Friday book # 33: Gulag Archipelago

I once attended a talk by the great Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but it was over 30 years ago and I can’t remember anything about it. Several years later, I got around to reading The Gulag Archipelago in this abridged (463 page-long) version, which is this week’s Friday book.

Gulag

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10 thoughts on “Friday book # 33: Gulag Archipelago”

  1. “I got around to reading The Gulag Archipelago in this abridged (463 page-long) version”

    Tsk. Probably only the first volume. Professor, did your abriged version have chapters on the great Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn becoming a snitch for the camp administration, and reporting on his fellow prisioners in exchange for priviledges?

    Also – have you read anything else by the great Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn? Like “Как нам обустроить Россию” or “200 years together”?

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    1. The introduction implies that there are sections from all three volumes, though it doesn’t specify. I have also read Ivan Denisovich, Cancer Ward, and August 1914, plus his famous Harvard speech, and have some dim memory of having read Lenin in Zurich, though I’m not sure about that. ‘Rebuilding Russia’ and ‘Letter to the Soviet Leaders’ are on my reading list for the book I am writing on Russian conservatism. I hope to get to them soon.

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      1. I found a copy of Lenin in Zurich elsewhere on my shelves, so I must have read it at some point. But it obviously didn’t create much of an impression.

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  2. Lyttenburgh, two things: 1) Those who (like me) didn’t live through the Gulag should be a little shy about condemning those who did, snitches or not. (I don’t know whether he was or not.) 2) Your remarks are an ad hominem against Solzhenitsyn, not a refutation of his writing.

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    1. “1) Those who (like me) didn’t live through the Gulag should be a little shy about condemning those who did, snitches or not. “

      Those who (like me) didn’t live through prison (due to the fact that I’m not a criminal) should not be shy about condemning those who did – i.e. condemned criminals. “Gulag” is not the term for a prison. GULag is Glavnoye Upravleniye LAGerey, organized penal system that even “civilized countries” have.

      “I don’t know whether he was or not.”

      He was. Says so himself.

      ” Your remarks are an ad hominem against Solzhenitsyn, not a refutation of his writing.”

      There are already lots of works, archival data and other material that paints SoLZHEnitin as a fantasy-writer and a fraud, and not as “conscience of the nation”. Combat eunuchs are more realistic than the a torrent of lies that he pours on his easily impressed readers from the get go.

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      1. Do I have this right, you are presenting the Gulags as a penal system comparable to others of “civilized countries”? And you are suggesting that all of those who found themselves there deserved to be there, being criminals?

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      2. “Do I have this right, you are presenting the Gulags as a penal system comparable to others of “civilized countries”? “

        No. I’m saying that the system of GULag was the penal system of the USSR. The sad fact that use the name for entire system to refer to various prison and labour camps, as well as to separate prison and labour-corrective institutions as “gulags” shows how ignorant you are to the Soviet history.

        As for “comparable to other civilized countries” – are you claiming that the USSR was not a civilized country? Every country with an established institution of the state (i.e. – every country in world) has police force which enforces the law of the country and a penal system for those, who breaks the law. USSR had both.

        “And you are suggesting that all of those who found themselves there deserved to be there, being criminals?”

        Most of them- yes. The fact that someone got into the Soviet prison, and not, say, French one is not an automatic qualifier that said person is 100% “innocent victim of the bloody regime”. Statistical data shows us that the overwhelming majority of the people entrusted into not so tender (and rightly so) graces of the GULag were common criminals, and that both “political” and ordinary criminals got there because they deserved it.

        Were there people who got into jail and received unjust sentences? Yes, there were – and it’d been admitted by the USSR authorities themselves – first rehabilitations started in 1938-39 when “bloody ghoul Beria” took up the reins of the NKVD. Some of those acquitted by his amnesty, btw, proved to be not so innocent after all – about which I mention in the comment section in Poul’s previous blogpost. But if the judicial mistake and bias are all you need to dismiss and condemn an entire judicial system, while crying for annihilation of a state which allows such injustices to perpetuate – start with the “civilized countries”.

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      3. Wow. My first comment on this site – two questions for clarification of your thoughts – and while you do clarify your thoughts (thanks for that) you weave in a series of assumptions about who I am, what I know, and what I believe, ending with : “But if the judicial mistake and bias are all you need to dismiss and condemn an entire judicial system, while crying for annihilation of a state which allows such injustices to perpetuate – start with the “civilized countries”.

        Where Oh Where did I cry for annihilation of a state? I take it you answered my questions to continue an argument with someone else? Or is this your general approach?

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      4. “Where Oh Where did I cry for annihilation of a state? I take it you answered my questions to continue an argument with someone else? Or is this your general approach?”

        Experience shows me that its primarily Russophobes (and anti-Sovietists are just a sub-set of Russophobes) who use “gulag(s)” to refer to various Russian/Soviet penal institutions. I already know what to expect from them – there are quite a few of them here, expressing their StronK Opinion from time to time. So, when I say “you” I’m refering to the “you, Russophobes, who can’t learn the definition of the word GULag even in this day and age of digitalized information”.

        So, yeah – that’s my general approach. I’m a basterd – ask anyone here 😉

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  3. i wonder, when you would reach his justification of war rapes – would you still think him a great writer ?

    great journalist perhaps, but writer?

    When in school i read this, despite all the infinite glorification of him in Russian MSM of the time i could not help my doubt and a shade of disgust. Back then i was ashamed that i could be so bad towards Solzhenitsyn…

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