THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO: AN ANALYSIS
Recently, I have taken an interest in Eastern European and Russian literature. During my youth, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were sometimes discussed in the academic world (Usually in a comical tone spoken by sophisticated “cultural enthusiasts” that mocked the encyclopedic length of their most famous novels). But the only interest I ever had during my youth was a fear of having to absorb them. Discovering Soviet films over the last decade was an eye opening but satisfying experience. Watching a film style that is completely unique and original relating to a specific region of the world was fascinating and got me interested in Russian culture and history. This lit that fire of curiosity in my soul that got me pursuing Russian novels. A few months ago, I started my first, the historical novel THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. For a good majority of my life, I was told that this novel would help me understand what the Soviet Union was. After reading this 616-page classic of literature, I have to admit that my understanding was severely lacking. But it also had an influence on my thought process that was unexpected.
Solzhenitsyn weaves the dark reality of living in the Soviet Union during this time with his own experience of surviving the Gulag for over a decade. The book is broken down into three main parts: An opening section that explains the history of the Communist uprising from the author’s perspective, the chaos of rule under Lenin, and the creation of the prison industry including the Soviet bluecaps who ran them. The second part is an attempt to explain ever-changing Soviet law and the dozens of non-defined reasons that led to the imprisonment, torture, and death of millions of citizens. Finally, the last part is an analysis of the constant movement and synchronicity that this expanded prison system eventually had on the Soviet landscape. The book has moments of pure hilarity especially when Solzhenitsyn explains the history of Communism and his memories of the people who ran this “sewage disposal system.” But he also dives into philosophical thinking often with religious overtones when it comes time for the reader to understand his mindset during this evil time. The second chapter, THE SEWAGE DISPOSAL SYSTEM is truly heartbreaking. As the Communists became more authoritarian and started cracking down on the people of Russia, he comes to the realization that a lack of understanding about how evil human beings can become and the systems of oppression that they create could have been stopped with acts of resistance.
“How we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?...Or what about the Black Maria sitting out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur — what if it had been driven off or its tires spiked. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!”
He also describes the lack of understanding about the miserable circumstances that were about to engulf the Russian people,
“We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.”
While contemplating why some of his Russian brethren could torture, and in the worst cases, murder their fellow countrymen, he contemplates the idea of good versus evil,
“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. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
As I thought when reading this quote, the world would be a lot easier to enjoy if every villain was as easy to recognize as they are in Hollywood movies or the novel THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But in our own reality, the world is much more complicated than that. In Communist Russia, the legal rules were this, “If the state accuses you of a crime, then you are a criminal.” Nowhere was a jury of your peers or an appearance in front of a non-partisan judge ever possible. The administrative state already had determined your punishment even before the trial had begun. Many were sentenced to death. Then, a general amnesty was given before death sentences became part of the Gulag again. Jail terms were often handed out indiscriminately. Two people who got charged with the same crime would get different sentences, one for only five years, the other twenty-five. Political prisoners would often get ten to fifteen and treated better than the common criminal. Even then, they often faced execution at a higher rate. The” educated” would get the worst treatment of all. Engineers, professors, authors, electricians, and civil servants would often be blamed and imprisoned for the mistakes or impossible production expectations of the government. When questioning the government on meeting quotas, this would automatically lead to a long prison sentence. Because as the Communists leaders always believed about themselves, they were never wrong. You are just a spoiled bourgeois traitor. When reading about the horror of the Gulag which was enforced on anywhere between ten to twenty million Soviet citizens (According to various opinions) and led to millions of unnecessary deaths and the starvation of millions more, there is only one thought that comes to mind. How could the people of the Soviet Union allow this to happen? These two quotes put this whole historical experience into perspective. It is the inherent flaws which every human being carries with them.
“It was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … a small corner of evil.”
