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74 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes there's just not enough stars
This is unquestionably the best non fiction book I have ever read. It is at once profound, intelligent, affecting, exquisitely readable (excepting some of the more factual chapters, perhaps), terrifying, uplifting and occaionally - unexpectedly - very humourous. Solzhenitsyn manages to convey the details of the most outrageous atrocities without ever losing a sense of...
Published on 3 Oct. 2005

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars UNLIKE A BRITISH JAIL
I am still reading this 630 page book and ordered it after reading a shorter book entitled Gulag Boss which was rather biased towards the State.

The Gulag Archipelago is interesting in parts and a bit boring in others. Russia after the Revolution in 1917 became a difficult place to live if you had even the slightest doubts about how the country was being run...
Published on 3 April 2013 by J. W. PRESTON


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4.0 out of 5 stars Solzhenitsyn - Great Russian Hero, 4 Jan. 2012
By 
John Fitzpatrick (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I had always imagined Solzhenitsyn as some kind of fiery Biblical prophet, full of righteousness and rhetoric, hurling verbal thunderbolts at his enemies and damning them to eternity.

However, what surprised me most about this book was the low-key, almost conversational style* in which he addresses his reader - obviously directed at ordinary Russians who had lived through the terror - and draws him or her into the subject in a way that brings it closer.

Although this book ranges from 1918 to 1956, it is not a historical work as there was not enough reliable historical or statistical information available when Solzhenitsyn wrote it in the 1970s.

However, Solzhenitsyn hammers home the message that the terror began with the Revolution and Lenin himself and was not just a regrettable feature of Stalinism as the post-Stalinist "reformers" claimed during the brief thaw when his short novel "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" was published.

He rejects the post-Stalinists' demands that these events were aberrations and should not be examined too deeply.

He also has no sympathy for those who claim that many of the victims were themselves Communists who had fallen foul of the regime for some reason or other. Solzhenitsyn says that they amounted to only about 10% and, in any case, had helped create the system that ended up ensnaring them too.

It is not a personal account of his years in the Gulag although he writes about it in passing but about what happened to the millions of prisoners whose lives were ruined - and in many cases ended - by the Communist system.

He compares the incessant cruelty of the Communist regime with the milder form of Tsarist brutality. Russian soldiers captured by the Nazis were regarded as traitors and imprisoned and executed under Communism yet those captured during the Napoleonic Wars when serfdom existed were not.

He also writes scathingly about the security forces and interrogators who made a good living torturing their fellow citizens and felt no remorse. He is particularly angry at the soft treatment they were given compared with what happened in Germany after the war when thousands of Nazis were persecuted.

The style is low key, bitter, sarcastic and marked by the kind of black humor Russians and Eastern European revel. For example, there is a scene in which a district meeting of the Communist Party turns into a farce as a mention of Stalin leads to a standing ovation that threatened to go on forever as none of the Communists present was foolish enough to be the first to stop applauding.

Finally, one of the members of the platform sat down after 11 minutes of clapping and cheering and the meeting resumed. That night he was arrested and sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment with the advice: "Don't ever be the first to stop applauding!"

All this must sound like ancient history today and The Gulag Archipelago is not an easy read - this is an abridgement of the trilogy - but it is a work that shows how a writer with a bee in his bonnet has infinitely more power than an academic historian.

