The Gulag Archipelago
|Original title||Архипела́г ГУЛА́Г|
Geneviève Johannet, José Johannet, Nikita Struve (French)|
Thomas P. Whitney (English)
|Publisher||Éditions du Seuil|
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||HV9713 .S6413 1974|
The Gulag Archipelago (Russian: Архипела́г ГУЛА́Г, Arkhipelág GULÁG) is a three-volume text written between 1958 and 1968 by Russian writer and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It was first published in 1973, followed by an English translation the following year. It covers life in the gulag, the Soviet forced labour camp system, through a narrative constructed from various sources, including Solzhenitsyn's own experience as a gulag prisoner, reports, interviews, statements, diaries, and legal documents.
Following its publication, the book initially circulated in samizdat underground publication in the Soviet Union until its appearance in the literary journal Novy Mir in 1989, in which a third of the work was published in three issues. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, The Gulag Archipelago has been officially published, and since 2009, is mandatory reading as part of the Russian school curriculum. A fiftieth anniversary edition will be released in 2018.
Structure and factual basis
Structurally, the text comprises seven sections divided (in most printed editions) into three volumes: parts 1–2, parts 3–4, and parts 5–7. At one level, the Gulag Archipelago traces the history of the system of forced labor camps that existed in the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1956. Solzhenitsyn begins with V. I. Lenin's original decrees which were made shortly after the October Revolution; they established the legal and practical framework for a series of camps where political prisoners and ordinary criminals would be sentenced to forced labor.Note 1 The book then describes and discusses the waves of purges and the assembling of show trials in the context of the development of the greater Gulag system; Solzhenitsyn gives particular attention to its purposive legal and bureaucratic development.
The legal and historical narrative ends in 1956 at the time of Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech ("On the Personality Cult and its Consequences"). Khrushchev gave the speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, denouncing Stalin's personality cult, his autocratic power, and the surveillance that pervaded the Stalin era. Although Khrushchev's speech was not published in the USSR for a long time, it was a break with the most atrocious practices of the Gulag system.
Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront the legacy of the Gulag, the realities of the camps remained a taboo subject until the 1980s. Solzhenitsyn was also aware that although many practices had been stopped, the basic structure of the system had survived and it could be revived and expanded by future leaders. While Khrushchev, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union's supporters in the West viewed the Gulag as a deviation of Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and many among the opposition tended to view it as a systemic fault of Soviet political culture – an inevitable outcome of the Bolshevik political project.
Parallel to this historical and legal narrative, Solzhenitsyn follows the typical course of a zek (a slang term for an inmate), derived from the widely used abbreviation "z/k" for "zakliuchennyi" (prisoner) through the Gulag, starting with arrest, show trial, and initial internment; transport to the "archipelago"; the treatment of prisoners and their general living conditions; slave labor gangs and the technical prison camp system; camp rebellions and strikes (see Kengir uprising); the practice of internal exile following the completion of the original prison sentence; and the ultimate (but not guaranteed) release of the prisoner. Along the way, Solzhenitsyn's examination details the trivial and commonplace events of an average prisoner's life, as well as specific and noteworthy events during the history of the Gulag system, including revolts and uprisings.
Solzhenitsyn also waxes philosophical:
Macbeth's self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare's evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes.... That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations... Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.
Solzhenitsyn draws on his own and fellow prisoners' long experiences in the gulag as the basis for this non-fiction work. Solzhenitsyn spent time as an inmate at a sharashka or scientific prison, an experience that he also used as the basis of the 1968 novel The First Circle. However, the ultimate integrity and authority of The Gulag Archipelago is rooted in the first-hand testimony of 227 fellow prisoners. The sheer volume of firsthand testimony and primary documentation that Solzhenitsyn managed to assemble in this work made all subsequent Soviet and KGB attempts to discredit the work useless. Much of the impact of the treatise stems from the closely detailed stories of interrogation routines, prison indignities and (especially in section 3) camp massacres and inhuman practices. Solzhenitsyn also poetically re-introduces his character of Ivan Denisovich towards the conclusion of the book. When questioned by the book's author if he has faithfully recounted the story of the Gulag, Denisovich (now apparently freed from the camps) replies that "you [the author] have not even begun...".
One chapter of the third volume of the book was written by a prisoner named Georg Tenno, whose exploits so amazed Solzhenitsyn to the extent that he offered to name Tenno as co-author of the book; Tenno declined.
There had been works about the Soviet prison/camp system before, and its existence had been known to the Western public since the 1930s. However, never before had the general reading public been brought face to face with the horrors of the Gulag in this way. The controversy surrounding this text, in particular, was largely due to the way Solzhenitsyn definitively and painstakingly laid the theoretical, legal, and practical origins of the Gulag system at Lenin's feet, not Stalin's. According to Solzhenitsyn's testimony, Stalin merely amplified a concentration camp system that was already in place. This is significant, as many Western intellectuals viewed the Soviet concentration camp system as a "Stalinist aberration".
