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on 23 March 2013
Harrowing, but one of those stories that I just had to read, to hear first hand what really went on.
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on 3 April 2013
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 and you certainly had to keep your thoughts to yourself. Informers were everywhere and it was very easy to earn yourself a 10 rouble note or more (their term for 10 years in the Gulag and probably another 5 years living outside the Gulag before you were allowed home).

I am half way through the book and Sozhenitsyn is still in the Lubyanka being interrogated but not yet tortured (if he was). The Gulag and subsequent release is yet to come. His crime, by the way, was to comment on aspects of how the army was performing towards the end of the second world war whilst a captain in the army at the front.
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on 21 March 2015
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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on 12 July 2015
Just another despicable history kept behind the evil veil of deception around us.
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on 1 August 2015
Thank you! Excellent, prompt service, the book is in top condition! All the best in future!
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on 13 January 2017
tough reed
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This book was published at a point of crisis in Solzhenitsyn's life. He completed the manuscript in 1968 and succeeded in getting it typed, copied and hidden in several different places. In 1973, on being tortured, his typist revealed to the KGB where one of the copies was hidden. Such was her remorse that shortly after her release she hanged herself. Solzhenitsyn's response to the knowledge that the authorities had obtained a copy of the work was to authorise its immediate publication in the West. Until that time he had intended to withhold the work until it could be published in the Soviet Union. First publication was achieved in Paris in early 1974. Six weeks later, Solzhenitsyn was deported from the Soviet Union to begin a 20 year exile in Western Europe and America.

This was not, of course, the first crisis, or series of crises, in Solzhenitsyn's life. Neither was it the most threatening to his continued existence, alarming as the situation seemed between his arrest and totally unexpected arrival in Frankfurt. The Gulag Archipelago describes many of the yet more shattering crises imposed on him by the Soviet state between his admission to the Gulag prison system in 1945 and eventual release (initially to internal exile) in 1953.

Not that the book is primarily autobiographical. Solzhenitsyn's aspiration was to provide a comprehensive account of the entire Gulag system - his metaphor of an archipelago of small islands, distributed throughout the Soviet Union, is very apt. He begins with his own arrest for criticising Stalin in a private letter. This whilst he was serving in East Prussia as an officer in the Red Army. From there he takes us to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, through the process of interrogation, transit prisons, prison transport and ultimate deposit at a labour camp. And there volume 1 ends. After almost 230,000 words, we have still to learn anything substantial about the camps themselves. That is for Volumes 2 and 3 of this literally monumental work.

Besides Solzhenitsyn's own experience, the book is crammed with stories and details of places and events gleaned from other prisoners he encountered. He also researched - it seems exhaustively - such printed sources as were available during the decade when he was writing (1958-68), and recalls reading reports of Show Trials in the Soviet press when he was as young as nine years old. There is a whole chapter on The Bluecaps (officers of the Soviet secret police); another on the various forms of prisoner transport - by road, rail, river, sea and on foot; aspects that in a less ambitious work might be briefly described in passing. And long paragraphs of reflection on matters such as the motivation for the various players to behave as they did - how, for instance, the interrogators reconciled their knowledge that virtually all arrested and brought before them on political charges were totally innocent with working diligently to obtain signed confessions.

The Gulag is closely associated with Stalin. It reached its peak during his time and was quickly run down following his death. However, Solzhenitsyn is at pains to demonstrate not only that the camps, prisons, torture and shootings began under the active direction of Lenin, but that such a system is an inevitable adjunct of a soviet political structure. He readily concedes that many of the prisons used after 1917 were built under the Tsars, also that in Tsarist times exile to Siberia was a common punishment, but in light of the post-revolutionary experience Solzhenitsyn thinks the numbers punished very restrained, sentences lenient, and the conditions of prison and exile almost laughably humane.

This book played an important part in informing Western readers of the cruelties of the Soviet Union, and the book and its author became propaganda weapons in the Cold War, albeit that Solzhenitsyn himself had, at best, mixed feelings about that. On publication, the first volume was a best seller. Nowadays, the work is less than essential, and for the general reader Solzhenitsyn's fiction is likely to be more immediately rewarding. However, those who wish to be fully informed about the Gulag, about Solzhenitsyn and his writing, and/or the Cold War as it developed in the 1970's, should definitely take it up.
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on 31 March 2015
I sometimes hear people describe this kind of literature as depressing. I understand why they say this but at the same time I think that the perspective we gain through reading it is invaluable and education of this nature is really necessary in order to forge a realistic impression of the world we live in, or in other words, to gain some insight as to what has gone before and therefore had an influence on the way that world is formed. Some people find this genre genuinely difficult to consume and we are all free to choose what we read, unlike the poor prisoners who are the subjects of this work. One thing to be gained from reading this is that you become aware of how fortunate we are to live in a relatively free society. Something which occupies my mind is how the populations of all the territories of the former USSR will have inherited a deep psychological and/or subconscious trauma as a result of the `terror` diffused from above.
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on 25 February 2015
Cheap price but condition wasn't as good as described.......
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2011
Fascinating, often harrowing account made up of the author's direct experience along with stories and rumours he picked up as he was processed through the Soviet punishment machine.
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