the end of Stalin’s reign, all of Russia was covered with watch towers and barbed wire). Solzhenitsyn, himself a camp and cancer survivor, compares the Gulag system to cancer: the Gulag system developed, metastasized, and hardened. This comparison is very helpful in understanding this monstrous piece of history. After this short historical explanation, Solzhenitsyn then uses almost 80% of Volume 2 to explain all the inns and outs of camp life. He divides this up into groups of people; for example, explaining how women suffered from camp life, how thieves ruled the camps, how political prisoners were treated, how people were recruited to spy on follow inmates (the trusties and stool pigeons). The picture that emerges is a system of forced labour that was ultimately bureaucratically enforced from above (i.e. Moscow), but which was in practice composed of layers of hierarchies. The Soviets used human nature to make things work for them: by introducing (unreachable) work norms they gave themselves the stick with which to punish prisoners randomly. They set up shock workers and competition between work brigades to make the prisoners work effectively and efficiently (One wonders why communism accepted this form of free market competition….). In general, everyone was set up against everyone, all day and on all domains (food, work, bunks, social relations, etc.). By doing this, the state thought up a brilliant scheme that allowed a handful of guards to oversee hundreds of thousands of prisoners that freely submitted to the most horrible conditions a human being can think of. This same mechanism, by the way, can be seen when one looks at the American slave trade or the Holocaust. People who submit freely to the most inhumane conditions, only because of fear and division. Alas, the main port of Volume 2, which deals with the life of the persons in camp, is interesting but can become rather long winded. Example after example after example. After 250 pages, one gets the picture just fine: in camp, the prisoner was submitted to anything one can think of, and then some. It doesn’t really matter if Solzhenitsyn explains the fate of men, women, political prisoners, thieves – the USSR’s slogan ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ is very appropriate here. Women, of course, were degraded and humiliated by gang rapes, enforced prostitution, all kinds of perverse torture, but also by horrible working conditions and plain violence. And so were the men, just in different ways. And the distinction between political and non-political prisoner wasn’t really important for the experience of camp life as well – only when it came to amnesties and decrees. Anyway, the first 600 pages of the book, except for the historical explanation of the Gulag system, are all about these camp experiences. This makes the book somewhat less focused, and less impressive as a political argument than Volume1. But the experiences themselves are heart-breaking, unbelievable and simply unthinkable. Solzhenitsyn somewhere states that the stories of these human beings (many of whom perished in the camps long before the book was published) serve as a statement: the lives and experiences of these people deserve to be written down in history’s book. Just like in Volume 1, Solzhenitsyn doesn’t shy away from naming and shaming. While protecting his sources by hiding full names, he doesn’t protect the perpetrators and career bureaucrats who convicted innocent people by the thousands and tortured, killed and punished millions more. One can read Solzhenitsyn’s own hate towards these people, and this is entirely understandable. It in no way affects the factual side of the stories, while it conveys the inhumanity of the Soviet Union very strongly. The last part of the book, less than 10% of the whole volume, is the most interesting part. In part 4, Solzhenitsyn goes off on a philosophical and psychological tour de force. He reflects on what life in a forced labour camp – brutal, repetitive and meaningless work, under harsh, inhumane conditions, and for decades long (!) - does to a person. According to him, the Gulag separates the wheat from the chaff. The camp shows who is good and who is bad. The fault line between the two is located not in society, but in the heart of a human being. People can be both good and bad, at different places and at different times. It is your decisions in a your reaction to a particular situation and time that make you good or bad. And according to Solzhenitsyn, most of the camps were filled with bad people. People who cheated, lied, thieved, murdered and snitched their way to survival – opportunists with the motto ‘Rather you than me, today’. A minority of people stuck to their own convictions and morality, mostly intellectuals who were born and raised to be ethical people. Usually the cost of such behaviour was death, but sometimes someone managed to survive. It is these people that Solzhenitsyn puts on a pedestal. Solzhenitsyn’s philosophy is simple. A person arrested, imprisoned, tortured, interrogated, convicted, transported to camp and entering camp life for the first time, is someone who has to renounce everything and everyone he has. His life is over the moment he enters the camp. And then life truly begins; deprived of everything, such a person can flee inside his own mind – the one and only bastion the guards will never be able to take, not even through propaganda. One learns to adapt to camp life, and to reflect on one’s past life. The future doesn’t exist anymore. In a sense, this is almost a mode of contemplation (it resounds somewhat like the Christian martyrs who were persecuted heavily under the Roman Empire). Camp life forces the human being to show his or her true colours. Am I good or bad? There’s no hiding my face anymore. Am I unconquerable and free, or suffering and lowly? Solzhenitsyn’s philosophy sounds like Nietzsche on steroids. Nietzsche claimed life is suffering, and it’s the way that one responds to life’s sufferings that determines who one is. But while Nietzsche was never really put to the test – his suffering comprised a professorship-turned-sour, a love that never was, and a failing eyesight – Solzhenitsyn was able to see this existentialist claim unfold in reality. He states that communis opinion (especially under survivors and intellectuals) is that people are bad in essence and just tried to survive. He also states that, although most people in the Soviet Union fell for the corruption and deceit, there were much more good people than is accepted in general. He mentions examples of how inmates helped each other, and how even state officials and civil servants sometimes tried to help – even though most of all the people – officials and civilians alike – were picking survival over humanity. The Soviet Union was a society that was structured – on purpose – to create continuous feelings mistrust, secrecy, fear and helplessness, which permeated to every nook and cranny. Anyone could be an informer for the NKVD (later KGB): spouses informed on their partner, even children denounced their parents. The goal of these policies was to create a maximally divided society, in which every person was on its own and could be hauled off to the camps every moment. This is a society in which the people in power can control every aspect of every person’s life. Totalitarianism. (It is interesting to note here that the Soviets had a youth movement that indoctrinated generation after generation on the threat of internal enemies of communism – the future bureaucrats and camp guards. Even Hitler and his Hitler-jugend bleaks in comparison.) To end this review, it is interesting quote Solzhenitsyn on the effects of such a policy of mass fear, secrecy and mistrust. “In 1949 the father of a girl who was a fellow student of V.I.’s was arrested. In these cases everyone would shun such a student, and that was considered natural. But V.I. did not shun her, and openly expressed sympathy with the girl, and tried to find ways to help her out. Frightened by such unusual conduct, the girl rejected V.I.’s help and participation, and lied to him, saying she did not believe in the innocence of her arrested father, and that he had evidently concealed his crime from his family all his life. (And it was only during the times of Khrushchev, that their tongues were loosened: the girl told him she had decided he was either a police informer or else a member of an anti-Soviet organization out to rope in the dissatisfied.) This universal mutual mistrust had the effect of deepening the mass-grave pit of slavery. The moment someone began to speak up frankly, everyone stepped back and shunned him: “A provocation?” And therefore anyone who burst out with a sincere protest was predestined to loneliness and alienation.” (p. 636) Anyone who was only superficially related to someone arrested, was excommunicated by everyone around him/her. This is how a society tries to continue in the face of continuous terror and threat. People would offer servitude to those in power; they would retreat into secrecy and mistrust others; they would act ignorant; they would inform on others (either voluntarily, out of fear, or as a recruited informant); they would betray anyone without the blink of an eye; become corrupt and cruel. In such a society, the masses – always bending for those in power, out of sheer egoism and survival – will throw anyone to the wolves. “If I can just escape this sticky situation. I’ll do anything to live.” Stalin was able, through his reign of terror, to totally control the masses. He was able to do this, only because he disposed of all the people who thought for themselves and were critical of inhumane ways and repression. People who saw through the façade of communism: it was not the rule of the workers, and certainly not ‘To each according to his needs’, it was fascism plain and simple. There really is no different between Hitler and Stalin, or Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. It is important to repeat that the intelligentsia almost always serves as a bulwark to primitive emotions. The masses are easily stirred up and are controlled easily through psychology. All dictators and regimes fear the intelligentsia, because criticism sows doubt. And doubt leads to reflecting on what’s good and what’s bad. This is counterproductive to oppression and exploitation. “Nowadays it is quite convenient to declare that arrest was a lottery (Ehrenburg). Yes, it was a lottery all right, but some of the numbers were ‘fixed’. They threw out a general dragnet and arrested in accordance with assigned quota figures, yes, but every person who objected publicly they grabbed that very minute! And it turned into a selection on the basis of souls, not a lottery! Those who were bold fell beneath the axe, were sent off to the Archipelago – and the picture of the monotonously obedient freedom remained unruffled. All those who were purer and better could not stay in that society; and without them it kept getting more and more trashy. You would not notice these quiet departures at all. But they were, in fact, the dying of the soul of the people.” (p. 642) Notice the emphasis on quota figures. The Soviet Union was a state that enforced order through rigid control. Quota figures, consequences, net benefits were leading; human beings were just a means to reach the desired outcome. And the intelligentsia were an obstacle, a hindrance, since they exposed the insanity of the plan. (This also parallels Hitler’s ‘Du bist nichts, dein Volk ist alles!’ and ‘Deutschland über alles!’ – the German people were to be sacrificed in order to the reach the desired outcome: world domination (‘Lebensraum’) and the destruction of the Jews (‘Judenfrage’). Also in this case, the intelligentsia was a major nuisance – it’s just that most of them fled to other parts of the world; those remained either converted to Nazism (Heidegger, Heisenberg, etc.) or were among the first to perish in camps.) The Gulag Archipelago is a timeless monument of History. In my opinion, it should be part of curricula on schools. It will open the eyes off all these younger generations of people, who have grown up in wealth, health and prosperity and who take progress for granted. Most of those people have leanings towards Marxism (although it is mostly cultural, as opposed to economic, Marxism nowadays). These people have no inkling about their own place in history; their ignorance makes them live off the savings of earlier generations, and they’re squandering everything pretty fast. Personal liberty, and economic liberty (albeit in clearly circumscribed areas) are among the most exalted human discoveries – ever. We should take note of past mistakes, learn from them, and recognize totalitarianism for what it is – especially in the age of the internet. (Cf. China’s implementation of a digital system that rewards people ‘social credits’ for good deeds. Of course the ‘good’ is defined by the Party, and through in-built incentives, those in power can steer the masses to act accordingly. You don’t want to follow our policies and views? All right, you won’t get credits, hence you will not be able to live in a city or have a job.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Crofut

