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on 20 March 2015
5 stars
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on 25 June 2015
Was looking for this for ages
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on 22 November 2009
I had this recommended by someone who lived under communist rule. Before I read this book, I had only a general inclination what went on in Stalinist USSR. This book brings to life the many atrocities committed under that regime.

The abridgement is a bit disjointed in places, but I imagine it makes it much more readable than the original three volume work.

A well written and important piece of literature.
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on 4 January 2017
Changed my understanding of what has happened to our world. Solzhenitsyn truly triumphed against all lies and against all odds. Very unlikely, IMHO, to have achieved this without his Christian faith. No wonder he is so disliked by leftists and modernists. Surely one of the most important books of the 20th century. A literary panacea against tyrannies and the globalists. Ought to be compulsory reading for British schoolchildren aged 15 to 16.
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on 15 January 2013
I bought this book as a present for someone dear who enjoys this kind of reading.

I was happy to find the book at a reasonable price.
However, having read the complete and original book (n Russian) I was a little disappointed with the fact that the offer was only for an Abridged version of the novel.

Nevertheless I am happy to recommend amazon to friends and family in the future.
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on 21 October 2016
All revolutions start with a beautiful idea; without it, they would not have wide enough popular support and any hope of winning. The Gulag of Archipelago clearly shows that the nice idea of communist society can (or must?) lead to a very dark place indeed. You might have had a bad experience with the communist tyranny in a country other than the Soviet Union; read this book (the abridged version is enough) and see that it could have been much worse. If you always lived in freedom, after reading this book you'll probably take the following dicta more seriously than before: • Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive … • All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. • Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
If you don't know what beautiful promise energised the masses to lend their support to future tyrants, here is the short version of it (Solzhenitsyn won't tell you): End to exploitation, immediately – from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, eventually.
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on 31 July 2017
Incredible. A masterpiece of history. If you love history, and want to know the truth, and know what really happened under the communist tyranny then get this book. Very well written. Fascinating stories that describe the terrible suffering of millions of people - suffering and misery that many people would prefer to hide from you. You need this book.
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on 29 September 2009
This is a Monumental work by a Monumental Writer. With a Surgeons meticulousness of dissection, Solzhenitsyn lays bare the entire anatomy of the Oppressive apparatus, laying bare the workings at an Ideological, state and individual level. He uses hundreds of examples of individuals and groups of individuals experiences of the Soviet oppressive 'Organs' to create a vast network of suffering interlinked by time, place and person.
It is an unrelenting and heavy read. It demands by the nature of its grave subject deliberation and slow digestion.
The Soviet process of arrest, interrogation charge and sentencing are each painstakingly laid out. The Politicohistorical background of the (in)justice system is similarly dissected apart with reference to historical events.
It is dry writing, blisteringly sarcastic with an understanding sympathy for the forces of oppression that is unrelentingly ironic.
It is an extraordinary piece of work, immense in scope, rich in ironic understatement that can leave the reader exhausted. Stunningly detailed, and essential reading for any serious student of the Soviet era.
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on 30 May 2010
While Solzhenitsyn has been heavily criticised in recent decades, for a number of sound reasons, The Gulag Archipelago is a classic in a Russian tradition, known for it's maintainence of a moral perspective and sense of humour in it's description of the Soviet Gulag prison camp system. At the same time, it's systematic approach to it's subject makes it valuable as a reference source for researchers of Soviet/Russian history.
The Gulag Archipelago consists of seven parts. Volume 1 contains part I, The Prison Industry, which covers the development of the Soviet legal and criminal justice system, or system of social and political repression if you prefer, and part II, Perpetual Motion, which deals with the means by which prisoners were transported from place to place, often under horrific conditions. Consistently readable, the book transcends it's subject matter. Comparisons could be made with House of Dolls or My Happy Days in Hell by Gyorgy Faludy.

