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The Gulag Archipelago

The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (New York: Harper Row 1973-1974)

This book is a masterpiece, but like many (most? all?) masterpieces it is a bit of a slog, nearly two thousand pages as published by Harper Row in the 1970s. So I have linked instead to the abridged edition, a mere 528 pages. Besides, the originals are mostly out of print; look for them at your nearest research library.

Volume One, Books I-II

The Gulag was the creation "not by one scoundrel alone in one secret place only, but by tens of thousands of specially trained human beasts standing over millions of defenseless victims." p.94

"In his instructions on the use of Red Terror, the Chekist M. I. Latsis wrote: 'In the interrogation do not seek evidence and proof that the person accused acted in word or deed against Soviet power. The first question should be: What is his class, what is his origin, what is his education and upbringing? These are the questions which must determine the fate of the accused.'" pp.96-97

"The overcrowding of the cells ... assumed the character of a first-class torture in itself ... one that was particularly useful because it continued for whole days and weeks--with no effort on the part of the interrogators. The prisoners tortured the prisoners!" p.145 "Their naked bodies were pressed against one another, and they got eczema from one another's sweat. They sat like that for weeks at a time, and were given neither fresh air nor water--except for guel and tea in the morning." p.146

"Maybe there are and were bluecaps [NKVD personnel] who never stole anything or appropriated anything for themselves--but I find it impossible to imagine one. I simply do not understand: given the bluecaps' philosophy of life, what was there to restrain them if they liked some particular thing?" p.154

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them." p.168

"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good, or else that it's a well-considered act in conformity with natural law." p.173

Tsarist secret police: Okhrana. p.195

"the tiny Estonian anvil had, from way, way back, been caught between two hammers, the Teutons and the Slavs. Blows showered on it from East and West in turn; there was no end to it, and there still isn't." p.213

"Several hundred thousand Koreans were exiled to Kazakhstan, all ... accused of spying." p.247

"Both of us were weak, dried out: our skin was grayish-yellow on our bones." p.268

The criminal category of ChS: the NKVD abbreviation for Member of a Family, i.e. the family of anyone convicted of a crime. p.284

"Thus many were shot--thousands at first, then hundreds of thousands. We divide, we multiply, we sigh, we curse. But still and all, these are just numbers. They overwhelm the mind and then are easily forgotten." p.442

"Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. Use your memory! Use your memory! It is those bitter seeds alone which might sprout and grow someday." p.516

The cattle cars were called "red cows." p.565 Prison cars must go to a designated stop. "But the red trains can go into emptiness: and whereever one does go, there immediately rises right next to it, out of the sea of the steppe or the sea of the taiga, a new island of the Archipelago." p.566

"The prisoners considered April and September the best months for transports." p.574

"We can assume that at any one time that there were not more than twelve million in the camps." Though others argue for fifteen to twenty million. Of these, roughly half were politicals. p.595

Ivan Serov p.632

Zek: slang for zaklyuchenny, prisoner. p.641

continued in part 2

Look for the abridged one-volume edition at Amazon.com.

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford