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Monday, May 20, 1996

Gulag Archipelago

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1956)

Part I The Prison Industry

Chapter 4. The Bluecaps

{v.i, p. 145} But it is impossible to picture any of our interrogators, right up to Abakumov {Minister of State Security, executed in December 1954} and Beria, wanting to slip into a prisoner's skin even for one hour, or feeling compelled to sit and meditate in solitary confinement.

Their branch of service does not require them to be educated people of broad culture and broad views—and they are not. Their branch of service does not require them to think logically—and it they do not. Their branch of service requires only that they carry out orders exactly and be impervious of sufferring—and that is what they do and what they are. We who passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of that legion, which is stripped bare of universal human ideals.

Although others might not be aware of it, it was clear to the interrogators at least that the cases were fabricated. Except at staff conferences, they could not seriously say to one another or to themselves that they were exposing criminals. Nonetheless they kept right on producing depositions page after page to make sure that we rotted. So the essence of it all turns out to be the credo of the blatnye—the under world of Russian thieves: "You today; me tomorrow."

They understood that the cases were fabricated, yet they kept on working year after year. How could they? Either they forced themselves not to think (and this in itself means the ruin of a human being), and simply accepted that this was the way it had to be and that the person who gave them their orders was always right...

But didn't the Nazis, too, it comes to mind, argue that same way?1

1 There is no sidestepping this comparison: both the years and the methods coincide too closely. And the comparison occurred even more naturally to those who had passed through the hands of both the Gestapo and the MGB {predecessor of KGB}. One of these was Yevgeny Ivanovich Divnich, an émigré and preacher of Orthodox Christianity. The Gestapo accused him of Communist activities among Russian workers in Germany, and the MGB charged him with having ties to the international bourgeoisie. Divnich's verdict was unfavorable to the MGB. He was tortured by both, but the Gestapo was nonetheless trying to get at the truth, and when the accusation did not hold up, Divnich was released. The MGB wasn't interested in the truth and had no intention of letting anyone out of its grip once he was arrested.

{p. 146} Or else it was a matter of the Progressive Doctrine, the granite ideology...

Chapter 6. That Spring

{v.i, p. 252} 8 As far as one can establish at this date, Andrei Andreyevich Vlasov, prevented by the Revolution from completing his studies at the Nizhni Novgorod Orthodox Seminary, was drafted into the Red Army in 1919 and fought as an enlisted man. On the southern front, against Denikin and Wrangel, he rose to be commander of a platoon, then of a company. In the twenties he completed the Vystrel courses. He became a member of the Communist Party in 1930. In 1936, having attained the rank of regimental commander, he was sent to China as a military adviser. Evidently he had no ties to the top military and party circles, and he therefore turned up naturally in that Stalinist "second echelon" of officers promoted to replace the purged commanders of armies, divisions, and brigades. From 1938 on he commanded a division. And in 1940, when "new" (in other words, old) officer ranks were created, he became a major general. From additional information one can conclude that in that corps of newly made generals, many of whom were totally stupid and inexperienced, Vlasov was one of the most talented. His 99th Infantry Division, which he had instructed and trained from the summer of 1940 on, was not caught off balance by the German attack. On the contrary, while the rest of the army reeled backward, his division advanced, retook Przemysl, and held it for six days. Quickly skipping the rank of corps commander, in 1941 Lieutenant General Vlasov was in command of the Thirty-seventh Army near Kiev. He made his way out of the enormous Kiev encirclement and in December, 1941, near Moscow commanded the Twentieth Army, whose successful Soviet counter-offensive for the defense of the capital (the taking of Solnechnogorsk) was noted in the Sovinformburo communiqué for December 12. And the list of generals mentioned there was as follows: Zhukov, Lelyushenko, Kuznetsov, Vlasov, Rokossovsky, Govorov. Thanks to the speed with which officers were promoted in those months, he became Deputy Commander of the Volkhov Front (under Meretskov), and took over command of the Second Shock Army. On January 7, 1942, at the head of that army, he began a drive to break the Leningrad blockade—an attack across the Volkhov River to the northwest. This had been planned as a combined operation, a concerted push from several directions and from Leningrad itself. At scheduled intervals the Fifty-forth, the Fourth, and the Fifty-second armies were to take part in it also. But those three armies either did not advance because they were unready or else came to a quick halt. At that time we still didn't have the capacity to plan such complex combined operations, and, more importantly, provide supplies for them. Vlasov's Second Shock Army, however, was successful in its assaults, and by February, 1942, it was 46 miles deep inside the Germans lines! And from then on, the reckless Stalinist Supreme Command could find neither men nor ammunition to reinforce even those troops. (That's the kind of reserves they had begun the offensive with!) Leningrad, too, was left to die behind the blockade, having received no specific information from Novgorod. During March the winter roads still held up. From April on, however, the entire swampy area through which the Second Army had advanced melted into mud, and there were no supply roads, and there was no help from the air. The army was without food and, at the same time, Vlasov was refused permission, to retreat. For two months they endured starvation and extermination. In the Butyrki, soldiers from that army told me how they had cut off the hoofs of dead and rotting horses and boiled the scrapings and eaten them. Then, on May 14, a German attack was launched from all sides against the encircled army. The only planes in the air, of course, were German. And only then, in mockery, were they given permission to pull back behind the Volkhov. They made several hopeless attempts to break through—until the beginning of July,

