61 pages 2 hours read

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

The Gulag Archipelago

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1973

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Part 5, Chapters 1-6

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 5, Chapter 1 Summary: “The Doomed”

The Gulag’s labor camps were essentially “murder camps” (331) which simply prolonged an inmate’s execution and extract valuable labor from the condemned. The inmates who are worked to death are starved, beaten, and mistreated beyond even what was inflicted on normal inmates. Solzhenitsyn acknowledges that some of his compatriots blame these inmates for bringing about their own fate. Solzhenitsyn defends the inmates, such as the women who were imprisoned for having sex with German soldiers, as being products of the society which now condemns them. He points to World War II as an example of “the most righteous war in our history” (335) which nevertheless ended with tens of thousands of Russians accused of treason and sent to the camps. Solzhenitsyn then criticizes the apologists for the Soviet Union, who he believes blame Stalin for all the Gulag’s problems. He notes the irony that, during World War II, many former inmates were asked to fight for the same state which had imprisoned them, even while Nazis uncovered mass graves in former Soviet territories. People in communities affected by these atrocities might, understandably not wish to fight for the Soviet Union, and Solzhenitsyn is shocked neither that people would resent Stalin’s Soviet Union nor that, as a result, the Nazis could quickly invade so much of Russia with so little resistance.