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The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 I-II Hardcover – 1973

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Editorial Reviews

Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn emotional masterpiece about Russian's Gulag Archipelago became a major bestseller in the west in 1972, giving him worldwide fame. An excellent, moving read.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Harper and Row (1973)
  • ASIN: B000GR0EXA
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Harold Y. Grooms on April 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Gulag Archipelago is the award winning expose that shocked the world with its revelations about the true nature of life in the, "worker's paradise," a.k.a, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) The author, a once dedicated Communist himself, shows how millions of Soviet citizens were arrested, tortured into "confessing" various "crimes against the state" and imprisoned for long periods to satisfy Josef Stalin's paranoia concerning the threat posed by his "enemies" both real and imagined. His personal experience forms the basis for this saga, perhaps, the saddest of all time.

Solzhenitsyn takes the reader through the arrest and brutal interrogation process that broke the strongest of men. He then carries them with him in grossly overcrowded "Stolypin" prison rail cars and prison ships called "Black Maria's" into transit camps where prisoners were deprived of almost all the basic necessities of life. God help the attractive, female prisoner sentenced to ride in either!

At the transit camps prisoners are fed only "gruel" which often had to be eaten by hand as no eating utensils were provided. The strongest men ate well. The weak starved. A trip to the latrine was the highlight of ones day! Almost unbelievable is the fact, the worst was yet to come.

Life in the camps was unbearably hard. Prisoners performed back-breaking labor including digging canals and logging forests by hand in sub-zero temperatures wearing only summer weight clothing. Their "crimes:" One man got a tenner (i.e. a ten year prison sentence) for being the first to stop applauding after a Stalin speech. Others included being a Priest/Nun who refused to renounce his/her faith. A third was being female and telling a State Security Officer, "No!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Thomas C. Quinn on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read this book, both volumes and part of the third, years ago in the wake of this work becoming a political slogan and football bandied about so much during the Reagan years, as it turns out by people who obviously had not read it. While intially approaching that task with some skepticism, I quickly concluded that it was very well written and informed, being worth the time spent in reading it.

"Gulag" is an acronym in Russian for an agency that was known as the Central Administration of Corrective Labor Camps which the author, a former Red Army officer, entered in 1945 as a "zek" or prisoner. The book(s) is a very absorbing chronicle of the history of this system told through the personal stories of specific individuals that became known to the author. While Solshinitsyn is very explicit, obviously, in making his bitterly and well earned anti-communist outlook known, this work is not a hysterial rant or screed, but a serious memoir and work of historical literature, one that is neither boring nor tendentious. Moreover, while the author's affinity for Russia's Orthodox traditions shines through, a certain social-revolutionary sensiblity that has also been a hallmark of that culture during the last century and half of upheaval also emerges. As Herzen observed about Bakunin, who endured his own stuggles with Russian Tsarist tyranny in the previous century, it seems that the Gulag's author was not born under any ordinary star, but a comet.

The forced labor camp system set up by Stalin was designed to purge his political opponents, set up a system of cheap forced labor to subsize his economic development and industrialization programs and as a vehicle for the implementation of his own peculiar take on ostensible Marxist-Leninist social cleansing and transformation.
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Format: Hardcover
This monumental work and successive volumes (reviewed also by me), provide priceless information about the Gulags, arcane details about Russian history, insights into Soviet thinking and policies, etc. I can only touch on a few of these.

Anti-Christians never tire of bringing up the Spanish Inquisition. Yet this most severe of inquisitions paled in comparison not only with the killings under Communism, but even with just the deeds of the Cheka further limited to early post-Revolution times. "...in a period of sixteen months (June 1918 to October 1919) more than sixteen thousand persons were shot, which is to say MORE THAN ONE THOUSAND A MONTH...during the eighty years of the Inquisition's peak effort (1420 to 1498), in all of Spain ten thousand persons were condemned to be burned at the stake--in other words, about ten a month." (p. 435; emphasis his).

Some Communist apologists have claimed that Communism "went bad" only because of Stalin, and that, had Trotsky (Bronshtein) ruled instead, Communism would've been rosy. In actuality, Trotsky wasn't substantially different from Stalin. Solzhenitsyn quotes Trotsky as saying: "'Terror is a powerful means of policy and one would have to be a hypocrite not to understand this.'" (p. 300). Also: "The terror Trotsky inspired as Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council was something he acquired very cheaply, and does not at all demonstrate any true strength of character or courage." (p. 410).

The 1939 Soviet conquest of Poland's Kresy had been justified as a protection of the Byelorussians and Ukrainians (and, of course, liberation from those big, bad "Polish landlords"). Ironic to this, Solzhenitsyn condemns the imprisonment of successful members of those groups, and of Poles, which, he admits, led to Katyn. (p. 77).
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