And so it was that Vlasov's Second Shock Army perished; literally recapitulating the fate of Samsonov's Russian Army in World War I, having been just as insanely thrown into encirclement.

Now this, of course, was treason to the Motherland! This, of course, was vicious, self-obsessed betrayal! But it was Stalin's. Treason does not necessarily involve selling out for money. It can include ignorance and carelessness in the preparations for war, confusion and cowardice at its very start, the meaningless sacrifice of armies and corps solely for the sake of saving one's own marshal's uniform. Indeed, what more bitter treason is there on the part of a Supreme Commander in Chief?

Unlike Samsonov, Vlasov did not commit suicide. After his army had been wiped out, he wondered among the woods and swamps and, on July 6, personally surrendered in the area of Siverskaya. He was taken to the German headquarters near Lötzen in East Prussia, where they were holding several captured generals and a brigade political commissar, G. N. Zhilenkov, formerly a successful Party official and secretary of one of the Moscow District Party Committees. These captives had already confessed their disagreement with the policy of the Stalin government. But they had no real leader. Vlasov became it.

{p. 253} 9 ...anti-Soviet formations made up of Soviet citizens were organized from the very start of the war. The first to support the Germans were the Lithuanians. In the one year we had been there we had aroused their deep, angry hostility! And then the SS-Galicia Division was created from Ukrainian volunteers. And the Estonian units afterward. In the fall of 1941, guard companies appeared in Byelorussia {Belarus}. And a Tatar {Muslim} battalion in the Crimea. We ourselves had sowed the seeds of all this! Take, for example, our stupid twenty-year policy of closing and destroying the Moslem mosques in the Crimea. And compare that with the policy of the farsighted conqueror Catherine the Great, who contributed state funds for building and expanding the Crimean mosques. And the Hitlerites, when they arrived, were smart enough to present themselves as their defenders. Later, Caucasian detachments and Cossack armies—more than a cavalry corps—put in an appearance on the German side. In the first winter of the war, platoons and companies of Russian volunteers began to be formed. But the German Command was very distrustful of these Russian units, and their master sergeants and lieutenants were Germans. Only the noncoms below master sergeant were Russian. They also used such German commands as “Actung!”, “Halt!” etc. More significant and entirely Russian were the following units: a brigade in Lokot, in Bryansk province, from November, 1941, when a local teacher of engineering, K. P. Volskoboinikov, proclaimed the “National Labor Party of Russia” and issued a manifesto to the citizens of the nation, hoisting the flag of St. George; a unit in the Osintorf settlement near Orsha, formed at the beginning of 1942 under the leadership of Russian émigrés (it must be said that only a small group of Russian émigrés joined this movement, and even they did not conceal their anti-German feelings and allowed many cross-overs [including a whole battalion] to the Soviet side… after which they were dropped by the Germans); and a unit formed by Gil, in the summer of 1942, near Lublin. (V. V. Gil, a Communist Party member and even, it seems, a Jew, not only survived as a POW but, with the help of other POW’s, became the head of a camp near Suwalki and offered to create a “fighting alliance of Russian Nationalists” for the Germans.) However, there was as yet no Russian Liberation Army in all of this and no Vlasov. The companies under German command were put on the Russian front, as an experiment, and the Russian units were sent against the Bryansk, Orsha, and Polish partisans.

