Talk:The Gulag Archipelago

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Why is its Nobel Prize credentials not listed in the article?

Because it wasn't yet published or even known when Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Prize in 1970. The Academy had no idea of the existence of the book, nor had any of his Western publishers. The credentials do stress, however, S' sense of moral and human mission in his writing ("the ethical force with which he has rekindled the priceless heritage of Russian literature")Strausszek August 24, 2006 13:50 (CET)

According to Solzhenitsyn's memoirs (The Oak and the Calf), the international publicity garnered by his winning of the Nobel Prize (and the further stir caused by his insistence that it be presented to him in Moscow) enabled him to speak out more boldly than ever during that period, and was a large part of why he was not simply executed. He held that if Gulag had been discovered by the Organs a few years sooner he would not have survived to see it published. Michael Isaiah Schmidt (talk) 04:59, 24 March 2012 (UTC)


"Gulag" is the Russian word for prison, and an archipelago is, of course, a chain of islands. The idea behind this is that the Soviet concentration camp system under Lenin and Stalin were like an island of prisons spread all over the Soviet Union. the acronym is derived from


as if the point was REFORM WORK

Bertrand Russell[edit]

Would anyone be opposed to a mention of two comments that Solzhenitsyn made to Bertrand Russell within this book somewhere in this article? We're looking for a place to put a snippet of important content that got placed into another article that may or may not belong there. Thanks. KC9CQJ 06:05, 8 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Solzh made four comments in total, two to Bertrand Russell, two to Russell Tribunal.--nobs
If I am following this correctly, I assume you refer to comments made to the spirit of Russell? He had already passed away before those comments were written, and long before they were published. Important content is always welcome, of course, and needs no permission prior to insertion -- providing it is appropriate to the article. 02:48, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)
That would be correct, following your associated comments at Russell Tribunal. We're trying to figure out where the Solzhenitsyn material should go, whether it should be mentioned at Russell Tribunal, within Bertrand Russell, or within Gulag Archipelago. My comment above was intended to provoke thought and encourage comment. I'd like to see these quotes go somewhere relevant, wherever that may be. KC9CQJ 10:18, 16 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Russell Tribunal[edit]

The Gulag Archipelago contains two reference spoken dirently to the Russell War Crimes Tribunal. They belong on the Russell Tribunal page. Any assisitance readers of this page can give on the Russell Talk page will would be appreciated.

Directly to the Tribunal? The Tribunal had long been disbanded before these comments were published; the Tribunal never saw them. Your statement that these footnotes from The Gulag Archipelago belong on the Russell Tribunal page is incorrect. They add nothing of value to that article. Perhaps you can use them here, in The Gulag Archipelago article, to illustrate Solzhenitsyn's frustration at the lack of similar Tribunals examining the crimes of the Soviet Gulag system. -Rob 16:48, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Like Bertrand Russell in 1950, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was recognized Nobel Laureate in Literature for 1974 after the The Gulag Archipelago had been published in the West. The following two passages were written contemporaneously to the Russell tribunal proceedings.

English translation (by Harry Willetts, Harper & Row 1976):

"Say there, Bertrand Russell's War Crimes Tribunal! Why don’t you use this bit of material? Or doesn’t it suit you?" Vol. I, Part I, chap. 2, p. 537.

"Attention, Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, with your War Crimes Tribunal! Attention, philosophers, here's material for you! Why not hold a session? They can't hear me...." Vol. III, Part V, chap. 12, p. 328. Russian text:

"Эй, "Трибунал Военных Преступлений" Бертрана Рассела! Что же вы, что ж вы материальчик не берете?! Аль вам не подходит?". "Эй, "Трибунал Военных Преступлений" Бертрана Рассела и Жана Поля Сартра! Эй, философы! Матерьял-то какой! Отчего не заседаете? Не слышат..." nobs

I would STRONGLY advise any 'concerned' users that nobs is referring to above hold their comments until the Russell Tribunal discussion page is cleaned up and an appropriate Request for comment on the article is issued. Please see User_talk:Kc9cqj/Russell Tribunal for further details. KC9CQJ 05:36, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)

NPOV issue[edit]

"Tenno declined, and probably for the better. It is Solzhenitsyn's tightly focused, highly emotional prose, which moves this book from point to point smoothly and unifies the work as a whole. The impact of the book is not in any way diminished by translation, a testament to its writer's literary skills."

This seems to be straying from 'pedia style to book review style, advocating the book directly. Is there any documentary support for the statement that the translation doesn't diminish the impact? Who, exactly, thinks that it's better that Tenno declined? -- Vonfraginoff 06:51, 7 December 2005 (UTC)

I agree wholeheartedly, this needs an NPOV tag. The tone of this article is completely ga-ga for the book.