    "This was no different from Auschwitz..." This is not an overstatement; if anything, Solzhenitsyn has shown that the Gulag was worse than Auschwitz. No single camp in Gulag saw as much death, true, but the Nazi system was neither as extensive nor as long-lived, nor did as many people go through the Nazi camps as the Soviet camps. And this is horrible, but it is true: the majority sent to Auschwitz died quickly. Those who died in the Gulag did so after years or decades of prison life degrading not "This was no different from Auschwitz..." This is not an overstatement; if anything, Solzhenitsyn has shown that the Gulag was worse than Auschwitz. No single camp in Gulag saw as much death, true, but the Nazi system was neither as extensive nor as long-lived, nor did as many people go through the Nazi camps as the Soviet camps. And this is horrible, but it is true: the majority sent to Auschwitz died quickly. Those who died in the Gulag did so after years or decades of prison life degrading not just their bodies, but their souls, their humanity. Viktor Frankl spoke of the man going into the gas chamber chanting a psalm of thanksgiving. This is infinitely more difficult to do when one must sing for a quarter century. Yes, Socialists today should be held accountable to this horror; their philosophy has been shown to be prone to such misery that any proclaimed Socialist should be viewed with as much caution as any self-proclaimed Nazi. And yes, much of this book is dedicated to documenting the absolute horror of the Gulag. Part III details the birth and expansion of the cancer of mass incarceration, reiterating the points made in Volume 1 that the Gulag was a necessary element of the Soviet system and not an unfortunate mistake. It is a tough slog. There is a lot of awful things to know about, that we should know about. But Part IV cannot be understood without reading the previous parts in full. And Part IV is almost spiritual. Those in the camps were given a simple choice between the death of the body and the death of the soul. We may legitimately thank God that such a choice is not presented to us, at least not yet, but Solzhenitsyn does something incredible: he thanks God that the choice was presented to him. For some few, the camps broke the spell of the world. I agree with Solzhenitsyn that nobody lost their humanity in camp who had not already had a bit of rot in their soul when in freedom. How deep is our goodness, our faith, our humanity? How many of us are camp stoolies, camp guards, interrogators waiting to break free? Am I? No other question ultimately matters. "Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, nor between political parties either-but right through every human heart- and through all human hearts....It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirely, but it is possible to constrict it within each person." "Even if they offered us the chance to learn the truth, would our free people even want to know it?" I cannot recommend this enough. We live in a spiritual desert. The scorpions are already coming out of the sands.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    So we're through Volume Two of this behemoth indictment on the evils that occurred in Russia between the years of 1918 and 1956. As I stated in the review of Volume One, the level of emotional intensity at which this series of books is written is pretty unbelievable. It's no wonder this book is credited as helping to bring down the Soviet Union. This volumes two parts focus on camp and camp life (where you end up after interrogation and transit prisons covered in the first book) - then an unbelie So we're through Volume Two of this behemoth indictment on the evils that occurred in Russia between the years of 1918 and 1956. As I stated in the review of Volume One, the level of emotional intensity at which this series of books is written is pretty unbelievable. It's no wonder this book is credited as helping to bring down the Soviet Union. This volumes two parts focus on camp and camp life (where you end up after interrogation and transit prisons covered in the first book) - then an unbelievable chapter called 'The Soul and Barbed Wire.' "Only those can understand us who ate from the same bowl with us." -Hutzul girl There is no limit to what should be included in this part. To attain and encompass its savage meaning one would have to drag out many lives in the camps - the very same in which one cannot survive for even one term without some special advantage because they were invented for destruction. And from this it follows that all those who drank of this most deeply, who explored it most fully, are already in their graves and cannot tell us. No one now can ever tell us the most important thing about these camps. And the whole scope of this story and of this truth is beyond the capabilities of one lonely pen. All I had was a peephole into the Archipelago, not the view from a tower...To taste the sea all one needs is one gulp. "In all the brightness it is as if there were no sin present...it is as if nature here had not yet matured to the point of sin." -Prishvin describing the Solovetski Islands So we begin at what I gather was one of the first camps...before the Islands "metastasized." The Solovetski Islands. How had it happened that the hares had not been exterminated? They would explain it to the newcomer this way: The little beasts and birds are not afraid here because there is a GPU order in effect: "Save ammunition! Not a single shot is to be fired, except at a prisoner!" Describing a night wherein three men executed 300 prisoners at the cemetery on Solovetski: By night's end, at any rate, he was seen washing off the blood-soaked tops of his boots, one after the other over a washbasin...They were drunk and careless - and in the morning the enormous pit, only lightly covered over, was still stirring and moving. Here he talks about how a certain Judge Leibowitz of New York acclaimed the Gulag system after he visited it: Oh, "what an intelligent, farsighted humane administration from top to bottom," as Supreme Court Judge Leibowitz of New York State wrote in Life magazine, after having visited Gulag. "In serving out his term of punishment the prisoner retains a feeling of dignity." That is what he comprehended and saw...Oh, fortunate New York State, to have such a perspicacious jackass for a judge!...And oh, you well-fed, devil-may-care, nearsighted, irresponsible foreigners with your notebooks and your ball-point pens - how much you have harmed us in your vain passion to shine with understanding in areas where you did not grasp a lousy thing! And things only got worse in camps after this little Marxist gem was implemented: They dug down deeper into the storage chest of history and dragged out what Marx had called "extraeconomic coercion." In camp and on collective farms this discovery was presented with bare fangs. And then Frenkel came along and, like a devil sprinkling a poison into the boiling cauldron, he poured in the differentiated ration pot. There was a famous incantation repeated over and over again: "In the new social structure there can be no place for the discipline of the stick on which serfdom was based, nor the discipline of starvation on which capitalism is based."...And there you are - the Archipelago managed miraculously to combine the one and the other. Here we finally get into some of the authors experiences in his first hard labor camp: And tomorrow would be the same and every day: six cars of red clay - three scoops of black gruel. In (transit) prison, too, we seemed to have grown weak, but here it went much faster. There was already a ringing in the head. That pleasant weakness, in which it is easier to give in than to fight back, kept coming closer. And in the barracks - total darkness. We lay there dressed in everything wet on everything bare, and it seemed it was warmer not to take anything off - like a poultice. Open eyes looked at the black ceiling, at the black heavens. Good Lord! Good Lord! Beneath the shells and the bombs I begged you to preserve my life. And now I beg you, please send me death. Solzhenitsyn is describing the common way death occurred in camp: The diarrhea takes out of a man both strength and all interest - in other people, in life, in himself. He grows deaf and stupid, and he loses all capacity to weep, even when he is being dragged along the ground behind a sledge. He is no longer afraid of death; he is wrapped in a submissive, rosy glow. He has crossed all boundaries and has forgotten the name of his wife, of his children, and finally his own name too. Sometimes the entire body of a man dying of starvation is covered with blue-black pimples like peas, with pus-filled heads smaller than a pinhead - his face, his arms, legs, his trunk, even his scrotum. It is so painful he cannot be touched. The tiny boils come to a head and burst and a thick wormlike string of pus is forced out of them. The man is rotting alive... But there is one form of early release that no bluecap can take away from the prisoner. This release is - death. And this is the most basic, the steadiest form of Archipelago output there is - with no norms...In the autumn of 1941, Pechorlag (the railroad camp) had a listed population of fifty thousand prisoners, and in the spring of 1942, ten thousand. During this period not one prisoner transport was sent out of Pechorlag anywhere - so where did the forty thousand prisoners go? I have written thousand here in italics - why? Because I learned these figures accidentally from a zek who had access to them. But you would not be able to get them for all camps in all periods nor to total them up. Talking about checking the dead every single day: This was seldom like an autopsy - a long vertical cut from neck to crotch, breaking leg bones, pulling the skull apart at its seam. Mostly it was not a surgeon but a convoy guard who verified the corpse - to be certain the zek was really dead and not pretending. And for this they ran the corpse through with a