{p. 257} The Vlasov men had a presentiment of all this; they knew it ahead of time; nevertheless, on the left sleeve of their German uniforms they sewed the shield with the white-blue-red edging, the field of St. Andrew, and the letters "ROA." 10

10 These letters became even better known, although, as before, there was still no Russian Liberation Army. The units were all scattered and kept subordinate to German orders, and the Vlasov general had nothing to do but play cards in Dahlendorf, near Berlin. By the middle of 1942, Voskobinikov's brigade, which, after his death, was commanded by Kaminsky, numbered five infantry regiments of 2,500 and 3,000 men each, with attached artillery crews, a tank battalion consisting of two dozen Soviet tanks, and an artillery battalion of three dozen guns. The commanding officers were POW officers, and the rank and file was made up, in considerable part, of local Bryansk volunteers. This brigade was under orders to guard the area against partisans. In the summer of 1942, the brigade of Gil-Blazhevich was transferred for the same purpose from Poland, where it had been notable for its cruelty toward Poles and Jews, to the area near Mogilev. At the beginning of 1943, its command refused to acknowledge Vlasov's authority, demanding that he explain why, in his stated program, there was no reference to the "struggle against world Jewry and Jew-loving commissars." These were the very men—called the Rodionovites, because Gil had changed his name to Rodionov—who in August, 1943, when hitler's approaching defeat became apparent, changed their black flag with a silver skull to a red flag, and proclaimed Soviet authority and a large "partisan region" in the northeast corner of Byelorussia.

At that time Soviet newspapers began to write about the "partisan region," but without explaining its origins. Later on, all surviving Rodionovites were imprisoned. And whom did the Germans immediately throw against the Radionovites? The Kaminsky brigade! That was in May 1944, and they also threw in thirteen of their own divisions in an effort to liquidate the "partisan region." That was the extent to which Germans understood all those tricolor cockades, St. George, and the field of St. Andrew. The Russian and German languages were mutually intranslatable, inexpressible, uncorrelatable. Still worse: in October, 1944, the Germans threw in Kaminsky's brigade—with its Moslem units—to suppress the Warsaw uprising. While one group of Russians sat traitorously dozing beyond the Vistula, watching the death of Warsaw through binoculars, other Russians crushed the uprising!...Then, in the fall of 1943, the Germans decided to send the Russian cannon fodder to the Atlantic Wall, and against the French and Italian Resistance...

{p. 258}...And ironically, as though to confirm the farsightedness of the very nearsighted Germans, those Vlasov divisions, in their first and last independent action, dealt a blow—to the Germans themselves. In the general disaster, Vlasov gathered up his two and half divisions near Prague at the end of April, without coordinating his action with the German Supreme Command. It became known at this point that SS General Steiner was preparing to destroy the Czech capital rather than surrender it intact. And Vlasov ordered his divisions to aid the Czech rebels. And at that point, all the hurt, bitterness, and anger against the Germans that had accumulated during three cruel and futile years in the breasts of the enslaved Russians was vented in the attack on the Germans. They were shoved out of Prague from an unexpected direction. Did the Czechs realize later which Russians had saved their city? Our own history is similarly distorted; we claim that Prague was saved by Soviet armies, although they couldn't have gotten there in time.

Then the Vlasov army began to retreat toward Bavaria and the Americans. They were pinning all their hopes on the possibility of being useful to the Allies; in this way their years of dangling in the German noose would finally become meaningful. But the Americans greeted them with a wall of armor and forced them to surrender to Soviet hands, as stipulated by the Yalta Conference. In Austria that may, Churchill perpetrated the same sort of "act of a loyal ally," but, out of our accustomed modesty, we did not publicize it. He turned over the Soviet command the Cossack corps of 90,000 men.12 Along with them, he also

12 This surrender was an act of double—dealing consistent with the spirit of traditional English diplomacy. The heart of the matter was that Cossacks were determined to fight to the death, or to cross the ocean, all the way to Paraguay or Indochina if they had to...anything rather than surrender alive. Therefore, the English proposed, first, that the Cossacks give up their arms on the pretext of replacing them with standardized weapons. Then the officers—without the enlisted men—were summoned to a supposed conference on the future of the army in the city of Judenburg in the English occupation zone. But the English had secretly turned the city over to the Soviet armies the night before. Forty busloads of officers, all the way from commanders of companies on up to General Krasnov himself, crossed a high viaduct and drove straight down a a semicircle of Black Marias {transport vehicles} next to which stood convoy guards with lists in their hands. The road was blocked by Soviet tanks. The officers didn't even have anything with which to shoot themselves or to stab themselves to death, since their weapons had been taken away. They jumped from the viaduct onto the paving stones below. Immediately afterward, and just as treacherously, the English turned over the rank-and-file soldiers by the trainload—pretending that they were on their way to receive new weapons from their commanders.

In their own countries Roosevelt and Churchill are honored as embodiments of statesmanlike wisdom. To us, in our Russian prison conversations, their consistent shortsightedness and stupidity stood out as astonishingly obvious. How could they, in their decline from 1941 to 1945, fail to secure any guarantees whatever of the independence of Eastern Europe? How could they give away broad regions of Saxony and Thuringia in exchange for the preposterous toy of a four-zone Berlin, their own future Achilles' heel? And what was the military or political sense in their surrendering to destruction at Stalin's hands hundreds of thousands of armed Soviet citizens determined not to surrender? They say it was the price they paid for Stalin's agreeing to enter the war against Japan. With the atom bomb already in their hands, they paid Stalin for not refusing to occupy Manchuria, for strengthening Mao Tse-tung in China, and for giving Kim Il Sung control of half Korea! What bankruptcy of political thought! And when subsequently, the Russians pushed out Mikolajczyk, when Benes and Masaryk came to their ends, when Berlin was blockaded, and Budapest flamed and fell silent, and Korea went up in smoke, and Britain’s Conservatives fled Suez, could one really beleive that those among them with the most accurate memories did not at least recall that episode of the Cossacks?

{p.260} handed over many wagonloads of old people, women, and children who did not want to return to their native Cossack rivers. This great hero, monuments to whom will in time cover all England, ordered that they, too, be surrendered to their deaths.

In addition to the hurriedly created Vlasov divisions, quite a few Russian subunits went right on turning sour in the depths of the German Army, wearing standard German uniforms. They finished the war on various sectors and in different ways.

I myself fell under Vlasov fire a few days before my arrest...

...And now, on the eve of the Victory Parade, here we all were sitting together on the board bunks of Butyrki {Prison}. I took puffs from their cigarettes and they took puffs from mine. And paired with one or another of them, I used to carry out the six-bucket tin latrine barrel.

Many of the Vlasov men, like the "spies for hire," were young, born, say between 1915 and 1922...

{p. 261} But fate played them an even bitterer trick, and they became more abject pawns than before. The Germans, in their shallow stupidity and self-importance, allowed them only to die for the German Reich, but denied them the right to plan an independent destiny for Russia.

And the Allies were two thousand versts {285 miles}—and anyway, what kind of allies would they indeed turn out to be?

The term "Vlasovite" in our country has the same force as the word "sewage." We feel we are dirtying our mouths merely by pronouncing it, and therefore no one dares utter a sentence with "Vlasovite" as its subject.

But that is no way to write history. Now, a quarter of a century later, when most of them have perished in camps and those who have survived are living out their lives in the Far North, I would like to issue a reminder, through these pages, that this was a phenomenon totally unheard of in all world history: that
{p.262} several hundred thousand young men,13 aged twenty to thirty, took up arms against their fatherland as allies of its most evil enemy. Perhaps there is something to ponder: Who was to blame, those youths or the gray Fatherland? One cannot explain this treason biologically. it has to have a social cause...

13 This, in fact, is the number of Soviet citizens who were in the Wehrmacht—in pre-Vlasov and Vlasov formations, and in the Cossack, Moslem, Baltic, and Ukrainian units and detachments.

Part II Perpetual Motion

Chapter 2. The Ports of the Archipelago

{v.i, p. 534}….”Well, even if the Ivanovo Transit Prison isn’t one of the more famous, my friends, just ask anybody imprisoned there in the winter of 1937-1938, the prison was unheated—and the prisoners not only didn’t freeze to death, but on the upper bunks they lay there undressed. And they knocked out all the windowpanes so as not to suffocate. Instead of the twenty men Cell 21 was supposed to contain, there were three hundred and twenty-three! There was water underneath the bunks, and the boards were laid in the water and people lay on those boards. That was right where the frost poured in from the broken windows. It was like Arctic night down under the bunks. There was no light down there either because it was cut off by the people lying on the bunks above and standing in the aisle. It was impossible to walk through the aisle to the latrine tank, and people crawled along the edges of the bunks. They didn’t distribute rations to individuals but to units of ten. If one of the ten died, the others shoved his corpse under the bunks and kept it there until it started to stink. They got the corpse’s ration. And all that could have been endured, but the turnkeys seemed to have been oiled with turpentine—and they kept driving the prisoners endlessly from cell to cell, on and on. You’d just get yourself settled when ‘Come on, get a move on! You’re being moved!’ And you’d have to start in again trying to find a place! And the reason for such overcrowding was that they hadn’t taken anyone to the bath for three months, the lice had multiplied, and people had abscesses from the lice on their feet and legs—and typhus too. And because of the typhus the prison was quarantined and no prisoner transports could leave it for four months.”

”Well, fellows, the problem there wasn’t Ivanovo, but the year. In 1937-1938, of course, not just the zeks {prisoners} but the very stones of the transit prisons were screaming in agony. Irkutsk was no special transit prison either, but in 1938 the doctors didn’t even dare look into the cells but would walk down the corridor while the turnkey shouted through the door: ’Anyone unconscious, come out.’”