Historical impact of the text
Solzhenitsyn documented the Soviet government's reliance on the prison system for governance and labor, placing doubt on the entire moral standing of the Soviet system. The government could not govern without the threat of imprisonment. The Soviet economy depended on the productivity and output of the forced labor camps, especially insofar as the development and construction of public works and infrastructure were concerned.
In Western Europe, the book eventually contributed strongly to the need for a rethinking of the historical role of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, Lenin. With The Gulag Archipelago, Lenin's political and historical legacy became problematic, and those factions of Western communist parties who still based their economic and political ideology on Lenin were left with a heavy burden of proof against them. George F. Kennan, the influential U.S. diplomat, called The Gulag Archipelago "the most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be leveled in modern times". The book was published at a time when many communists in the West were already re-thinking their relationship towards the USSR, as many were deeply disappointed by the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In Germany, it sparked discussions not only about Leninism but also about how to deal with the memory of World War II.
In an interview with German weekly Die Zeit, British historian Orlando Figes asserted that many gulag inmates he interviewed for his research identified so strongly with the book's contents that they became unable to distinguish between their own experiences and what they read: "The Gulag Archipelago spoke for a whole nation and was the voice of all those who suffered".
After the KGB had confiscated Solzhenitsyn's materials in Moscow, during 1965–1967, the preparatory drafts of The Gulag Archipelago were turned into finished typescript, sometimes in hiding at his friends' homes in the Moscow region and elsewhere. While held at the KGB's Lubyanka Prison in 1945, Solzhenitsyn had befriended Arnold Susi, a lawyer and former Estonian Minister of Education, who had been taken captive after the Soviet Union occupied Estonia in 1940. Solzhenitsyn entrusted Susi with the original typed and proofread manuscript of the finished work, after copies had been made of it both on paper and on microfilm. Arnold Susi's daughter, Heli Susi, subsequently kept the "master copy" hidden from the KGB in Estonia until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In 1973 the KGB seized one of only three existing copies of the text still on Soviet soil. This was achieved after interrogating Elizaveta Voronyanskaya, one of Solzhenitsyn's trusted typists who knew where the typed copy was hidden; within days of her release by the KGB she hanged herself (3 August 1973). Although he had earlier wanted it published in Russia first, after Solzhenitsyn learned of her death, he decided the next month, September, to allow its publication in Paris.
The first edition of the work was published (in Russian) by the French publishing house Éditions du Seuil a few days after Christmas 1973; they had received a go-ahead from Solzhenitsyn but had decided to release the work about ten days earlier than he had expected. News of the nature of the work immediately caused a stir, and translations into many other languages followed within the next few months, sometimes produced in a race against time. American Thomas Whitney produced the English version; the English and French translations of Volume I appeared in the spring and summer of 1974.
Solzhenitsyn had wanted the manuscript to be published in Russia first, but knew this was impossible under conditions then extant. The work had a profound effect internationally. Not only did it provoke energetic debate in the West; a mere six weeks after the work had left Parisian presses Solzhenitsyn himself was forced into exile.
Because possession of the manuscript incurred the risk of a long prison sentence for "anti-Soviet activities", Solzhenitsyn never worked on the manuscript in complete form. Since he was under constant KGB surveillance, Solzhenitsyn worked on only parts of the manuscript at any one time, so as not to put the full book into jeopardy if he happened to be arrested. For this reason, he secreted the various parts of the work throughout Moscow and the surrounding suburbs, in the care of trusted friends. Sometimes when he was purportedly visiting them on social calls he actually worked on the manuscript in their homes. During much of this time, Solzhenitsyn lived at the dacha of the world-famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and due to the reputation and standing of the musician, despite the elevated scrutiny of the Soviet authorities, Solzhenitsyn was reasonably safe from KGB searches there.
Solzhenitsyn did not think this series would be his defining work, as he considered it journalism and history rather than high literature. However, with the possible exception of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, it is his best-known and most popular work, at least in the West.
Finished in 1968, The Gulag Archipelago was microfilmed and smuggled out to Solzhenitsyn's main legal representative, Dr Fritz Heeb of Zürich, to await publication (a later paper copy, also smuggled out, was signed by Heinrich Böll at the foot of each page to prove against possible accusations of a falsified work).
Solzhenitsyn was aware that there was a wealth of material and perspectives that deserved to be continued in the future[clarification needed], but he considered the book finished for his part. The royalties and sales income for the book were transferred to the Solzhenitsyn Aid Fund for aid to former camp prisoners, and this fund, which had to work in secret in its native country, managed to transfer substantial amounts of money to those ends in the 1970s and 1980s.
