The Gulag Archipelago Part One: The Prison Industry


Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn – In the army

There are three ways to arrive at the clandestine Archipelago. 

Those who go there to manage it get there through the training schools of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Those who go there to be guards are conscripted through the military conscription centers.

And those like you and me, dear reader, who go there to die, must get there compulsorily through arrest.

Arrest is a spiritual earthquake so strong that it leads some people into insanity. Each of us is the center of our own Universe, and that Universe is destroyed when an officer tells us “you are under arrest”. 

Your nighttime arrest will look like this: A knock on the door at 2 in the morning, the entrance of the military boots of State Security Operatives making announcements. Half asleep, you will try to quickly pack something, but the Security agents will interrupt and hurry: “You don’t need anything. They will feed you there”.

After they take you, the brutal search will start, the emptying of wardrobes and desks into the floor, and you must know that nothing sacred in a search, nothing. For example, during the arrest of locomotive engineer Inoshin, a tiny coffin stood in his room containing the body of his newly dead child. The guards dumped the child’s body out of the coffin and searched it anyway, just as easily as they shake sick people out of their sickbeds in other arrests.

For your family left behind, there is the long tail end of a wrecked and devastated life. When friends and family try to bring food parcels, the bark from the prison’s window will be “Nobody here by that name” or “Never heard of him”. If the answer is “No right to correspondence”, that almost certainly means that you have already been shot.