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The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One) Paperback – January 30, 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

About the Author

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born into a family of Cossack intellectuals in Kislovodsk, Russia, in 1918. He fought for the Soviet Union in World War II, achieving the rank of captain of artillery. In 1945 he was arrested for writing a letter in which he criticized Joseph Stalin and spent eight years in prisons and labor camps. In 1956 he was allowed to settle in Ryazan, in central Russia, where he became a mathematics teacher and began to write. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970. Following the publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, he was exiled in 1974. His Soviet citizenship was restored in 1990 and he returned to Russia in 1994, where he now lives.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Vol. 1 edition (January 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813332893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813332895
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Krupin on June 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
The point can't be made forcefully enough: this book is *not* a novel! It is not even literature, in any meaningful sense. It is a 2,000 page indictment for crimes against humanity. Chief among the accused is of course Stalin who, if justice exists, is currently serving 60 million consecutive life sentences in Hell. But as Solzhenitsyn abundantly documents, the Gulag death-camps were part of Lenin's vision from the very beginning. (In January 1918, he stated his ambition of "purging the land of all kinds of harmful insects", in which group he included "workers malingering at their work".) But it is not only the architects of Bolshevism who stand accused. It is also all the collaborators with oppression, from the camp guards who summarily executed prisoners too exhausted to stand to the people who informed on their neighbors. Complicit even are the passive victims of the Terror who, as Solzhenitsyn says, "didn't love freedom enough" to fight for it from the beginning.
Needless to say, "The Gulag Archipelago" is not beach reading. (Although Solzhenitsyn's searingly sarcastic style makes it anything but a dry collection of facts.) The evil that it obsessively documents is so dark that even reading about it is often difficult to bear. But anyone with pretentions of understanding the world we live in needs to go through it from first page to last.
But if you aren't willing to make the effort, here's the lesson boiled down for you: Totalitarianism doesn't begin with a Stalin or a Hitler. It begins with *you*, on the day that you let a government become more powerful than the people it governs. Remember that or someday it might not be the Russians or the Jews or the Serbs that the men with guns come for. It just might be you...
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Format: Paperback
This is probably as significant a book as has been published in the 20th century. Not because it changed the course of history or influenced a huge number of people. It did neither of these things. The history it deals with was already long passed and its size and severity kept it from being read by a mass audience. Still, it is significant because it tells a story that otherwise could not have been told. The full extent of what happened during the half century of Soviet rule to millions of Soviet citizens is the focus of this book and Solzhenitsyn's narrative, often numbing in the regularity of repeated cycles of arrests, 'trials', and imprisonment, seems to be his effort at repaying those who perished - at insuring that they are remembered and that those who subjected them to lives of torture are remembered for what they did.
Solzhenitsyn is a true hero of the 20th century. A military officer of the Soviet Union during WWII, he was imprisoned for writing a letter that included a joke about Stalin. During his time in prison he met numerous others who had been in different camps - different places and different types - and started piecing together in his mind the full scale of the vast Gulag enterprise which eventually consumed more of his contrymen than the total count of those of all countries who died in WWII. That the size and scope of this mass internment was kept virtually a secret to most of the world (and to most Russians)for so long is only part of the horror to which Solzhenitzyn is responding.
From his first book, A Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovitch, a small volumn about a single day in the life of a typical Gulag prisoner - smuggled out of Russia and published in the West - he has devoted his life to various tellings of his country's recent history.
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Format: Paperback
This book is not a novel. It is an unusually constructed history in three volumes, written by a word-class writer. It is a heavy read. In this volume, Solzhenitsyn describes arrests, interrogations, tortures, trials, prisons, and methods of transporatation from the prisons to the labour camps. He gives a brief history of the genesis of Gulag, its principles and its expansion, in the chapter "A Brief History of Our Sewage Disposal System." Solzhenitysn marshalls an impressive range of facts and first hand anecdotes in addition to his own experiences, usually relating them in a straightforward manner, sometimes with bitter, vicious sarcasm, sometimes with passionate anger. The book is an astounding achievement, especially when one considers that he wrote it in sections, hiding each as it was completed; he was never able to refer back to what he had previously written, yet I noticed no repetitions. The book is an astounding achievement, immensely powerful, but very depressing, sometimes heart-breaking. Nonetheless, anyone who wishes to be well-informed in general, or about history in particular, must read it.
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Format: Paperback
It is a rare occurrence in the history of the human race when a truly great man rises up from the masses and passes on to the rest of us an eternal truth or knowledge that will serve as a testament against the forces of evil. Alexander Solzhenitsyn must certainly rank as one of these great men. All people who live in freedom should speak his name with reverence, and all should read the unabridged edition of "The Gulag Archipelago," the author's indictment against the most evil creation mankind ever fashioned: Marxist-Leninist Communism.

Like other great men, Solzhenitsyn's early life gave little indication of the monumental importance he would one day achieve. But one day, while serving as an officer in the Soviet army during WWII, something happened to our author that happened to so many others under the Soviet regime: Solzhenitsyn was arrested for insubordination, sentenced to eight years, and thrown into the gaping maw of the Gulag prison system. Unfortunately for the memory of the "Great Father" (read Joey Stalin), this obscure army officer lived to tell the tale of all he saw and heard during his imprisonment. The result is the voluminous three volume series presented here in translation. "The Gulag Archipelago" serves as both an indictment of the evil Soviet regime and as a memorial for the untold millions who died in the camps.

The overarching theme of this book is the process, from start to finish, of internment in the Gulag system. Starting with the dreaded "knock in the middle of the night," the author traces the nightmare of incarceration through the interrogation, the sentencing, the transportation to the prison camps, the grinding work conditions of the camps, and the eventual release into eternal exile or tentative freedom.
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