bayonet or smashed the skull with a big mallet. And right there they tied to the big toe of the corpse's right foot a tag with his prison file number... One of my favorite parts was when he went through some of the ridiculous ways you could get arrested and get a "tenner" in GULAG: Orachevsky had been given only five years. he had been imprisoned for a facial crime (really out of Orwell) - for a smile!...while showing another teacher in the classroom something in Pravda, he had smiled! The other teacher was killed soon after, so no one ever found out what Orachevsky had been smiling at. But the smile had been observed, and the fact of smiling at the central organ of the Party was in itself sacrilege! A tailor laying aside his needle stuck it into a newspaper on the wall so it wouldn't get lost and happened to stick it in the eye of a portrait of Kaganovich. A customer observed this: Article 58, ten years (terrorism). A saleswoman accepting merchandise from a forwarder noted down on a sheet of newspaper. There was no other paper. The number of pieces of soap happened to fall on the forehead of Comrade Stalin. Article 58, ten years...However, for the most part fantastic accusations were not really required. There existed a very simple standardized collection of charges from which it was enough for the interrogator to pick one or two and stick them like postage stamps on an envelope: >>Discrediting the Leader >>A negative attitude toward the collective-farm structure >>A negative attitude toward state loans (and what normal person could have a positive attitude!) >>A negative attitude toward the Stalinist constitution >>A negative attitude toward whatever was the immediate, particular measure being carried out by the Party >>Sympathy for Trotsky >>Friendliness toward the United States >>Etc., etc., etc. He talks of prisoners, who although imprisoned for ridiculous and false transgressions, remained dead red, orthodox Communists throughout their whole internment: He is impenetrable. He speaks in a language which requires no effort of the mind. And arguing with him is like walking through a desert. It's about people like that that they say: "he made the rounds of all the smithies and came home unshod." And when they write in their obituaries: "perished tragically during the period of the cult," this should be corrected to read: "perished comically." Take Prokhorov-Pustover, also a Bolshevik, though not a Party member, who turned in zeks for deliberately failing to fulfill (work) norms. (He used to report this to the chiefs, and the zeks got punished.) To the zeks' reproaches that he must realize it was slave labor, Pustover replied: "That's a strange philosophy! In capitalist countries the workers struggle against slave labor; but we, even if we are slaves, work for a socialist state, not for private persons. These officials are only temporarily [?] in power. One blow from the people...and they will disappear, but the people's state will remain." It's...a jungle, the consciousness of an orthodox Communist. It's impossible to make sense of it. Discussing escape attempts: But a man who seriously undertook to escape became very swiftly fearsome. Some of them set fire to the taiga behind them in order to get the dogs off their trail...In 1949...a fugitive was detained with human flesh in his knapsack; he had killed an unconvoyed artist with a five-year term who had crossed his path...and had not yet had the chance to cook it. In the spring of 1947 in the Kolyma...two convoy guards were leading a column of zeks. And suddenly one zek...skillfully attacked the convoy guards on his own, disarmed them, and shot them both. The bold fellow announced to the column that it was free! But the prisoners were overwhelmed with horror; no one followed his lead, and they all sat down right there and waited for a new convoy...And then he took up the rifles (thirty-two cartridges, "thirty-one for them!) and left alone. He killed and wounded several pursuers and with his thirty-second cartridge he shot himself. The entire Archipelago might well have collapsed if all former front-liners had behaved as he did. Discussing thieves (read: knights) and there treatment under their ridiculous laws: Here is what our laws were like for thirty years: For robbery of the state, embezzlement of state funds, a packing case from a state warehouse, for three potatoes from a collective farm - ten years! But robbery of a free person? Suppose they cleaned out an apartment...If it was not accompanied by murder, then the sentence was up to one year, sometimes six months. The thieves flourished because they were encouraged. Through its laws the Stalinist power said to the thieves clearly: Do not steal from me! Steal from private persons! You see, private property is a belch from the past. Discussing the actual guards: The convoy had nothing to fear from any investigation, and did not have to give any explanations. Every convoy guard who fired was right. Every prisoner killed was guilty... At the gatehouse, a zek ran up to a guard with a release document and asked: "Let me through, I am going to the laundry [outside the camp compound]. I'll only be a minute!" "You can't." "But tomorrow I'm going to be free, fool!" The guard shot him dead. And there wasn't even a trial. In 1938...a forest fire flew with the speed of a hurricane...and from the forest into two camps. What was to be done with the zeks? The decision had to be made instantly - there was no time to consult with higher jurisdictions. The guards refused to release them - and they all burned to death. That was the easy way. If they had been released and escaped, the guards would have been court-martialed. Now we're finally on to Part IV "The Soul and Barbed Wire." "Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." -I Corinthians, 15:51 "Think! Draw some conclusions from the misfortune. And all that endless time, after all, the prisoner's brains and souls are not inactive?! In the mass and from a distance they seem like swarming lice, but they are the crown of creation, right? After all, once upon a time a weak little spark of God was breathed into them too - is it not true? So what has become of it now?" "Along our chosen road are twists and turns and twists and turns. Uphill? Or up into the heavens? Let's go, let's stumble and stagger. The day of liberation! What can it give us after so many years? We will change unrecognizably and so will our near and dear ones...And the thought of freedom after a time even becomes a forced thought. Far-fetched. Strange. The day of 'liberation!' As if there were any liberty in this country! Or as if it were possible to liberate anyone who has not first become liberated in his own soul. His friend telling him a story while he's in the hospital: "And on the whole, do you know, I have become convinced that there is no punishment that comes to us in this life on earth which is undeserved. Superficially it can have nothing to do with what we are guilty of in actual fact, but if you go over your life with a fine tooth comb and ponder it deeply, you will always be able to hunt down that transgression of your for which you have now received this blow." "The Nuremberg Trials have to be regarded as one of the special achievements of the twentieth century: they killed the very idea of evil, though they killed very few of the people who had been infected with it...And if by the twenty-first century humanity has not yet blown itself up and has not suffocated itself - perhaps it is this direction that will triumph? Yes, and if it does not triumph - then all humanity's history will have turned out to be an empty exercise in marking time, without the tiniest mite of meaning! Whither and to what end will we otherwise be moving? To beat the enemy over the head with a club - even a caveman knew that. "And that is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometime to the astonishment of those about me: "Bless you, prison!" "All human emotions - love, friendship, envy, love of one's fellows, mercy, thirst for fame, honesty - fell away from us along with the meat of our muscles...We had no pride, no vanity, and even jealousy and passion seemed to be Martian concepts...The only thing left was anger - the most enduring of human emotions. We came to understand that truth and falsehoods were kind sisters. "Those people became corrupted in camp who had already been corrupted out in freedom or who were ready for it. Because people are corrupted in freedom too, sometimes even more effectively than in camp." In a culture of corruption and lies...the strong get eaten first: "Yes, it was a lottery all right, but some of the numbers were 'fixed.' They threw out a general dragnet and arrested in accordance with assigned quota figures, yes, but every person who objected publicly they grabbed that very minute! And it turned into a selection on the basis of soul, not a lottery! Those who were bold fell beneath the axe, were sent off to the Archipelago - and the picture of the monotonously obedient freedom remained unruffled. All those who were purer and better could not stay in that society; and without them it kept getting more and more trashy. you would not notice these quiet departures at all. But they were, in fact, the dying of the soul of the people." I'll end with this: "Looking back, I saw that for my whole conscious life I had not understood either myself or my strivings. What had seemed for so long to be beneficial now turned out in actuality to be that which was truly necessary to me. But just as the waves of the sea knock the inexperienced swimmer off his feet and keep tossing him back onto the shore, so also was I painfully tossed back on dry land by the blows of misfortune. And it was only because of this that I was able to travel the path which I had always really wanted to travel. It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I senses within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains...an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fr. Peter Mottola