”In 1937, fellows, it was that way all across Siberia to the Kolyma, and the big bottleneck was in the Sea of Okhotsk, and in Vladivostok. The steamships could transport only thirty thousand a month, and they kept driving them on and on from Moscow without taking that into account. Well, and so a hundred thousand of them piled up. Understand?”

”Who counted them?”

”Whoever was supposed to, counted.”

{p.536} “If you’re talking about the Vladivostok Transit Prison, then in February, 1937, there weren’t more than forty thousand there.”

“People were stuck there for several months at a time. The bedbugs infested the board bunks like locusts. Half a mug of water a day; there wasn’t any more! —no one to haul it. There was one whole compound of Koreans, and they all died from dysentery, every last one of them. They took a hundred corpses out of our own compound every morning. They were building a morgue, so they hitched the zeks to the carts and hauled the stone that way. Today you do the hauling, and tomorrow they haul you there yourself. And in Autumn the typhus arrived. And we did the same thing: we didn’t hand over the corpses till they stank—and took the extra rations. No medication whatever. We crawled to the fence and begged: ‘Give us medicine.’ And the guards fired a volley from the watchtowers. Then they assembled those with typhus in a separate barracks. Some didn’t make it there, and only a few came back. The bunks there had two stories. And anyone on an upper who was sick and running a fever wasn’t able to clamber down to go to the toilet—and so it would all pour down on the people underneath. There were fifteen hundred sick there. And all the orderlies were thieves. They’d pull out the gold teeth from the corpses. And not only from the corpses.”

“Why do you keep going on about 1937? What about 1949 on Vanino Bay, in the fifth compound? What about that? There were 35,000! And for several months too! There was another bottleneck in the transport to the Kolyma. And every night for some reason they kept driving people from one barracks to another and from one compound to another. Just as it was with the Fascists: Whistles! Screams! ‘Come on out there without the last one!1 And everyone went on the run! Always on the run! They’d drive a hundred to get bread—on the run! For gruel—on the run! No bowls to eat from. Take some gruel in whatever you could—the flap of your coat, your hands! They brought water in big tanks and there was nothing to distribute it in, so they shot it out in sprays. And whoever could get his mouth in front of one

1 “Without the last one!” —a menacing command to be understood literally. It meant: “I will kill the last man” (literally or at least warm his hide with a club). And so all piled out so as not to be last.

{p. 537} got some. Prisoners began to fight in front of the tanks—and the guards fired on them from the towers. Exactly like under the Fascists! Major General Derevyanko, the Chief of Administration of the Norhteast [i.e., Kolyma] Corrective Labor Camps, came, and while he was there an air force aviator stepped out in front of the crowd and ripped his field shirt down the front: ‘I have seven battle decorations! Who gave you the right to shoot into the compound?’ And Derevyanko replied: ‘We shot and we will go on shooting until you learn how to behave.’” 2

2 Say there, Bertrand Russell’s “War Crimes Tribunal”! Why don’t you use this bit of material? Or doesn’t it suit you?

Part III The Destructive-Labor Camps

Chapter 2 The Archipelago Rises from the Sea

{v.ii, p. 56} …the Chekist Gashidze {guard commander} ordered explosives set into a cliff and then sent KR’s {Counter-Revolutionaries, or ‘Contras’} up on the cliff and through his binoculars watched them being blown up.

They say that in December, 1928, on Krasnaya Gorka in Karelia, the prisoners were left to spend the night in the woods as punishment for failure to fulfill the assigned norm of work—and 150 men froze to death there. This was a standard Solovetsky trick. Hard to doubt the story.

There is somewhat greater difficulty in believing another story: that in February, 1929, on the Kem-Ukhta road near the tiny settlement of Kut, a company consisting of approximately one hundred prisoners was driven into the bonfire for failure to fulfill the work norm—and burned alive!

I was told this story by one solitary person only, who had been close by: Professor D. P. Kallistov, an old Solovki veteran, who died recently. But I was never able to collect any corroborative testimony. (And maybe no one ever will collect any—and there is also much else about which no one is ever going to collect testimony, even one single solitary report.) But after all, why shouldn’t people who freeze other people to death and who blow them up in an explosion burn them alive? Because the technology involved was no more complex.