Natalya Reshetovskaya, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's first wife, wrote in her memoirs that The Gulag Archipelago was based on "campfire folklore" as opposed to objective facts. She wrote that she was "perplexed" that the Western media had accepted The Gulag Archipelago as "the solemn, ultimate truth", saying that its significance had been "overestimated and wrongly appraised". She said that her husband did not regard the work as "historical research, or scientific research", and added that The Gulag Archipelago was a collection of "camp folklore", containing "raw material" which her husband was planning to use in his future productions. However, it is likely that her memoirs were part of a KGB campaign, orchestrated by Yuri Andropov in 1974, to discredit Solzhenitsyn. Historian and archival researcher Stephen G. Wheatcroft asserts that it is essentially a "literary and political work", and "never claimed to place the camps in a historical or social-scientific quantitative perspective".
On 12 December 2009, the Russian channel Rossiya K showed the French television documentary L'Histoire Secrète de l'Archipel du Goulag made by Jean Crépu and Nicolas Miletitch and translated it into Russian under the title Taynaya Istoriya “Arkhipelaga GULAG” (Secret History: The Gulag Archipelago). The documentary covers events related to the writing and publication of The Gulag Archipelago.
- Art and culture in the Gulag labor camps
- Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code), the legal basis for imprisonment for "anti-Soviet activities"
- Black site
- Julius Margolin
- Seven-Eighths Rule, whereby persons were imprisoned for theft of communal property, including trivially small items
- Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century
- Kulak, peasants imprisoned as "class enemies" for possessing a little more than average
- The Black Book of Communism
- Tom Rob Smith's novels
- 1.^ A similar network of forced labour camps, known as katorga, existed in the Russian Empire since the early 18th century. It was abolished by the Russian Provisional Government in 1917.
- Joseph Pearce (2011). Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile. Ignatius Press. pp. 81–. ISBN 978-1-58617-496-5.
- "The Gulag Archipelago is included in the obligatory school program". Izvestia. September 2009. Retrieved June 2013. Check date values in:
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Chapter 4, p. 173
- Thomas, Donald Michael (1998). Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Century in his Life. London: Abacus. p. 439.
- "Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Speaking truth to power", The Economist, 7 August 2008
- Ulrich Rosenbaum: Ist der Wurm nun aus dem Apfel Gefallen?, "Vorwärts", 21 February 1974, p. 3.
- Elisa Kriza (2014). Alexander Solzhenitsyn: Cold War Icon, Gulag Author, Russian Nationalist? A Study of His Western Reception. Stuttgart: Ibidem, pp. 194–99.
- Held des Westens, Die Zeit, 7 August 2008
- Solzhenitsyn, The Oak and the Calf and Invisible Allies
- Rosenfeld, Alla; Norton T. Dodge (2001). Art of the Baltics: The Struggle for Freedom of Artistic Expression Under the Soviets, 1945–1991. Rutgers University Press. pp. 55, 134. ISBN 978-0-8135-3042-0.
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (1997). Invisible Allies. Basic Books. pp. 46–64 The Estonians. ISBN 978-1-887178-42-6.
- Solzhenitsyn, Literary Giant Who Defied Soviets Dies at 89
- Thomas, 1998, p. 398.
- Scammell, Solzhenitsyn, a Biography, 1985
- Lewis, Paul (2003-06-06). "Natalya Reshetovskaya, 84, Is Dead; Solzhenitsyn's Wife Questioned 'Gulag'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-01-26.
- Andrew, Christopher; Mitrokhin, Vasili (2000), The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, Gardners Books, pp. 416–19, ISBN 0-14-028487-7
- Wheatcroft, Stephen (1996). "The Scale and Nature of German and Soviet Repression and Mass Killings, 1930–45" (PDF). Europe-Asia Studies. 48 (8): 1330. doi:10.1080/09668139608412415. JSTOR 152781.
When Solzhenitsyn wrote and distributed his Gulag Archipelago it had enormous political significance and greatly increased popular understanding of part of the repression system. But this was a literary and political work; it never claimed to place the camps in a historical or social-scientific quantitative perspective, Solzhenitsyn cited a figure of 12–15 million in the camps. But this was a figure that he hurled at the authorities as a challenge for them to show that the scale of the camps was less than this.
- ""Тайная история "Архипелага ГУЛАГ"". Премьера фильма". The press service the channel Rossiya K. 12 December 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
- Marina, Nicolaev (10 October 2009). "Ultimul interviu Aleksandr Soljeniţîn: "L\'histoire secrète de L\'ARCHIPEL DU GULAG"". Poezie. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
- Secret History: The Gulag Archipelago (in Russian). Video.yandex.ru. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013.
- Michael Jakobson. Origins Of The Gulag: The Soviet Prison Camp System, 1917–1934. p. 16.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: The Gulag Archipelago|
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. The Gulag Archipelago (in Russian). All volumes for reading in browser, or plaintext: parts 1 and 2, parts 3 and 4, and parts 5, 6, and 7.
- Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. The Gulag Archipelago. Internet Archive (various formats). All Volumes
- Saving the Nation Is the Utmost Priority for the State at the Wayback Machine (archived 27 May 2006) Moscow News (2006-05-02)
- Cohen, Stephen F. (June 16, 1974). "Books: The Gulag Archipelago". The New York Times. Retrieved December 7, 2014.