    Volume two was just as soul-crushing as Volume I—full review to come at the end of Volume III. The section entitled "The Soul and Barbed Wire" certainly makes the journey worthwhile, and I am very glad to be reading the unabridged version. Volume two was just as soul-crushing as Volume I—full review to come at the end of Volume III. The section entitled "The Soul and Barbed Wire" certainly makes the journey worthwhile, and I am very glad to be reading the unabridged version.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nilesh

    If one is to read only one part of the trilogy, this is perhaps the one. The first one has a lot of history and context which are relevant but not unique. I am sure the last one - the one I am going through now - will have a lot of views on consequences and future. The middle volumes are the core that defines the monumental work. A lot of what I reviewed in the first volume is worth repeating. If there is any literary work, where no reviewer is even worthy of commenting, this is perhaps that. Our If one is to read only one part of the trilogy, this is perhaps the one. The first one has a lot of history and context which are relevant but not unique. I am sure the last one - the one I am going through now - will have a lot of views on consequences and future. The middle volumes are the core that defines the monumental work. A lot of what I reviewed in the first volume is worth repeating. If there is any literary work, where no reviewer is even worthy of commenting, this is perhaps that. Our race has seen indescribable tragedies. The worst are perhaps those created by men themselves. Stalin's great purge must rank near the top of any such list. Solzhenitsyn's work ensures that future generations never forget its minutest details. That the author published this at tremendous personal risks and post achievements like a Nobel prize (which would make perhaps some other to turn less ambitious or brave) embellishes the great service this work has done to our societies. That said, this is an incredibly hard book to read. The writing style is fluid. Despite the voluminous details and hundreds of tales containing different types of people, places and nature, the rhythm is consistent and rarely containing too much more than necessary. Yet, this encyclopedic work is like a dictionary or an almanack. A reader's emotions would reach the revulsion limits early with the framework set in terms of what to expect. The grimness is relentless and beyond a point, many may feel sick worried about one's own sadistic tendencies to keep reading. A tragedy involving millions could have tales differing somewhat that could last books hundreds of times as big or summarized with key details in a length perhaps one fifth. Some, like this reviewer, may feel guilty leaving such a great work midway as well and plod on. Every reader may have her own point at which the book becomes too much. The second volume focuses on the life in Gulag. Gone are descriptions of events that led to the purge or explanations of the era-defining terms like Gulag, GPU, NKVD, Cheka, the labour penal system etc. This book is just about the slave-like life in the labour camps.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vagabond of Letters, DLitt