And about the purpose of religion,
“Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
The impact this book had on me was unexpected. As an individual who is quickly approaching the half century mark on this planet, a clear understanding of our present-day circumstances overwhelmed me. Over the past two years, and nine months of my life, authoritarianism has made its way into my own life in ways that were unforeseen just a short time ago. Every single thing that has been enforced on us by the government, our jobs, or the medical pharmaceutical industry can be explained by Solzhenitsyn’s past experiences. But here is the real kicker of my analysis. I no longer consider the politicians that govern in California or in DC as anything other than a threat to my way of life. These people are criminals, vandals, and arsonists. As the FTX scandal clearly showed, we have reached the point in our empire where the elitists and wealthy loot the country before its collapse. It is bi-partisan and if the American people don’t wake up soon and fight back, our wealth will be gone, and we will be living under an authoritarian surveillance state. Politicians throughout history have always been out-of-touch with the people. This was also the case in the Soviet Union as Solzhenitsyn explains,
“The old proverb does not lie: Look for the brave in prison (Lock downed in their homes), and the stupid among the political leaders!”
Not to mention, the most dangerous men/women on this planet are the true believers. The people that are doing this for the good of humanity (Bill Gates, Dr. Anthony Fauci). Why was Adolf Hitler more dangerous than Benito Mussolini? Because Hitler truly believed in his vision of fascism while Mussolini only did it to accumulate power. There is a significant difference between these type of people.
“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. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
When an alternative viewpoint became the popular narrative, our leaders would not accept it. The default option was to censor any information that they personally did not support. This basic lack of human intelligence when it comes to actual tolerance and accepting differing viewpoints is the norm for most politicians. This is why governments are the worst tools of oppression in the world.
“It’s a universal law– intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
The mainstream narratives involving every aspect of the pandemic (COVID-19, biolabs, masking, hospitalization, deaths, and vaccines) were all lies masquerading as political opinions in a propagandistic push for more control over our lives. Unlike Russia though, U.S. citizens have defeated this power grab by our politicians and governmental agencies for the time being. There is a quote from THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO that explains why,
“You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”
Thank God we have so many Americans with integrity. Even though the lies have been exposed and a sense of “freedom” has returned for now, the damage that our politicians, corporate leaders, and the globalists have done to this country maybe irreparable. Who knows if they are going to make another attempt at enforcing the technocratic state they crave? And if this is the case, what are we going to do about it? Well, the best way to win is through two effective means. First, ignore the government and the media. Live your life the way you want. Do not let fear or intimidation take away from the beauty of this world. Enjoy the short amount of time that you have. If a law seems ridiculous, ignore it especially if it leads to no consequences. Second, accounting for his long prison term, the beauty of life can always be found in little things. Solzhenitsyn found plenty of it in his locked cage,
“The rule of your life is this: Do not rejoice when you have found, do not weep when you have lost.”
Gain different perspectives and wisdom and travel as much as possible,
“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”
Rulers and prison wardens believe they can control it all. But this is in contradiction to human nature. Anyone with nothing to lose can regain their freedom no matter the circumstances,
“You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power—he’s free again.”
Learn to appreciate everything and everyone in your present-day life who have personal importance to you. Don’t let the need to accumulate goods ruin your happiness.
“Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart -and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know. It may be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted on their memory.”
And finally, some great philosophical advice,
“Live with a steady superiority over life -don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn for happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.”
As you can probably surmise, I recommend this book to everyone. It should be required reading in colleges across the country (It currently is in Russia). To compare this to a film, THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO is THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION of prison novels. Read about the stupidity and pure evil of Lenin and Stalin and the crimes they committed against their populations and see how it compares to many of our present-day problems. Appreciate the fact that as a free citizen (For now), you did not have to suffer the horrors that were inflicted on so many undeserved people in a time not too far removed from our present. Personally, reading about terrifying incidents throughout history has always given me positive vibes. Not because I am a sick masochist. Because it makes me appreciate everything I have and everyone who loves me. There is nothing better that that.
1/2/2023 06:28:21 am
Well written and enjoyable
1/2/2023 07:39:39 am
I am speechless, well done, thoughtful and true...you raise many questions that we need to answer. Wow!
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