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The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1: An Experiment in Literary Investigation

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"BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE 20TH CENTURY" --Time Volume 1 of the gripping epic masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn's chilling report of his arrest and interrogation, which exposed to the world the vast bureaucracy of secret police that haunted Soviet society. Features a new foreword by Anne Applebaum. "The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever level "BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE 20TH CENTURY" --Time Volume 1 of the gripping epic masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn's chilling report of his arrest and interrogation, which exposed to the world the vast bureaucracy of secret police that haunted Soviet society. Features a new foreword by Anne Applebaum. "The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever leveled in modern times." --George F. Kennan "It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century." --David Remnick, The New Yorker "Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece. ... The Gulag Archipelago helped create the world we live in today." --Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History, from the foreword


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"BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE 20TH CENTURY" --Time Volume 1 of the gripping epic masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn's chilling report of his arrest and interrogation, which exposed to the world the vast bureaucracy of secret police that haunted Soviet society. Features a new foreword by Anne Applebaum. "The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever level "BEST NONFICTION BOOK OF THE 20TH CENTURY" --Time Volume 1 of the gripping epic masterpiece, Solzhenitsyn's chilling report of his arrest and interrogation, which exposed to the world the vast bureaucracy of secret police that haunted Soviet society. Features a new foreword by Anne Applebaum. "The greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever leveled in modern times." --George F. Kennan "It is impossible to name a book that had a greater effect on the political and moral consciousness of the late twentieth century." --David Remnick, The New Yorker "Solzhenitsyn's masterpiece. ... The Gulag Archipelago helped create the world we live in today." --Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History, from the foreword

30 review for The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1: An Experiment in Literary Investigation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Justin Roland

    Absolutely terrifying was how Jordan Peterson put it. He also likened what transpired under Lenin and Stalin as the worst things to happen in the 20th century, and that is really saying something. Author Arthur Koestler called this time period a intellectual Holocaust. You might be tempted to think that word should not be used lightly. I assure you, it is justified. Volume 1 details the origin and the prison life of the gulags. The worst is yet to come. This author is long winded, and I often ha Absolutely terrifying was how Jordan Peterson put it. He also likened what transpired under Lenin and Stalin as the worst things to happen in the 20th century, and that is really saying something. Author Arthur Koestler called this time period a intellectual Holocaust. You might be tempted to think that word should not be used lightly. I assure you, it is justified. Volume 1 details the origin and the prison life of the gulags. The worst is yet to come. This author is long winded, and I often had to treat it as a school assignment, but this is history that we ought to know about.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Exhaustive. Maybe too much so... And this is only volume one. That being said, it is a topic that is largely ignored and should not be.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Peterson

    Wow. I've studied the Russian revolution on its own and also the holocaust, but you never really appreciate the torture and horror people went through in Russia. These poor people had no one to rescue them, and I imagine it must be hard to reflect over the past to try to make sense of how Russia joined the allies to defeat Germany when basically Russia was doing the same thing to their people (who were tortured years before and after the Holocaust in Germany). Was really hard to even read a lot Wow. I've studied the Russian revolution on its own and also the holocaust, but you never really appreciate the torture and horror people went through in Russia. These poor people had no one to rescue them, and I imagine it must be hard to reflect over the past to try to make sense of how Russia joined the allies to defeat Germany when basically Russia was doing the same thing to their people (who were tortured years before and after the Holocaust in Germany). Was really hard to even read a lot of this. But I think it is important to know how these people suffered. This inhumane treatment is still happening in many places in the world and those enduring persecution have no allied forces coming to rescue them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard Bracken