    Finally can start reading this again - I got a replacement (though it be a lowly paperback reprint as I'm no longer wealthy) for my 1st edition that the USPS lost when I moved, along with 36lbs of other collectible and expensive books (several volumes of A Study of History unabridged, Hitler's War, Inwagen's Metaphysics, A Secular Age, Philosophy for Graduate Students, The World as Will and Representation, vols 1 and 9 of Copleston's history, Wilson's Sociobiology, Wittgenstein's Investigations, Finally can start reading this again - I got a replacement (though it be a lowly paperback reprint as I'm no longer wealthy) for my 1st edition that the USPS lost when I moved, along with 36lbs of other collectible and expensive books (several volumes of A Study of History unabridged, Hitler's War, Inwagen's Metaphysics, A Secular Age, Philosophy for Graduate Students, The World as Will and Representation, vols 1 and 9 of Copleston's history, Wilson's Sociobiology, Wittgenstein's Investigations, Strauss-Howe Generations, a 1st edition of Race, Evolution, Behavior by Rushton, The Camp of the Saints, Plantinga's Warrant books, Chadwick's $140 study of the Great Schism, the Denzinger 46th ed., Heresy and Authority in the Middle Ages, the collected Plato and Aristotle, the life of Darwin, Suetonius and Livy in Loeb editions, etc. etc.)... assholes delivered the lid of my box in a bag with a snide apology for losing the other 5 sides of the box.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Sverker

    This book troubles my soul deeply, as I think it does with every reader. It is not at all heavy in the sense of style, well that was an exageration, but S.'s language is very vivid and capturing despite that this is not a novel. It is probably fitting that the Gulag Archipelago is immensly long, since that heavyness of the books can only be match by that heavyness of the subject. S. shows that massive proportions of the foulness of the communist regime. It permeated the whole of society and it i This book troubles my soul deeply, as I think it does with every reader. It is not at all heavy in the sense of style, well that was an exageration, but S.'s language is very vivid and capturing despite that this is not a novel. It is probably fitting that the Gulag Archipelago is immensly long, since that heavyness of the books can only be match by that heavyness of the subject. S. shows that massive proportions of the foulness of the communist regime. It permeated the whole of society and it is almost unbelievable how this is not fictitious. I left this book with a heavy heart, and it doesn't seem to brighten up by reading volume 3 eaither. But I will do so nonetheless because this is history and fates that must be acknowledged.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    Another chunk of one of the most staggering literary achievements I've ever taken in. It's insane to me just how exhaustive Solszhenitsyn was on every front—it truly feels like everything is accounted for in this narrative historically, biographically, and existentially. On top of all that, his prose is always vibrant, his narrative always engaging, and his dark sense of humor always keeping you anchored through one of humanity's worst storms. The chapter in here that's written as a satirical et Another chunk of one of the most staggering literary achievements I've ever taken in. It's insane to me just how exhaustive Solszhenitsyn was on every front—it truly feels like everything is accounted for in this narrative historically, biographically, and existentially. On top of all that, his prose is always vibrant, his narrative always engaging, and his dark sense of humor always keeping you anchored through one of humanity's worst storms. The chapter in here that's written as a satirical ethnographic essay is one of the most brilliant pieces of writing I've ever encountered. Definitely read these if you want a powerful glimpse into one of humanity's darkest hours and how the light still managed to peek through.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Grant

    Solzhenitsyn continues his mammoth exploration of the Gulag with a detailed study of the labor camp system, its practices, and its residents, the "natives" of Gulag. He then follows with a much shorter meditation on the choices human beings trapped in the system faced, to retain their humanity and likely lose their lives, or to betray the very core of humanity within them in order to survive. Hard reading, but necessary. Solzhenitsyn continues his mammoth exploration of the Gulag with a detailed study of the labor camp system, its practices, and its residents, the "natives" of Gulag. He then follows with a much shorter meditation on the choices human beings trapped in the system faced, to retain their humanity and likely lose their lives, or to betray the very core of humanity within them in order to survive. Hard reading, but necessary.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Al-

    Have you read the first volume? This is just as important a read as the first. I found it is also a bit easier to read than the first. This volume deals more with search and seizure, and conviction; set years ago on a foriegn backdrop, it reads like an omen of today's political atmosphere, a warning to protect our rights. Have you read the first volume? This is just as important a read as the first. I found it is also a bit easier to read than the first. This volume deals more with search and seizure, and conviction; set years ago on a foriegn backdrop, it reads like an omen of today's political atmosphere, a warning to protect our rights.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jared Hanishewski