Let those who prefer to put their faith in the printed word rather than in living people read about the road-building by this very same USLON {Special Purpose Camp}, and by the very same zeks, in the very same year, except that the area was the Kola Peninsula:

”With great difficulty we built the dirt road along the valley of the Belaya River, along the shore of Lake Vudyarv to Kukisvumchorr (near the present Apatity) for a distance of seventeen miles, paving a swamp….” (And what would you think it was paved with? The answer fairly leaps to the tip of the tongue, doesn’t it? But it can't be set down on paper….) "...with logs and sand embankments, leveling the capricious configuration of the crumbling slopes of the stony mountains.” And then USLON built a railroad there in addition—“seven miles in a single winter month.” (And why in one month? And why couldn’t it have been postponed till summer?) “The task seemed insuperable—400,000 cubic yards of excavations….” (North of the Arctic Circle! In the middle of winter! And they called it earth? It was harder than granite!) “…performed solely by hand—with pick, crowbar and spade.” (And did they at least have mittens?) “The work was delayed by the need for a multitude of bridges. Work went on for twenty-four hours a day for three shifts, and the Arctic night was sliced by the light of incandescent kerosene lanterns as clearings were cut through the pine woods and stumps were dug out, in the midst of snowstorms which covered the roadbed deeper than the height of a man.’ 22

Now go back and read that over. Then close your eyes and picture the scene: You are a helpless city dweller, a person who sighs and pines like a character in Chekhov. And there you are in that icy hell! Or you are a Turkmenian in your embroidered skullcap—your “tyubeteika” —out there in that night blizzard! Digging out stumps!

This was in those best and brightest twenties, before any “personality cult,” when the white, yellow, black, and brown races of the Earth looked upon our country as the torchbearer of freedom.23

And so, imperceptibly—via work parties—the former concept of the Special Purpose Camp, totally isolated on its islands, dissolved. And the Archipelago, born and come to maturity on Solokvi, began its malignant advance through the nation.

22 G. Fridman, “Skazochnaya Byl” (“A Fairy Tale”), Solovetskiye Ostrova, 1930, No. 4, pp. 43-44
23 Oh, Bertrand Russell! Oh, Hewlett Johnson! Where, oh where, was your flaming conscience at that time?

{p. 59} And there was a famous escape from Kem to England This particular daredevil (his name is unknown to us—that’s the breadth of our horizon!) knew English and concealed it. He managed to get assigned to loading timber in Kem, and he told his story to the Englishmen. The convoy discovered he was missing and delayed the ship for nearly a whole week and searched it several times without finding the fugitive. (What happened was that whenever a search party started from the shore, they lowered him overboard on the opposite side on the anchor chain, where he clung under water with a breathing pipe held in his teeth.) An enormous fine had to be paid for delaying the ship, so they finally decided to take a chance and let the ship go, thinking that perhaps the prisoner had drowned.

Then a book came out in England, even it would seem, in more than one printing. Evidently An Island Hell by S. A. Malsagoff.26

This book astounded Europe (and no doubt they accused its fugitive author of exaggerating, for, after all, the friends of the

26 And is this another book you have not read, Sir Bertrand Russell?

{p. 60} New Society could not permit themselves to believe this slanderous volume) because it contradicted what was already well known; the newspaper Rote Fahne {Red Flag} had described Solovki as a paradise. (And we hope that the paper’s correspondent spent time in the Archipelago later on.)

Part V Katorga

Chapter 1 The Doomed

{v.iii, p. 18} In May 1943, while the Germans were in Vinnitsa, men digging in an orchard on Podlesnaya Street (which the city soviet had surrounded with a high fence early in 1939 and declared a "restricted area under the People's Commissariat of Defense") found themselves uncovering graves which had previously escaped notice because they were overgrown with luxuriant grass. They found thirty-nine mass graves, 3.5 meters deep, 3 meters wide, 4 meters long. In each grave they found first a layer of outer garments belonging to the deceased, then bodies laid alternately head first or feet first. The hands of all of them were tied with rope, and they had all been shot by small-bore pistols in the back of the head. They had evidently been executed in prison and carted out for burial by night. Documents which had not decayed made it possible to identify people who had been sentenced to "20 years without
{p.19} the right to correspond" in 1918. Plate No.1 is one picture of the excavation site: inhabitants of Vinnitsa have come to view the bodies or identify their relatives. There was more to come. In June they began digging near the Orthodox cemetery, outside the Pirogov Hospital, and discovered another forty-two graves. Next the Gorky park of Culture and Rest—where, under the swings and carrousel, the "funhouse," the games area, and the dance floor, fourteen more mass graves were found. Altogether, 9,439 corpses in ninety-five graves. This was in Vinnitsa alone, and the discoveries were accidental. How many lie successfully hidden in other towns? After viewing these corpses, were the population supposed to rush off and join the partisans?

Perhaps in fairness we should at least admit that if you and I suffer when we and all we hold dear are trodden underfoot, those we tread on feel no less pain. Perhaps in fairness we should at last admit that those whom we seek to destroy have a right to hate us. Or have they no such right? Are they supposed to die gratefully?