    A few years ago I went through a “minimalism” phase that still rears it’s head from time to time. I simply had more stuff than I knew what to do with and thought it was stressing me out. I don’t know where, Instagram maybe, but I came across the following quote and saved it as a self congratulatory affirmation: “Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag”. Little did I realize then, but the author of the quote was A A few years ago I went through a “minimalism” phase that still rears it’s head from time to time. I simply had more stuff than I knew what to do with and thought it was stressing me out. I don’t know where, Instagram maybe, but I came across the following quote and saved it as a self congratulatory affirmation: “Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag”. Little did I realize then, but the author of the quote was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from Gulag Archipelago. Moreover, the true context of the quote wasn’t an attempt to pander to an overindulged middle-aged guy enjoying boatloads of freedoms, who’s biggest problem seemed to be an overflowing garage, but advice developed from sheer horror and human tragedy. You see, the quote above was entirely cautionary. He was saying that a person should limit their possessions to only what they can carry, and what a mind can hold, because “good to evil is one quaver” for not only individuals, but governments. When that happens, those things are all you often have left. If “they give us a two-day supply of bread and sugar? In that case, eat it in one sitting. Then no one will steal it from you, and you won’t have to worry about it. And you’ll be free as a bird in heaven!” For the author, incarceration began in the midst of WWII after being pulled off the Soviet/German front where he had been serving as an artillery captain. Authorities had apparently discovered from his private correspondence that he had included some political commentary to a friend, now interpreted as subversive. After arrest, he was stripped, questioned, pressured to sign confessions, and imprisoned before being thrown into a “Stolypin” prisoner transport train bound for Siberian as an “article 58”, a political prisoner. He learned experientially that a person can manage it all much better when they’ve resigned themselves to the idea that they don’t own anything and will never return to the life they once knew. “From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you. At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: “My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die—now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.” It should be remembered that the soviets came to power by overthrowing the czar in 1917, with the Bolshevik revolution. It was as much an ideological overthrow as an actual one, and there were a LOT of people (including other brands of socialists) who weren’t exactly on board with the Bolshevik’s particular form of communism. The question became, what does a new paranoid political entity do in times of war or peace when trying to create a perfect society, and where everyone must think alike for the program to work? The Soviet solution was to sniff and separate out anyone who may be opposed to it from 1918 - 1956. “There is a very simple connection here. Once it was established that charges had to be brought at any cost and despite everything, threats, violence, tortures became inevitable. And the more fantastic the charges were, the more ferocious the interrogation had to be in order to force the required confession. Given the fact that the cases were always fabricated, violence and torture had to accompany them.” Once on a “list”, it was almost assured a person would be sent away for a minimum of ten years with any of the following designations. ASA—Anti-Soviet Agitation KRD—Counter-Revolutionary Activity KRTD—Counter-Revolutionary Trotskyite Activity PSh—Suspicion of Espionage (Espionage that went beyond the bounds of suspicion was handed over to a tribunal.) SVPSh—Contacts Leading to Suspicion of Espionage KRM—Counter-Revolutionary Thought VAS—Dissemination of Anti-Soviet Sentiments SOE—Socially Dangerous Element SVE—Socially Harmful Element PD—Criminal Activity ChS—Member of a Family (of a person convicted under one of the foregoing “letter” categories) Interrogation comparisons between soviet interrogators, those made by authorities under the czar, and even the German gestapo were interesting: “the comparison occurred even more naturally to those who had passed through the hands of both the Gestapo and the MGB (Soviet secret police). One of these was Yevgeny Ivanovich Divnich, an émigré and preacher of Orthodox Christianity. The Gestapo accused him of Communist activities among Russian workers in Germany, and the MGB charged him with having ties to the international bourgeoisie. Divnich’s verdict was unfavorable to the MGB. He was tortured by both, but the Gestapo was nonetheless trying to get at the truth, and when the accusation did not hold up, Divnich was released. The MGB wasn’t interested in the truth and had no intention of letting anyone out of its grip once he was arrested.” The book was extremely sobering, painting graphic pictures of how far human abuse and suffering can go in the quest of having everyone think alike. The author’s base assessment was that essentially his people “didn’t love freedom enough”. Throughout the book my mind frequently considered my own day and age where an offensive or improvident comment in a medium like Twitter can lead to a person being “cancelled”, as it’s sometimes referred. When it comes to my attention, where a person has made a really dumb remark and lost their job as a result, I sometimes wonder to myself, how will they sustain themselves now? What about any good they did? How long will the separation last? Who decides when they can come back? And if taken to an extreme, which may seem so unlikely to us presently, it seemed to me that this is essentially what the gulag system of Russia was meant to do all those years. To exact the maximum cancellation of people identified in its society as offensive or non-comformative. To physically and completely remove them from society and transport them to the literal ends of the earth. Sometimes there were those who wouldn’t capitulate or be manipulated. They didn’t care if it would lead to their deaths, which it often did. In one instance, there was held along with the author a man loyal to the Czarist and old ways for a time: “In the midst of all the chaotic concepts, the blurred and broken lines of vision, in most of our heads, he had, evidently, a clear and exact view of everything around him; as a result of this reasoned point of view on life, his body, too, exhibited a steady strength, resiliency, and activity. He was certainly not less than sixty. His head was totally bald, without a single hair. He had already survived his interrogation and was awaiting his sentence, like the rest of us. He could expect no help from anywhere, of course. But he kept his young, even rosy skin. Among all of us in the cell, he alone did exercises every morning and washed himself at the faucet. The rest of us were trying not to squander the calories in our prison ration. He put his time to use, and whenever an aisle opened up between the rows of board bunks, he paced those fifteen to twenty feet with a precise stride and a precise profile, crossing his arms over his chest and staring through the walls with clear young eyes. And the difference between us and him was that we were all astonished at what was happening to us, while nothing around him contradicted his expectations, and precisely for that reason he was absolutely alone in the cell. A year later, I was able to appraise his conduct in prison. Once again I was in the Butyrki, and in one of those seventy cells I met some young codefendants of Yasevich who had already been sentenced to ten and fifteen years. The sentences given everyone in their group were typed out on cigarette paper, and for some reason they had it in their possession. Yasevich was first on the list, and his sentence was: to be shot. So that was what he saw—what he foresaw—through the wall with his still-young eyes as he paced back and forth from the table to the door! But his unimpaired consciousness of the correctness of his path in life lent him extraordinary strength”. It’s all worth knowing and remembering. I walked away from Gulag Archipelago hoping the lives and deaths of those who suffered in the gulag system were not in vain. I hope their circumstances are never repeated.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ben Peyton