Dawson 06:37, 20 December 2006 (UTC)

"Slave Labor Economy"[edit]

It says early on that Lenin paved the way for a 'slave labor economy'. This is totally untrue (if you've ever read Lenin). Theory expressed in writings is one thing, the reality another. I doubt if Stalin's writings openly promote slavery.--Constanz - Talk 14:21, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

"One third of the population of Leningrad was sent to Gulag"[edit]

The sentence removed until sources presented.--Nixer 06:28, 16 August 2006 (UTC)

Volume I, Page 58 of The Gulag Archipelago reads:
"It is also believed that one quarter of Leningrad was purged--cleaned out--in 1934-1935. Let this estimate be disproved by those who have the exact statistics and are willing to publish them."
No statistics are likely to be found. There is talk above regarding the 1937 census. This situation does not necessarily preclude the inclusion of this information - so long as it is mentioned as a belief from the book, not a statistic - in the article. As of this time there is no mention of Leningrad anywhere in the article, but plenty on the talk page.
The unfortunate truth is that unverifiable claims are a huge part of the "Structure and factual basis" of this work, which makes things tricky. Michael Isaiah Schmidt (talk) 04:47, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

"Not finished"?[edit]

The article claims that the Archipelago was still a work-in-progress when published. I don't think this is true, the book was finished in 1968 - it ends with two brief postscripts dated 1967 and 1968, and after that Solzhenitsyn seems to have regarded it as definitely finished. He had made an effort in 1966-67 to get it finished and also to establish a clear and coherently edited structure and text (not easy when you're writing a book in utter secrecy and can't keep a full script at your house). This finishing-off let him turn to other projects, notably the novel cycle The Red Wheel. He had microfilms of the script smuggled out to his legal representative/agent Dr Heeb in Switzerland, and finally it was published in the West in December, 1973, which in turn triggered Sasha's arrest and banishment.

I've read the work in full and a number of others of S's works, and I think one can also see there are traces of different layers of the working process in it; for example the final chapter of Part 1, Tiurzak, about state prisons, as opposed to camps, seems to have been finished relatively early. Strausszek August 22, 2006 13:25 (CET)

As most people here on the talk page (or who have read the entry closely) seem to be aware, this is not the most brilliant article of Wikipedia. I added some needed corrections and modified the view that this would be the first or only work up to 1974 that exposed the Soviet camp system - there had been many books before, and it's not true at all that most writers in the West saw the purges and the camps as just a Stalin aberration until Sasha came along - though this is a popular idea.

Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) makes about the same claims on Soviet totalitarianism as the latter part of the current article, and Koestler probably comes close too. Of course the view that Solzhenitsyn "proves indisputably" that the GULag system was rooted in the policies and free decisions of Lenin is a POV (I modified that into writing he "sets out to prove" this, still leaves the POV argument clear -edit August 27) but as it is, the viewpoints and perspectives stand inside the article and illuminate the different sides of the work. Strausszek August 23, 2006 21:30 (CET)

Revision of latter part[edit]

I've just revised mainly the latter part, about the influence and, in particular, the circumstances in which the Archipelago was published (new section). There's been a lot of unreliable or fake detail hanging around since this spring, some of it had been cleared out already, like the insane claim that the city censuses of Leningrad in the 1930s became top secret documents because half the population had dropped out (sent to Gulag or killed) by 1939, but the bits about the structure and publication of the book had a lot to do. Sources are Solzhenitsyn's own autobiography and writings by some people who helped him by bringing manuscripts out etc. i've tried reasonably to avoid POVs here. Strausszek August 27, 2006 19:02 (CET)

Actually, Melanie Ilic of the University of Gloucestershire, in her article "The Great Terror: Leningrad--A Quantitative Analysis," published in Europe-Asia Studies (Vol. 52, No. 8 (Dec., 2000), pp. 1515-1534) discusses the drop-off of the Leningrad population by about a third. In that same article, in passim, she confirms the suppression of the 1937 Leningrad census, ref'd above. The suppression of the '37 census is common knowledge in Soviet studies, and amply documented.--TallulahBelle 01:55, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Book Length[edit]

The article claims the book is around 1800 pages long, but editions on amazon are rarly above around 600. Am I to believe these are only sections of the complete work, or there is no complete published edition? Robinoke 15:07, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

1800 pages is just about correct. The English paperback editions are split as follows:

  • Vol. I sections 1-2
  • Vol. II sections 3-4
  • Vol. III sections 5-7

Each of these around 600 pages. Probably the same with hardcover, since paperbacks most often are reprints of a hardcover edition and have the same paging and typeface. I read the work in the Swedish translation, an excellent one. Strausszek September 2, 2006 22:50 (CET)

Ah, that explains it. Thanks! Robinoke 12:25, 6 September 2006 (UTC)


Obviously repression, including political imprisonments, continued up to — and after — 1991. However, the Gulag system was disbanded between 1954-1960. Subsequent imprisonments were not under the auspices of GULAG and did not use the same methods. Also, statements of the form, "it is interesting to note that..." are rarely if ever appropriate, since they involve subjective judgments without attributing the opinion. <eleland/talkedits> 05:23, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

I've removed the relevant phrasing. <eleland/talkedits> 02:35, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

dates please[edit]