We attribute deep-seated if not indeed congenital malice to these Polizei {collaborators with Germans}, these burgomasters—but we ourselves planted their malice in them, they were "waste products" of our making. How does Krylenko's dictum go? "In our eyes every crime is the product of a particular social system!"6 In this case—of your system, comrades! Don't forget your own doctrine!

6 Krylenko, Za Pyat Let (1918-1922), p. 337.

Chapter 2 The First Whiff of Revolution

{v.iii, p. 38} This war in Korea excited us even more. In our rebellious mood we longed for the storm. The storm must break, it must, it must, or else we were doomed to a lingering death!

{p. 47} But what most excited the transit prison were the reports from Korea. Stalin's blitzkrieg had miscarried. The United Nations volunteers had by now been assembled. We saw in Korea the precursor, the Spain, of the Third World War. (And Stalin probably intended it as a rehearsal.) Those U.N. soldiers were a special inspiration to us. What a flag to fight under! Whom would it not unite? Here was a prototype of the united mankind of the future!

We were wretched, and we could not rise above our wretchedness. Should this have been our dream—to perish so that those who looked unmoved on our destruction might survive? We could not accept it. No, we longed for the storm!

Some will be surprised. —What a desperate, what a cynical state of mind. Had you no thought for the hardships war would bring to those outside? —Well, the free never spared us a thought!—You mean, then, that you were capable of wishing for a world war? —When all those people were given sentences in 1950 lasting till the mid-1970's, what hope were they left with except that of world war?

I am appalled myself when I remember the false and baneful hopes we cherished at the time. General nuclear destruction was no way out for anyone. And leaving aside the nuclear danger, a state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny and reinforces it. But my story will be distorted if I do not tell the truth about our feelings that summer.

Romain Rolland's {Nobel Prize in Literature, 1915} generation were depressed by the constant expectation of war, but our generation of prisoners was depressed by its absence—and not to say so would be to tell less than the truth about the spirit of the Special Political Camps. This was what they had driven us to. World war might bring us either a speedier death (they might open fire from the watchtowers, poison our bread, or infect us with germs, German fashion),
{p.48} or it might bring us freedom. In either case, deliverance would be much nearer than the end of a twenty-five year sentence.

{p. 49} ...we felt the ground firmer under our own feet and imagined that it was becoming uncomfortably warm under the feet of our jailers. When we walked about the yard we raised our faces to the sun-bleached July sky. We should not have been surprised, and not at all alarmed, if a V formation of foreign bombers had emerged from nowhere. Life as it was meant nothing to us.

Prisoners traveling in the other direction from the Karabas Transit Prison brought rumors of notices stuck on walls: "We won't take anymore!" We worked ourselves up to white heat, and one sultry night in Omsk when we were being crammed and screwed into a prison van, like lumps of sweating steaming meat through a mincer, we yelled out of the depths at our warders: "Just wait, you vermin! Truman will see you off! They'll drop the atom bomb on your heads!" And the cowards said nothing. They were uneasily aware that our resistance was growing stronger and—so we sensed—that justice was more and more clearly on our side. We were so sick with longing for justice that we should not have minded if we and our tormentors were incinerated by the same bomb. We were in that final stage at which there is nothing to lose.

If this is not in the open, the full story of the Archipelago in the fifties will not have been told.

Part VI

Chapter 2 The Peasant Plague

{v.iii, p. 360} ...they were loaded into boxcars. The boxcars were locked, and there were no pails, or holes in the floor, for them to relieve themselves. Risking punishment, perhaps even imprisonment, for attempted escape, Konstanin Trifonovich cut a hole in the floor with a kitchen knife, while the train was moving and there was a lot of noise. The feeding arrangements were simple: once every three days pails of soup were brought along at main stations. True, they were only traveling for ten days (to a station called Lyalya in the Northern Urals). It was still winter there, and the transport was met by hundreds of sledges, which carried them up the frozen river into the forest. There they found a hut for twenty loggers, but more than five hundred people had been brought, and it was evening. The Komsomal {Communist Youth League} in charge of the place, a Permian called Sorokin, showed them where to knock pegs into the ground: there'll be a street here, there'll be houses there. This was how the settlement of Parcha was founded.

It is hard to believe in such cruelty: on a winter evening out in the taiga they were told: You've arrived! Can human beings really behave like this? Well, they're moved by day so they arrive at nightfall—that's all there is to it. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands were carried into the wilds and dumped down like this, old men, women, children, and all. On the Kola Peninsula (Appatity) people lived through the dark polar winter in thin tents under the snow. But was it so very much more merciful to take trainloads of Volga Germans in summer (summer, 1931, not 1941—don't confuse the dates!) to waterless places in the Karaganda steppe, ration their water, and order them to make themselves
{p.361} earth houses?

