61 pages 2 hours read

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1973

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Part 3, Chapters 15-22Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 3, Chapter 15 Summary: “Punishments”

Penalty cells functioned as punishment for every sort of infraction in the Gulag. These punishment cells—known as ShIZO—were cold, damp, dark, and designed to starve inmates. Some were made from logs, others had no roof, while some were just “a plain hole in the ground” (259). The punishment cells’ prisoners were mostly religious people, stubborn inmates, and thieves. Additionally, these cells were punishment for anyone who refused to inform on their fellow inmates.

Part 3, Chapter 16 Summary: “The Socially Friendly”

Solzhenitsyn discusses the thieves, the criminals who were hailed as “noble brigands” (261) in Russian literature. After the Russian Revolution, society’s thieves and criminals were culturally re-appraised. The professional criminals and thieves—also known as the urki—flourished under Stalin, in Solzhenitsyn’s opinion, as the authorities spent so much time focusing on political offenses that they did not care about burglaries or similar crimes. Likewise, newspapers did not report on criminal trials or crimes, to give the impression that crime was not a problem in the Soviet Union. Gulag staff tried to teach the urki about political theory, but these efforts largely failed. Instead, the urki became powerful figures in the camps.