    We are told often to be more empathetic So let us emphasis. The year is 1937 and you live in Stalin’s Russia. You are an individual, but wait there is no individual; there is only the Soviet Collective. It is everywhere and it is always watching. Every word you say it hears. Every action you take it scrutinizes Every opinion you hold...Hahaha that’s funny “opinions”. So you live in constant terror. No, not terror just fear, terror comes later. Every day you live in fear careful to make sure yo We are told often to be more empathetic So let us emphasis. The year is 1937 and you live in Stalin’s Russia. You are an individual, but wait there is no individual; there is only the Soviet Collective. It is everywhere and it is always watching. Every word you say it hears. Every action you take it scrutinizes Every opinion you hold...Hahaha that’s funny “opinions”. So you live in constant terror. No, not terror just fear, terror comes later. Every day you live in fear careful to make sure you put on the right show. “Yes comrade”, you say “it is a beautiful morning and we are set straight by the Soviet will”. Pretty soon you discover something. Why fight the collective? Why rage against fear? After all it is easier to swim down stream then up it. So you opt for the safer option. Loyalty. Yes, loyalty for the Party, and love for the motherland. Love for comrade Stalin. You are a loyalist. And a devote Christian too. So you pray twice a week for the health and wisdom of Stalin. Sunday’s and Wednesday’s like clockwork. One fateful Wednesday as you are leaving the chapel you are approached by two tall men. They ask you ever so politely if you wouldn’t mind coming down to the station. Just a few questions they say. Well why wouldn’t you go after all you are a model citizen who has never done anything against the collective. So you hop in to their black car. How you should have screamed, bit, punched and kicked. Five days later you are signing a paper. It is the admission of your guilt. This is when the reader ask what torture was used on our poor soul. Was it a branding rod or maybe sharpened tongs? Oh why so dramatic? No hot iron was used. Try not sleeping for five days, you’ll sign anything. Yes, you are signing a paper saying how last Wednesday you prayed for the death of Stalin. This they say is a violation of article 58-8 (as if prayer can be an act of terrorism). For that they slap you with a ten year term in a hard labour prison camp, in Gulag. Fast forward 2 weeks and you have arrived Camp Novy Iyerusalim, more commonly know as starvation-station. You are quickly told how things are run around here. It isn’t pretty. Your first work order is digging in the clay pits. You are to work 11 hours a day without break not to mention the 5 mile walk to and from the site. So more like 15 hours. You ask for a shovel to dig the clay, you are told that this is quite impossible. So as the spring showers pour on, you dig clay with your bare hands. You do not have a way to dry or do you have an extra pair of clothes. Men drop dead of exhaustion and malnutrition all around you. This becomes your life: Wake. Walk. Dig. Walk. Eat. Sleep soaked. Wake. Walk. Dig. Walk. Eat. Sleep soaked. Wake. Walk. Dig. Walk. Eat. Sleep soaked. Wake. Walk. Dig. Walk. Eat. Sleep soaked. Wake. Walk. Dig. Walk. Eat. Sleep soaked. You fought in the war. You know how to embrace hardship. So you struggle on. But alas in this monotonous hell you find yourself praying to the father above to “please send me death”. As you pay your “debt” to society you learn the hard truths of the Gulag. One. To be a woman here is a curse, to be a beautiful woman is to suffer most of all. Two. The children (You could be thrown in gulag as early as 12) were perhaps the most dangerous of them all. Quick to adapt to their new surroundings they would roam around in gangs stealing from and knifing anyone who got in their way. Three. Dare not tell your escape plan to anyone. Informers were everywhere. Four. Dare not escape. Five. Step out of line. Beaten. Ask for more gruel. Beaten. Can’t get up from your beatings. Beaten to death. Through all this you determine that you will survive. You will fight back with the only thing you possess, the will to live. And you also determine you will not loose your soul to this place, that you will not let the corruption of gulag to get under your skin. Years pass by and you survive, survive and survive. The day comes your release. Only one more sleep. You go to bed anxious. You are awaken in the middle of the night by a fist punching your gut. “Get up!” They say. Cold and in pain you obey. You are led, along with eight others, to the forest. The security chef and his men all surround you with rifles. A pit has been dug. “Get in zeks!” they shout. You obey. And it is here they shoot you. You feel the bullet enter your stomach. As you lay immobilized by pain you feel the dirt hit you. First to be covered is your feet then your chest. You feel yourself being buried alive and your last thought is not of your family or the injustice of this Soviet state. No, your last thought is of the efficiency of your executioners. How it is easier to cox the living to his grave then to drag the dead. Now the dirt is over your face, you feel it in your noose. Now it is time for that terror. This book took me awhile to read. And I must say it is quite depressing. Solzhenitsyn writes first hand the horrors of the Gulag and the injustices of the Soviet state. One thing I’ve learned is the price a country pays when it builds itself on a lie. The gulag archipelago is an attempt to unravel that lie. In Solzhenitsyn’s final analysis he determining that it was never the collective that was responsible for the evil done to the innocent. It was always individual.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dobre

    Checkmate to communism. I loved the last chapters - We Are Building, The Ascent, On Corruption and Our Muzzled Freedom.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol Bakker

    A stone is not a human being, and even stones get crushed. Camp life was organized in such a way that envy pecked at your soul from all sides, even the best-defended soul. I began reading The Gulag Archipelago [the system of prison camps in the USSR], not because it was pleasant, but because I wanted to better understand a culture permeated by prison. Marxism and communism will bring about a "soul mange," Solzhenitsyn asserts. A few chapters in, I found the text on archive.org and read along as mu A stone is not a human being, and even stones get crushed. Camp life was organized in such a way that envy pecked at your soul from all sides, even the best-defended soul. I began reading The Gulag Archipelago [the system of prison camps in the USSR], not because it was pleasant, but because I wanted to better understand a culture permeated by prison. Marxism and communism will bring about a "soul mange," Solzhenitsyn asserts. A few chapters in, I found the text on archive.org and read along as much as one can with 27 hours of audio. Frederick Davidson's superb narration is flawless. Solzhenitsyn's voice is cynical, mocking, brusque, sarcastic. What other option did he have, when dealing with such a level of absurdity and corruption? Oh, "what an intelligent, farsighted, human administration from top to bottom," as Supreme Court Judge Leibowitz of New York State wrote in Life magazine, after having visited Gulag. "In serving out his term of punishment the prisoner retains a feeling of dignity." That is what he comprehended and saw. Oh, fortunate New York State, to have such a perspicacious jackass for a judge! There is almost an entire chapter devoted to diarrhea!! The diarrhea takes out of a man both strength and all interest — in other people, in life, in himself. I addition to physical atrocities, Solzhenitsyn delves into the spiritual health/disease within the Gulag in Part IV The Soul and Barbed Wire. My emotions need a break, but I'm anticipating reading the third and final volume.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christiana Martin

    As much as it pains me to finish these books out of order, my slog through volume 2 (books III-IV) of Solzhenitsyn’s master work is complete and I must rejoice. My library having failed me (only on this one point of not owning enough copies of these books compared to the number of people who put them on hold), and my loan of volume I ending (with less than 3 hours of reading left) with another long wait before I’m at the top of the waitlist again, I reluctantly moved on to this volume, and you b As much as it pains me to finish these books out of order, my slog through volume 2 (books III-IV) of Solzhenitsyn’s master work is complete and I must rejoice. My library having failed me (only on this one point of not owning enough copies of these books compared to the number of people who put them on hold), and my loan of volume I ending (with less than 3 hours of reading left) with another long wait before I’m at the top of the waitlist again, I reluctantly moved on to this volume, and you best believe I finished it in one loan period this time. I was happy to discover that in book III we finally make it to the work camps themselves. The anticipation has been building for so long. Once there, the camps are as depressing as expected. Do I slightly regret committing myself to the unabridged version of this book? I confess that Solzhenitsyn’s approach of thorough exposition while beating you over the head (is that figure of speech in bad taste, given the subject matter?) with examples and anecdotes for each point can at times be simultaneously horrifying, depressing, and tedious. Am I still looking forward to volume III? Yes, I am! I’ve heard recommendations to actually read that volume first to fortify yourself for the soul-crushing drudgery of the first two, but I’m using it as a reward instead. This book still gets 4 stars because it is so important for understanding the Soviet state during this period and the various elements of state control. The fact that nothing in here comes as much of a surprise is a testament to how fundamental this book is... I know about them because Solzhenitsyn went to the trouble and effort of laying everything bare so thoroughly that it all became common knowledge. It’s a seriously impressive accomplishment.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Pokorny