Chapter 4 Nations in Exile

{v.iii, p. 385} Historians may correct us, but no instance from the nineteenth century, or the eighteenth, or the seventeenth, of forcible resettlement of whole peoples has lodged in the average man's memory. There were colonial conquests—on the South Sea Islands, in Africa, in Asia, in the Caucasus, the conquerors obtained power over the indigenous population—but somehow it did not enter the immature minds of the colonizers to sever the natives from the land which had been theirs of old, from their ancestral homes. Only the export of Negroes to the American plantations gives us perhaps some semblance, some anticipation of it, but there was no developed state system at work here: only individual Christian slave traders, in whose breasts the sudden revelation of huge gains lit a roaring fire of greed, so that they rushed to hunt down, to inveigle, to buy Negroes, singly or by the dozen, each on his own account.

Only when the twentieth century—on which all civilized mankind had put its hopes—arrived, only when the National Question had reached the summit of its development thanks the the One and Only True Doctrine {Socialism}, could the supreme authority of that Question patent the wholesale extirpation of peoples by banishment within forty-eight hours, within twenty-four hours, or even within an hour and a half.

Even to Him, of coarse, the answer did not become clear quite so suddenly. He once even committed himself to the incautious view that "there never has been and never can be an instance of anyone in the U.S.S.R. becoming an object of persecution because
{p.386} of his national origin."1 In the twenties all those minority languages were encouraged; it was endlessly dinned into the Crimea that it was Tatar, Tatar, and nothing but Tatar; it even had the Arabic alphabet, and all the signs were in Tatar.

Then it turned out that this was ... all a mistake.

Even when he had finished compressing the exiled peasant mass, the Great Helmsman did not immediately realize how conveniently this method could be applied to nations. His sovereign brother Hitler’s experiment in the extirpation of Jews and Gypsies came late, when the Second World War had already begun, but Father Stalin had given thought to the problem earlier.

After the peasant Plague, and until the banishment of peoples, the land of exile could not begin to compare with the camps, although it handles hundreds of thousands, it was not so glorious and populous that the highroad of history lay through it. There were exile settlers (sentenced by the courts) and there were administrative exiles (untried), but both these groups consisted of persons individually registered, each with his own name, year of birth, articles of indictment, photographs full face and profile; and only the Organs {NKVD, MVD, MGB etc} with their miraculous patience and their readiness for anything could weave a rope from these particles of sand, build a monolithic colony in each of their districts from the wreckage of so many families.

The business of banishment was immeasurably improved and speeded up when they drove the first special settlers into exile. The two earlier terms (exile settler and administrative exile) were from the Tsar's times, but spetspereselenets (special settler) was Soviet, our very own. Spets— so many of our favorite, our most precious words begin with this little prefix (special section, special assignment, special communications system, special rations, special sanatorium). In the year of the Great Break they designated the dekulakized as "special settlers"—and this made for much greater flexibility and efficiency; it left no grounds for appeal since it was not only kulaks who were dekulakized. Call them "special settlers," and no one can wriggle free.

Then the Great Father gave orders that this word be applied to banished nations.

Even He was slow to realize the value of his discovery. His first experiment was very cautious. In 1937 some tens of thousands of

1 Stalin, Sochineniya (Works), Moscow, 1951, Vol. 13, p. 258.

{p.387} those suspicious Koreans—with Khalkin-Gol in mind, face to face with Japanese imperialism, who could trust those slant-eyed heathens?—from palsied old men to puling infants, with some portion of their beggarly belongings, were swiftly and quietly transferred from the Far East to Kazakhstan. So swiftly that they spent the first winter in mud-brick houses without windows (where would all that glass have come from!). And so quietly that nobody except the neighboring Kazakhs learned of this resettlement, no one who counted let slip a word about it, no foreign correspondent uttered a squeak. (Now you see why the whole press must be in the hands of the proletariat.)

{p. 388} …Only in July, 1941, did the time come to test the method at full power: the autonomous republic of the Volga Germans (with its twin capitals, Engels and Marxstadt) had to be expunged and its population hurled somewhere well to the East in a matter of days. Here for the first time the dynamic method of exiling whole peoples was applied in all its purity, and how much easier, how much more rewarding it proved to use a single criterion—that of nationality—rather than all those individual interrogations, and decrees each naming a single person. As for the Germans seized in other parts of Russia (and every last one was gathered in), local NKVD officers had no need of higher education to determine whether a man was an enemy or not. If the name’s German—grab him.


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