61 pages 2 hours read

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1973

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Important Quotes

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“The victims, in cooperation with the Security men, have conducted themselves in the noblest conceivable manner, so as to spare the living from witnessing the death of the condemned.”

(Part 1, Chapter 1, Page 7)

All the people in the Soviet society were aware that the arrests took place, but great care was given to ensure that they did not see the actual arrests. As such, the public could continue to ignore the horrors of the Gulag system. Given the fatality in the Gulag, an arrest was tantamount to a potential death penalty. The Soviet citizens chose the comfortable, false reality rather than confront suffering and corruption. The security forces enabled this behavior, maintaining society’s elaborate but comforting pretense.

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“Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.”

(Part 1, Chapter 3, Page 64)

Surviving the prisons and the Gulag camps may seem impossible, but Solzhenitsyn provides insight into how people came to terms with the reality of their punishment. Only the people who completely abandoned hope could survive, as there is no longer anything that the prison guards staff could take from them. This is a comment on the nature of the Gulag system, which was so inhumane and punishing that it demanded the eradication of any optimism as a prerequisite for survival.

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“That victory was not for us. And that spring was not for us either.”

(Part 1, Chapter 5, Page 95)

The Gulag’s prisoners were so cut-off from the rest of society that even a monumental moment like victory in World War II did not mean anything to them.