    Part two of the Gulag Archipelago. This expands upon the first part, going into detail the different parties, the population demographics, and the various aspects of life within the Archipelago. It is clear that Solzhenitsyn feels a great burden to share everything he can, having suffered and survived his time in the Gulag. This text, following the first part, can be quite difficult to work through. Some parts are dry, other parts are grotesquely incomprehensible. I encourage you to make your pi Part two of the Gulag Archipelago. This expands upon the first part, going into detail the different parties, the population demographics, and the various aspects of life within the Archipelago. It is clear that Solzhenitsyn feels a great burden to share everything he can, having suffered and survived his time in the Gulag. This text, following the first part, can be quite difficult to work through. Some parts are dry, other parts are grotesquely incomprehensible. I encourage you to make your pilgrimage through both parts, as you are bearing witness to Solzhenitsyn and those who did not survive the Gulag. I encourage you to honor them with your sacrifice of time, hear their voices.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Finally done with volume two and 700 pages later! I really love this series of books. It helps me understand both the psychology of humanity as well as the history of Russia during this time, especially things I have never heard even though I'm a history major. It is interesting how Solzhenitsyn can take a look both at the particular example inside the gulags of people as well as the observed behavior of people in general like the children (which reminded me a bit like Lord of the Flies), the th Finally done with volume two and 700 pages later! I really love this series of books. It helps me understand both the psychology of humanity as well as the history of Russia during this time, especially things I have never heard even though I'm a history major. It is interesting how Solzhenitsyn can take a look both at the particular example inside the gulags of people as well as the observed behavior of people in general like the children (which reminded me a bit like Lord of the Flies), the thieves, and the families left behind when people were arrested. Only one more volume to go.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    People have free will. Socialism demands that you don't. Exhaustive (and exhausting) documentation of the logical conclusion of socialist morality. People have free will. Socialism demands that you don't. Exhaustive (and exhausting) documentation of the logical conclusion of socialist morality.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Evan Micheals

    This is the second volume of the Gulag Archipelago, a mere 700+ pages of the misery Stalinist Russia inflicted on the people socialism was to serve. This was terrible in what it described of how people could treat one another. Stalin was no friend of the people, and the terror done in his name was beyond imagining awful. Mental Health: Solzhenitsyn wrote that suicides were rare in the Archipelago, and that they even stopped a woman from committing suicide thrice, before they shoot her (p534). Men This is the second volume of the Gulag Archipelago, a mere 700+ pages of the misery Stalinist Russia inflicted on the people socialism was to serve. This was terrible in what it described of how people could treat one another. Stalin was no friend of the people, and the terror done in his name was beyond imagining awful. Mental Health: Solzhenitsyn wrote that suicides were rare in the Archipelago, and that they even stopped a woman from committing suicide thrice, before they shoot her (p534). Mentally ill were not feed, because they were considered by Moscow to be a waste of food. As a clinician I could see that everything I know about psychology and use in an attempt to heal, being used to destroy and break down in the Gulag’s. It was by design aimed at making people worse. Children could enter the Gulag from as young as 6. They became their own group and learned their best lessons from the thieves, who they usually became. They lost ‘innocence’, and were known to gang rape their nurses or any adult female left alone to ‘care’ for them. They learned that savagery was the best survival strategy, and easily ignored the egalitarianism lectured by the commissary. Play was savage and brutal, especially for the old and disabled. They knew intuitively what was the best strategy for survival within the Gulag. Inmates quickly learned to despise the children and see them as dangerous. It reminded me of the depiction of the children in the film “City of God”, except more brutal. If the children were not savage and brutal, but truthful and honest they were shoot. Solzhenitsyn told of little boy who dared to tell Gorky the truth about life in the Solovki Prison Camp. Telling the truth was a sure way to advance your death, and they shoot him as soon as Gorky left. Lies were much safer. In the Utopian workers’ paradise the thieves were given education on socialism and they suggested that the most socialist form of punishment should to be banned from work. The thieves could see the hypocrisy of the dogma of socialism, compared to how it was practised. Underlying was an encouragement of the thieves to target private wealth and property (but not property of the state/party), as this was in keeping with egalitarian socialist doctrine. All crime is a function of class (the group) and not the responsibility of the individual. Individuals therefore must be re-educated not punished. “What if a thief gets drunk or escapes or steals? Then explain to him that it is not he who was guilty, that is was the class enemy who made him drunk, or taught him to escape, or taught him to steal (p 270)”. Echo’s of this in the current discourse which encourages people to blame of the patriarchy, the rich or whatever group you may perceives as persecuting you, if you have the psychology of a thief. The thugs of the Gulag would strip naked and beat the other inmates, not just content to savage them, would defalcate into their clothes. The inmates in the Russian Winter had to put the clothes back on, no water for washing, it was all ice. Some paradise for workers. As I read the chapter on the economics of the camp, that they must be self sustaining and cost the state nothing. I came to realise that there was a socialist tyrant in my heart too. I have thought and spoken that prisons should be run at a profit, that they prisoners should be made to pay for their own containment. This was the thinking of the authoritarian socialists. I could be such a tyrant in my pursuit of ‘justice’. “The labor of the zeks was needed for degrading and particularly heavy work, which no one under socialism, would wish to perform” (p 516). This was the solution for all the jobs no one would choose to do, make the political prisoners do it. Need more Labor, find a new conspiracy against the people and target the skills. Who cares if they are guilty. This was the socialist version of slavery, you were not owned by another individual, but the state. A ten year sentence was given for suggesting a Singer Sewing Machine was superior to a Russian Sewing Machine (Anti-Revolutionary). It did not work, as the zeks would sabotage that which they had no ownership to make their lives a little easier. One comical anecdote was that they stole so much from the state that when an apartment block was being built a good portion of the bath tubs were stolen so there were not enough when the commissary came to inspect the ‘completed’ project. The Zeks uninstalled the tubs from the first floor and reinstalled them into the fourth floor whilst the 2nd and 3rd were being inspected (p 521). In speaking about lower class attitudes towards the wealthy, he channelled themes of Orwell in “it was poisoned by envy and hate – sterile feelings which do not create art. It made the same mistake that revolutionaries continually make: ascribing the vices of the upper-class to the class itself and not to humanity as a whole, while failing to imagine how notably they themselves inherit these vices” (p 433). Solzhenitsyn said one of the unexpected results of the rises of socialism is it forced the former classes together in the same suffering, and for the first time they could truly empathise with the other. Prisoners were buried alive, not to save the price of a bullet, not to torture them, but because it was easier to carry live bodies rather than dead ones. Such was the callous indifference towards life and each other. All in the name of socialism. Solzhenitsyn documents the Cannibalism (p 374) that occurred. “When the belly rumbles, the conscious flees” (p 180). “Hunger for life had turned out to be stronger than the thirst for truth” (p 334). What was required for the Zek’s to survive in the Archipelago was not compassion, but the opposite, indifference, indifference to the suffering of your fellow Zek or anyone. Empathy was wasted energy, and you needed every bit just to survive. Keep your mouth shut, don’t see or notice the suffering of your fellow. It could be you next. “Fires in their literal sense don’t frighten the Zeks. They don’t value these shelters they live in, and they don’t even try to save burning buildings since they are certain that they will always be replaced” (p 464). This reminded me of the people detained under the Mental Health Act. The psychology was the same. They had nothing to preserve, they had nothing to lose and no accountability. It had all been taken from them. “No one can deprive you of your family and property, you have already been deprived of them. What does not exist, not even God can take away (p 540)”. The freedom of having nothing. A mentor once said to me that in my practice do not take everything away from people, because when someone has nothing to lose they are inherently dangerous. This is what the Rogerian’s do not understand with their unconditional positive regard. Somewhere between Rogers and Solzhenitsyn is a reasonable conception of the nature of man. The spirit of the Zeks was to “survive at any price” (p 536). Solzhenitsyn then goes on to argue against this, that when you do things against your own morality/values ‘to survive at any price’ you pay a price in the end. You have to make a decision. Do you work with the tyrant, or do you not? Where is your nobility? “No noble person would turn to State Security, but for any villain it was always right there at hand”. P 572. I thought of contemporary cancel culture or running to human resources to report thought crimes, is giving tools to villains that noble people cannot use. I have become convinced that most evil that is done in the world is done in the name of good. His most famous quote is contained in “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world. They struggle with evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world entirely, but it is possible to constrict it within each person (p 547)”. Reading this is life changing, but not light reading. It is truly terrible and awful to know how evil we can be in the name of good. I ask myself, how have I been evil. I see hints of the Blue Capped Komsomol’s in contemporary Human Resources Department’s who tell us what we are allowed to say (think) and what is acceptable conduct. For me at least they are the most easily identifiable agents of evil (in the name of good). I am now two thirds through and have the final volume next summer.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Youp