*I don't read Russian so cannot comment but I checked and found that this translation was authorized by Solzhenitsyn himself.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ethically, the greatest book written in the last century., 4 Feb. 2001
By A Customer
Of all the books written in the last century - this is the one to buy first.
All of its great themes, such as the deadening of common human decency by ideology; the follies of mass denial; the illusions of virtual equality and the primacy of spiritual values, are crucially relevant to our lives in the twentyfirst century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag Archipelago Vol 3, 3 May 2011
I would recommend anyone who has read the first two volumes to obtain and read the 3rd Volume.
After so much written in the first two volumes this work still adds insight and further appreciation for the reader.
The three volumes just make the canvass greater and the scale immense.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental Account of Institutionalised Inhumanity, 17 Jun. 2008
By 
One of the most monumental accounts of one of the cruellest ideologies of history,this book should be read by all
Layer by layer Solzhenitsyn exposes the hideous system of imprisonment ,death and torture that he refers to as the 'Gulag Archipelago'
He strips away that the misconception of the good Tsar Lenin betrayed by his evil heirs and exposes how it was Lenin and his henchmen who put into place the brutal totalitarianism , which would be inherited and continued by Stalin
In fact the only thing that Stalin really did differently was to introduce a more personalised ,Imperial style of rule but otherwise carried on the evil work of Lenin
It was Lenin who imprisoned the Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) , Mensheviks,Social Democrats,Social Revolutionaries Anarchists and independent intelligentsia and had many killed
In this way he completely destroyed all opposition to Bolshevik hegemony
Under Lenin the persecution started of anybody convicted of religious activity and the complete destruction of the church in Russia
And it was Lenin who began the genocide of whole ethnic groups that would later gain momentum under Stalin
Under the Communist system all that is spiritual or not purely material in nature is destroyed.And we discover what a horror Marx's idea of 'dialectic materialism ' really is
But I cannot describe the horrors which Solzhenitsyn outlines in this book :the hideous torutres,the slave markets selling of young women into sexual slavery
Solzhenitsyn describes how the prison system of the Tsarist system was compassionate by comparison but the mild abuses of Tsarist imprisonment where reacted to with a shrill outcry that never greeted the horrors of Bolshevism and Communism
As he says in his ever present biting sarcasm "Its just not fashionable,just not fashionable
And even today,even after the fall of Communism in Europe (though its iron grip remains strong in parts of Asia,Africa and in Cuba) its still not regarded as fashionable to highlight the horrors of Communism as it is to do so for other human rights abuses of this and other centuries
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the first glimpses into Stalin's nightmare universe., 1 April 2008
This circulated in samizdat form for a few years,until a reader,after being arrested with a copy,committed suicide.Solzhenitsyn then sent the manuscript to the West.In 1974,after it was published (I think in France),the Soviet goverment put him on a plane to Frankfurt and stripped Solzhenitsyn of his citizenship.He didn't return to his homeland till the 1990s.
After this was published in the West,nobody had any excuse to be blind to the crimes of Lenin and Stalin.It was the vogue amongst leftists to blame the monstrosities of the USSR's history exclusively on Stalin,but the Soviet system of state terror,concentration camps and mass murder began with Lenin,as this book makes extremely clear.
Solzhenitsyn explores the history of the camps,their monstrous conditions,the total disregard for the lives of the prisoners(the zeks)and pulls together a suprising amount of eyewitness testimonies from survivors-the suprise is that there were any.
There's even some humour,of the blackest sort.An example;
"What's your name?"
"Ivan Ivanovitch,comrade guard"
"How long is your sentance?"
"10 years"
"What did you get that for?"
"Nothing at all"
"You're lying.You get five years for nothing at all".
One of the most important books of the late 20th century.If you really want to appreciate the mass terror that dominated so much of the world in this time period,you really have to read this.If you can get hold of the three-volume version printed in the 1970s,you're extra lucky.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Meisterstuck, 21 Mar. 2015
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The book that is truly worth reading. It is a great testimony of times gone by and it should teach contemporary people to appreciate their freedom and what they have. Unlike many other historical books this one is very easy to read and even though it has about 600 pages does not seem so long. The delivery reasonably fast (within the estimation) and the general state of the book (as I bought used one) was meeting the description as well - good means good and not perfect. This book will be a part of my library among many other writings that hit me like a hammer and changed many things for me...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag Archipelago, 13 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Parts I-VII (Paperback)
I read this book some years ago and it had a profound effect on me - it's a very important work, everybody should read it. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago whilst watching a TV programme about Kolyma and the Road of Bones, and wanted to read it again. The only reasonably priced copy was available from a seller in the US. The book arrived promptly and, although used, was as described and in good shape.
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5.0 out of 5 stars deep pain of a proud people, 25 Sept. 2009
By 
J. Truesdale (N Ireland) - See all my reviews
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Compulsive reading. Jaw droppingly raw and at the same time tender as mankind is reduced by arbitrary morality. Both the abused and the abuser are victims of circumstances and depraved leadership.

I'm still trying to sort out the mixed emotions and thoughts that this reading brings to the surface.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly astonishing!, 13 Dec. 2001
By 
Terry Hopper (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
An absolutely stunning book! Right from the very first word it gets you by your emotions and crushes you. It's totally engrossing from start to finish. It's amazing what people will do to each other. This book was a real eye-opener for me in regards to life under Stalin.
We are so lucky with our lifestyles here in the west. How would we have survived the Gulag?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gulag, 13 Sept. 2013
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Perfect condition, interesting but difficult reading for me, shocking and I have to put it away some time.
I would recommend it of course
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Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Parts I-VII
Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956, Parts I-VII by Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn (Paperback - Jun. 1985)
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