    I think you probably already know that this book is a brutal read without having to open it. From page one, it's a detailed and vivid account of the history of secret prisons in communist Russia. There is really way too much to take away from this book than can fit in a small review, but I think the main thing I will remember is just the absolute brutal randomness of so much of it all. The book covers the history of the prisons from basically the 1900's to 1950's and for the vast majority of tha I think you probably already know that this book is a brutal read without having to open it. From page one, it's a detailed and vivid account of the history of secret prisons in communist Russia. There is really way too much to take away from this book than can fit in a small review, but I think the main thing I will remember is just the absolute brutal randomness of so much of it all. The book covers the history of the prisons from basically the 1900's to 1950's and for the vast majority of that time period, the people who ended up in the prisons were just random people who were sent for whatever reason. Basically, because the system was designed to create human suffering so for the system to continue it required more and more people. Of course, there were actual criminals in the jails, but the book really focuses on the millions of political prisoners who were sent to the prisons and the system that sent them there. It's a tough read in parts for sure. I would also say that it's important to remember that these prions claimed the lives of millions and they were designed to do exactly that. The prisons were by-products of a political ideology and system put together by people. They weren't the result of some unforeseen circumstance or natural disaster. They were a political policy made by people in power and we should always remember that this can be repeated if we are not careful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kiel

    Just finished this first part of this unabridged three volume tome. Solzhenitsyn covers not only his arrest and imprisonment, but what each was like in general in the Soviet Union during the world wars and a bit after. I don’t know why I torture myself with these stories other than they happened so I want to know about them. The fruit of such reading labors is a deeper knowledge of the human soul, in hopes of deepening one’s own soul in a brace for earthly suffering and eternity after. I’ll take Just finished this first part of this unabridged three volume tome. Solzhenitsyn covers not only his arrest and imprisonment, but what each was like in general in the Soviet Union during the world wars and a bit after. I don’t know why I torture myself with these stories other than they happened so I want to know about them. The fruit of such reading labors is a deeper knowledge of the human soul, in hopes of deepening one’s own soul in a brace for earthly suffering and eternity after. I’ll take a break before the next volume, but I look forward to digesting the full tale. 26 hours or 704 pages of Soviet life, death, and survival.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Peacock

    This was a painful book to get through, but a very eye-opening look at the state of the Soviet Union in the early to mid-20th century. This should be read alongside Nazi Germany books to gain a more complete understanding of all who died during this horrific time period.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Glen Martin

    A fantastic book that delineates the experiences of the people in the Gulag prison system of Soviet Union. This book in particular is a good introduction to who got thrown in the Gulags and the laws that got them there. A must read for anyone interested in the consequences of communism and totalitarianism.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Thomas St Thomas

    What can I say? Any human that wants to understand where humanity can go under the wrong conditions needs to read this. It’s scary to hear the same language used today by so many unwitting people.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darth Readius

    The most important book a person could read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Very insane.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Blake Donley

    Staggering. Chilling. Astounding.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Stefan Eagon

    Obviously a very important book. Looking forward to eventually reading the next two volumes.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donald Roy

  15. 4 out of 5

    George Mathews

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yuri Scaramussa

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beryl

  18. 4 out of 5

    Neil

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Bronstein

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Crowe

  21. 4 out of 5

    Landon

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Gibson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hamur

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ed Hartman

  25. 5 out of 5

    Khalid Alhreish

  26. 4 out of 5

    James Hendrickson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Greg Mueller

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Bybee

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kent Woods

  30. 4 out of 5

    James Hall

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