    The second part (books 3 and 4) of The Gulag Archipelago is a literary wrecking ball that demolishes even more aspects of the Soviet Union and Communism in general. The intellectual tour de force which analyzed the prelude of Stalinist Russia, its trials, arrest and interrogations in the first two books, continues with a painfully detailed dissection of camp life in the archipelago. Absolutely every aspect is outlined with countless examples, anecdotes and witness accounts, continually leaving m The second part (books 3 and 4) of The Gulag Archipelago is a literary wrecking ball that demolishes even more aspects of the Soviet Union and Communism in general. The intellectual tour de force which analyzed the prelude of Stalinist Russia, its trials, arrest and interrogations in the first two books, continues with a painfully detailed dissection of camp life in the archipelago. Absolutely every aspect is outlined with countless examples, anecdotes and witness accounts, continually leaving me wondering how one person could produce a work like this. Book three describes, among other facets, the life of prisoners, guards, criminals and women, kinds of work, trading, the mindset and language of the camps. Book four, however short, makes a lasting impact by sharing a philosophy of survival and mental toughness. It concludes with several short biographies of Soviet citizens who defied the totalitarian regime and society with an almost unbelievable show of moral fortitude. Stunning, horrifying, fascinating, and nothing short of a literary masterpiece.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Murphy

    The Gulag Archipelago Volume 2 is a distillation of the experience and history of the labor camp system of the Soviet Union and the untold millions who died. All three volumes of the book received a Nobel Peace Prize, and it is not difficult to understand why after reading the second book in the set. Solzhenitsyn's pen is filled with a sarcastic bitterness that follows through in every chapter as he recalls events. Almost all those with lengthy terms died in those camps, unless they were trustee The Gulag Archipelago Volume 2 is a distillation of the experience and history of the labor camp system of the Soviet Union and the untold millions who died. All three volumes of the book received a Nobel Peace Prize, and it is not difficult to understand why after reading the second book in the set. Solzhenitsyn's pen is filled with a sarcastic bitterness that follows through in every chapter as he recalls events. Almost all those with lengthy terms died in those camps, unless they were trustees for some, if not all, of their time in prison and could avoid back-breaking work in the Russian winter on starvation rations. Alexander Solzhenitsyn is filled with remorse and regret, condemning his previous service and his early behavior - but this book is not about him, rather it is all that was carved into his heart after years of constant death and hardship. It is not a book for the timid, but as a contribution to the world its value is innumerable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adel Nizamutdinov

    An intense study of human nature. It tries to explain the atrocities of the 20th century, and how to recover from them. It also talks about the past, present and future of the Russian culture. Basically it's a prequel to the state of affairs Russia is in in 2017. I think it also made me comfortable with being Tatar and calling myself Russian. The way we talk, the way we behave, the way we live -- it all have been affected by the Soviet era. Can't recommend this enough. Most human book I've ever re An intense study of human nature. It tries to explain the atrocities of the 20th century, and how to recover from them. It also talks about the past, present and future of the Russian culture. Basically it's a prequel to the state of affairs Russia is in in 2017. I think it also made me comfortable with being Tatar and calling myself Russian. The way we talk, the way we behave, the way we live -- it all have been affected by the Soviet era. Can't recommend this enough. Most human book I've ever read

  28. 5 out of 5

    Buddy Don

    This is the second of the three books of the entire work, this one covering the work camps, for the most part, though it also has a short section at the end evalutating the effects of the Gulag on the souls of prisoners, their keepers, and the society as a whole. It is not all negative by any means and is surprisingly uplifting reading, though it is also very gruesome. I am about to begin the third volume, after which I'll try to write a better review of the entire work. This is the second of the three books of the entire work, this one covering the work camps, for the most part, though it also has a short section at the end evalutating the effects of the Gulag on the souls of prisoners, their keepers, and the society as a whole. It is not all negative by any means and is surprisingly uplifting reading, though it is also very gruesome. I am about to begin the third volume, after which I'll try to write a better review of the entire work.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jon Beadle

    What an unbelievable feat that was accomplished with this volume. As of today I am 2/3rds finished with the epic that is the entire of this thick tome on the Gulag - as well as the effects of the Soviet system, legitimized by its Marxist dogma, and brought to its logical conclusion. This book has forever altered my view of progressive policy, and this second volume only bolstered those perspectives and polemical arguments.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    part 2 deals specifically with the forced labor camps themselves and virtually every walk of life that passes through there. a few passages from ivan denisovich are reprinted. not too much of this recounts solzhenitsyn's personal experiences in the gulag (presumably that will be in vol 3), but the picture he paints of those who weren't as fortunate to escape hard labor is incredibly bleak part 2 deals specifically with the forced labor camps themselves and virtually every walk of life that passes through there. a few passages from ivan denisovich are reprinted. not too much of this recounts solzhenitsyn's personal experiences in the gulag (presumably that will be in vol 3), but the picture he paints of those who weren't as fortunate to escape hard labor is incredibly bleak

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