Volume 2 of The Gulag Archipelago contains part III, The Destructive Labor Camps, and part IV, The Soul and Barbed Wire, which explores the effect of the camp system on Russian values and morality, at both the individual and social levels.
In addition to describing conditions inside the camps, Solzhenitsyn puts the system of prison camps in a social context, relating how, for example, the system of "tukhta"- the fiddling of work and production norms- spread from the camps through the rest of the Soviet economy. Also interesting are his descriptions of how individual camp chiefs, given virtually unlimited power and autonomy within their camps, became wealthy by exploiting the labour of the prisoners in their charge, sometimes even ordering them to steal materials and equipment from nearby industrial concerns for use in their own camp workshops. In this there is a clear similarity to the Nazi concentration camp system. This is a book which contains many useful pointers to the state of Russia today, and which deserves it's reputation as a classic of Russian literature.

Volume 3 begins with part V, Katorga, in which Solzhenitsyn describes the special camps that were set up for political prisoners (or Katorzhane) from the Second World War onwards, drawing extensively on his own experience as a prisoner in the Ekibastuz camp during the early 1950s. He describes the resistance of the political prisoners to the camp authorities, which began with the murdering of informers and escalated into open rebellions, such as that in the Kengir camp in 1954, which lasted 40 days and ended when troops with T34 tanks overran the camp compound, killing 700 prisoners in the process. After the deaths of Stalin and Beria, most of the Special camps were dismantled and political and religious prisoners either released or dispersed to small sub-camps located within the Corrective Labour Camps, as described by Irina Ratushinskaya in her well known book Grey is the Colour of Hope.
In part VI, Exile, Solzhenitsyn describes the mass deportation of peasants during the 1920s and 1930s, using examples such as the Vasyugan tragedy (in 1930, 10,000 peasant families were taken to an area near the Vasyugan river in northern Russia, and left there in winter without any tools or food; they all died) to illustrate the genocidal nature of this policy. He goes on to describe the deportations of the Chechens, Ingush, Tatars and other nationalities before discussing his own experience of trying to find work as a teacher following his release after eight years in prisons and Special Camps.
The final part VII, Stalin Is No More, discusses in further detail the changes to Soviet law and the prison camp system that occurred after Stalin's death. In general, he dismisses these as window dressing, citing as an example the publication in a Soviet legal journal of a detailed account of the trial of a group of Estonian war criminals, describing the questioning of witnesses, the cross-examination of defendants, and the passing of death sentences, which appeared in print some two weeks before the events took place as descibed (the trial had been postponed, but no-one had thought to inform the journal. The journalist who wrote the article got a year's forced labour for bringing Soviet journalism into disrepute.) Solzhenitsyn also gives a detailed account of the 1962 Novocherkassk massacre and it's causes, citing figures of 70 people killed outright by gunfire and hundreds wounded and subsequently "disappeared" after they were taken in buses to military hospitals by the army. These figures are significantly higher than those given in the Russian government's official version of events, suggesting that the systematic falsification of history is still taking place in Russia today, much as it did in the Soviet period.
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on 28 October 2009
I can't really do this book justice, I'd love to spend hours pouring over it, but I think I'd be serving myself more than Alexander's. So I'll approach this brief review from my key motivator for picking up the book, morbid fasination, and explain how it gave we so much more.

The observant probably noticed I refered to the author by first name, this isn't casual but instead meant as the highest show of respect. Quite ignorantly I hadn't really appreciated that a foreign author would have so much to offer, that he could speak to me so directly. I'd expected a flat tome sprinkled with the odd insight to life at that time in Russia. Instead I found a friend who spoke to me with passion and humor in an unguarded manor, about the attrocious treatment he and others recieved from paranoid communism and the evil of justified cruelty. The fact that this outstanding work was produced after experiences that would leave the typical anglo-american as a psychological wreck is awe inspiring.

This book will teach you how to torture a stranger (in great detail, or, a working knowledge!) even someone from your life, it will show you how to improve methods by highlighting the benefits of bouncing ideas off your colleagues. You will learn how a man can commit such acts, how he can justify himself and sleep with a mind as clear as someone who's spent their work day planting flowers. You will learn that politics and ideology mean very little. Your holding an apple from the tree of truth, and with another bite, Alexander has provided the tools to realise and question yourself. I too could suffer his fate, but also, I too could be mobalized as a blue cap.

If you read with an open mind and a strong stomach, this book has so much to offer, many times you'll share a laugh with tears in your eyes. This should be expected reading for all citizens and especially our military services.

Of course fewer people will read this review, as it comes under 'hard-cover', both this work and you deserve it to be a hard-back version.
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