Posted by on March 27, 2017

When the Stalin was taken out of Stalinism, the mold of the Soviet Union began to disintegrate.  This disintegration meant that many elements of the Union that Stalin put into place slowly began to dismantle upon his death.  In this moment of “destalinization,” such aspects to the Soviet Union, such as Gulags, began to restructure themselves as well.  Despite questionable reasoning, the restructuring of the Gulags allowed countless people to be freed from the persecution that it encompassed.  “Survivors had seen the worst that life could offer, instilling some with an unquenchable courage and need to speak forthrightly.”  One of those freed victims used his new found freedom to speak against the injustices that he had endured in Gulags hoping that spreading this information to the world would spark some recognition regarding what the Gulags were like for those that experienced them.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a soldier in World War II serving on behalf of the Soviet Union.  His writings, on the other-hand, alluded to the fact that he was dissatisfied with Stalin and Stalin’s efforts within the Soviet Union. Because of the discovered dissatisfaction, Solzhenitsyn  “spent eight years in prisons and labor camps and three years in exile.”

 

The memories that Solzhenitsyn forged in these prison and labor camps would fuel his writings in a manner that explained the evils of the Soviet Union and their actions within the Gulags.  His most notable work, The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956), is a prime example of the passion he felt in exposing day-to-day life in labor and prison camps.

 

 

The Gulag Archipelago

“Solzhenitsyn’s first purpose has been to document for the Soviet people, whose Government has acknowledged only part of the truth and almost none of the responsibility, the full dimensions of what happened. A survivor himself, Solzhenitsyn feels a messianic obligation to ‘all those tortured and murdered,’ but even more to living and future generations. He wants the whole truth of official criminality and civic acquiescence openly acknowledged and condemned so that the nation can achieve spiritual and political renewal through “‘the great Russian tradition of penitence.'”

 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s efforts, within The Gulag Archipelago, to expose the mistreatments that occurred in prison camps were published in 1973.  Unfortunately for Solzhenitsyn, 17 years after his release from exile was not enough time for the freedom of his opinions, regarding the misdoings of the Soviet Union, to be received well.  “Upon the publication of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was charged with treason and exiled from the Soviet Union.”

 

Solzhenitsyn’s Funeral

 

Although not received well by the Soviet Union, his Nobel Prize says differently.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970 for “the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature.”  Solzhenitsyn disregarded the condemnation he would feel and receive from his own country by speaking out, while simultaneously advocating for those that lost their lives in these prison and labor camps.  Solzhenitsyn was not hindered by his experiences, but rather let them fuel his passion.

 

“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”-The Gulag Archipelago (1918-1956).

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Comments

  1. Max Morrison
    March 27, 2017

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    Leah, I’ve really come to enjoy your posts every week! What I like most is that you seem to have picked a theme for your blog that is “the arts.” I found the quotes you picked to be riveting, and it is unfortunate but also a blessing that out of such horrible situations, such as the GULAG, we often receive priceless literature and insight that helps us to commemorate the occasion so that we hopefully never repeat it again.

  2. Parker Leep
    March 27, 2017

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    I’ve read Solzhenitsyn’s works before and the Gulag Archipelago really helps the reader understand how terrible and brutal the Gulag System was. Your post goes to show just how trivial and slight the offense had to be in order to be thrown into the Gulag, from which many didn’t survive. I think it’s interesting that the Gulag Archipelago is required reading in Russian school today and how quick the image of Solzhenitsyn changed following the collapse of the USSR. Wonderful post!

  3. A. Nelson
    March 27, 2017

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    The story of the Gulag Archipelago is so powerful and important. But for the Khrushchev period, Solzhenitsyn’s big hit was “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” which was published in a famous literary magazine (Novyi mir) in 1962. This short book is also about life in the prison camps and used to be required reading in US high schools! That photograph of Putin at Solzhenitsyn’s funeral is really powerful – kind of ironic even — where is it from? Sources for the other images?

  4. A. Nelson
    March 27, 2017

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    Also, that final quote is really profound. Thanks!

  5. Michael Anan
    March 28, 2017

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    Leah, I found your post to be excellent. I wasn’t aware Gulag Archipelago before, but it sounds interesting and I might have to check it out. It’s fascinating to note that terrible time periods often create the opportunity for the arts to flourish.

  6. Kevin Herrity
    March 28, 2017

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    As others have said, your posts are very enjoyable to read. Solzhenitsyn’s work in exposing the realities of the USSR and specifically the corruption associated with the Gulags and political repression are incredibly fascinating. His work, but also his personal experiences and interpretation of his time in the Gulag are an important piece of understanding the nature of the USSR. Great post.

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