The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956
by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Release Date: 22 January, 2002
Review by Mike, Age 13
Solzhenitsyn does an excellent job of retelling the story of the atrocities of the Soviet Union. The Gulag Archipelago is a disturbing account of what happened inside the Gulag prisons. This is an account about the things hidden from the public and the things the Marxists wanted to keep hidden. And how he gave a first person account of prison life, well that was just amazing! His vivid descriptions about the kinds of arrests that took place I thought was very interesting and an amazing brainchild of a distorted Soviet Union!
How Stalin could turn an innocent gesture of two long lost friends being reunited into an arrest is beyond me. The Gulag Archipelago is an excellent book that unveiled an entirely new side of the Soviet Union and its perverted system of justice. It's a great book for historians and World War II buffs, or even if you are trying to find out more about the Soviet Union. The Gulag Archipelago is quite possibly one of the best books I've ever read! I would recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in the Soviet Union. (Content will be confusing for younger readers.)
The point can't be made forcefully enough: this book is *not* a novel! It is not even literature, in any meaningful sense. It is a 2,000 page indictment for crimes against humanity. Chief among the accused is of course Stalin who, if justice exists, is currently serving 60 million consecutive life sentences in Hell. But as Solzhenitsyn abundantly documents, the Gulag death-camps were part of Lenin's vision from the very beginning. (In January 1918, he stated his ambition of "purging the land of all kinds of harmful insects", in which group he included "workers malingering at their work".) But it is not only the architects of Bolshevism who stand accused. It is also all the collaborators with oppression, from the camp guards who summarily executed prisoners too exhausted to stand to the people who informed on their neighbors. Complicit even are the passive victims of the Terror who, as Solzhenitsyn says, "didn't love freedom enough" to fight for it from the beginning.
Needless to say, "The Gulag Archipelago" is not beach reading. (Although Solzhenitsyn's searingly sarcastic style makes it anything but a dry collection of facts.) The evil that it obsessively documents is so dark that even reading about it is often difficult to bear. But anyone with pretentions of understanding the world we live in needs to go through it from first page to last.
But if you aren't willing to make the effort, here's the lesson boiled down for you: Totalitarianism doesn't begin with a Stalin or a Hitler. It begins with *you*, on the day that you let a government become more powerful than the people it governs. Remember that or someday it might not be the Russians or the Jews or the Serbs that the men with guns come for. It just might be you...