Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Historical Context

This is a short video of the life in the Gulag camps with real footage from the time.

Timeline of major events in Solzhenitsyn's life and Soviet Union
1918 – December 11, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
1919- Vladimir Lenin implemented the Gulag system
1922- Formation of Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR)
1924- Lenin dies, Joseph Stalin comes into power 
1928- Stalin's introduced his first act "The Five Year Plan" (initiates enforced collectivization)
1928- Stalin started to expand the Soviet economy by issuing a series of industrialization tactics
1933- a breakout of widespread famine
1936- The start of Stalin's second act "the Great Purge"1938- The end of the Great Purge
1945- The end of Second World War in defeat of Germany
1945 – Solzhenitsyn was accused of anti soviet propaganda, and sent to 8 years to a special labor camp for political prisoners
1951- Cold war between USSR and USA intensified
1953 – Released from the camp, and sent to internal exile in Southern Kazakhstan (common for political prisoners)
1953- Stalin dies and Krushchev comes into power of the Soviet Union1956- Free from exile and exonerated. (Also discovered that his wife had remarried another man during his imprisonment)
1958- Kruschev becomes the prime minister in addition to Communist Party chief.
1962 – Publication of One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich
1970 – Won the Nobel prize of Literature (however did not receive it until 1974 when is was deported from Russia)
1971- Death of Krushchev
1974 – Deported from Russia, and stripped of Soviet citizenship
1985- Mikhail Gorbachev rises to power
1986- Gorbachev begins policies of Perestroika and Glasnost
1990 – Reinstated Solzhenitsyn's Soviet citizenship
1991 – Collapse of Soviet Union
1994 – Returned to Russia
2008 – August 3, Solzhenitsyn died
-In 1945 when Solzhenitsyn was writing a letter to a friend he made a joke about Stalin, for that reason he was sentenced to 8 year in a Gulag camp, his experience in the Gulag camp became his inspiration for One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, his experiences are closely related to the protagonist of the novel
-In 1962 One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich sold out in one day when it was published by Novy Mir, because everyone was curious to know how life in the Gulag camps were; Nikita Krushchev used this as an advantage to de-Stalinize the society of the USSR.
-Solzhenitsyn was viewed as a threat to the Soviet government because of the works he wrote but he couldn't be imprisoned or sentenced to death because he won the nobel prize of literature and was an acclaimed writer so instead he was deported from Russia in 1974 and later lived in USA until his citizenship was reinstated in 1990

Stalin's Sovereignty

Joseph Stalin implemented the Gulag system in order to reduce any threat to the USSR at all costs. The first of his acts was the Five Year PLan where he forced the farmers to collectivize their lands as well as increasing the quota in which they had to return to the state.
 Subsequently, a great famine broke out which distraught the peasants, causing 14.5 million deaths.
The next act was the Great Purge. The early 1930s was a period of significant growth in the population of the prison camp. In the period of the Great Purge from 1937-38, at least 9.5 million individuals were arrested and sentenced to long imprisonment. During the act, he also eliminated all the communist part
y who brought him to power and eradicated military leadership.
Ever since the OGPU (the infamous secret service "Cheka") gained power in the 1930s, the growth of the camps corresponded with the Soviet industrialization campaign. When the camps transferred into economic labor camps, in order to fulfill the economic goals, the OG
PU was assigned a certain arrest quota to sustain the efficiency of labor. To surpass the quota, the secret police deteriorated some scenarios and detained innocent people. In fact, most of these arrests were held during the night.


Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of almost 50 million people during the years of 1924-1953. The majority of deaths were caused by the harsh conditions and meager food rations in the Gulag camps. The Gulag was the government agency that controlled the punitive labor camps of the Soviet Union. They were established for two main reason: to create a sense of fear in the society in order to stabilize the nation, and to improve the economy. At first, the camps were designed as an ordinary penal camp however, after 1930 the camps were transformed into economic empires based on forced labor. The Gulag aided the economy as its labor was used for most of the countries lumbering, the exploitation of natural resources, colonization of remote areas and infrastructural constructions. It imprisoned millions of people varying from politicians, dissidents, former aristocrats, businessmen, large landowners, basically anyone who was regarded a threat to the government. The paranoia of the Soviet police caused them to suspect minor crimes and to even investigate unexcused absences to work. Nearly half of the prisoners were immediately sent to the camps without trial. Thus, the citizens lived in constant fear that they would be next to be sent to the Gulag camps. In fact nowadays, one in every four adult men in Russia was a former prisoner.

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