Please add dates to "The book was published" and "The KGB seized". —Preceding unsigned comment added by Leafgreen (talkcontribs) 01:45, 4 August 2008 (UTC)

the book was published in 1974 not 1973! -- (talk) 17:30, 4 February 2010 (UTC)
The Russian-language original (of Vol.1 anyway) appeared on 28 December 1973. Translations into dozens of languages followed during the first six months of 1974. (talk) 08:50, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Cross in the sand[edit]

This year, Sen. John McCain has repeatedly used the story of his prison guard drawing a cross in the sand, very similar to a passage in this book. Questions have arisen as to whether 1) Solzhenitsyn used McCain's story in the book or 2) whether McCain stole the story from the book or 3) if this was a common occurrence in prisons. I know this is a topical issue, and the state of the original research may be lacking, but I think it is relevant and worth describing. Has anyone seen research on this that they can link to? Bagsc —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:33, 19 August 2008 (UTC)

-- It might be worth first checking if the story actually appears in the TGA at all and provide a reference: I don't recall it from my one-time skim of the book, and most of the blog furore seems to be Chinese Whispers of other blogs (imagine that!). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:08, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

GULag or Gulag?[edit]

The two terms are both used in this article, and this should be cleaned up. I think that "gulag" (no caps) is better; it's certainly more commonly used, and it's as used by Solzhenitsyn in the book. QMarion II (talk) 19:18, 12 July 2010 (UTC)

In the edition I have, 1974 American English, the word 'Gulag' seems to only appear with the first letter capitalized. Specifically in the Preface (Page x) where it appears italicized for dramatic effect, and on Page 133 where it is used twice in parlance, capitalized. I can find other instances if necessary, but it seems the word should be capitalized throughout. It should also be noted that Gulag appears that way in its own article. As far as the acronym 'GULag' is concerned, it stands to reason that this should be used solely when referring to the actual institution. Michael Isaiah Schmidt (talk) 03:42, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

Language in infobox[edit]

The language in the infobox is given as "French, originally Russian". Why not simply "Russian"? The text of the article says that it was originally published in Russian (in France), as well as being written in Russian. - Robina Fox (talk) 18:08, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

No reason has been given, so I'll change it. Robina Fox (talk) 13:40, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

Adding some terms to See Also[edit]

I added "Article 58", "Kulak" and "Seven-Eighths Rule" (Law of Spikelets) to the See Also section. While Solzhenitsyn does adequately explain all these concepts in the text, the terms are used so often throughout the text that a reader who misses the initial explanation may benefit from the information in those articles. The author also seems to presuppose some knowledge of Russian history, which is understandable as he was writing for a Russian audience, but most English speakers know little of Soviet history and personalities.

While, of course, a reader could simply look up the articles, it might be convenient to have the links here, as these were among the main sources of inmates in the Gulag (besides those who had committed non-political crimes). The book uniformly refers to the Seven-Eighths Rule/Law, not the "Law of Spikelets" as it is referred to in Wikipedia. Roches (talk) 23:57, 19 December 2016 (UTC)

Natalya Reshetovskaya's criticism of "The Gulag Archipelago" was Soviet propaganda?[edit]

Up until recently, this article (as well as Gulag) contained a claim that Natalya Reshetovskaya's criticism of The Gulag Archipelago was fabricated Soviet propaganda, but this has been removed by Special:Contributions/ The description of the edits is "Removed content that wasn't in the source cited", and "There's no such claim in the Mitrokhin Archive", but this is not the case. "The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West" does contain this claim, so I do not believe that the reason for these removals is justified. Omcnoe (talk) 06:50, 23 August 2017 (UTC)

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waxes philosophically? Really?[edit]

This article contains, for the last five years the claim that Solzhenitsyn "waxes philosophically".

Now, my understanding is that this expression has a definitive and negative connotation of idle and vain chatter. Is that intended here, and if so, should it be? Wefa (talk) 22:57, 27 May 2018 (UTC)

Nobody had addressed this, and I agree it was a poor choice of words. Corrected. CordialGreenery (talk) 20:07, 10 January 2019 (UTC)

About the English translation desaster, see author's text Between Two Millstones[edit]

According to part 2 of his memoirs, Between Two Millstones, the microfilm of Gulag Archipelago was smuggled to the west by Olga Carlisle, who had promised Solzhenitzyn to get the work translated into English (she had previously obtained an English translation of The First Circle, which was hopelessly spoiled by amateurish editing. Between 1968 and 1973 Carlisle had not obtained an English translation, there existed only a first draft by Whitney. So Solzhenitzyn and his friends had to microfilm the manuscript again and get it smuggled to the west, because Carlisle would not deliver her copy but insisted of having world rights on the book. First foreign translations appeared in French, German and Swedish.Hpesch (talk) 19:38, 11 February 2019 (UTC)

Historian, Historians?[edit]

The accuracy of the book has been questioned by historians Is this appropriate to include in the opening paragraph , considering it's the opinion of one historian? --Mikeroetto (talk) 00:50, 12 March 2019 (UTC)