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«THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO Also by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn The Nobel Lecture on Literature August 1914 A Lenten Letter to Pimen, Patriarch of All Russia ...»

-- [ Page 116 ] --

How imperceptibly all that crept up on us! While we-I, my codefendant, and others of our age-had been fighting for four years at the front, a whole new generation had grown up here in the rear. And had it been very long since we ourselves had tramped the parquet floors of the university corridors, considering ourselves the youngest and most intelligent in the whole country and, for that matter, on earth? And then suddenly pale youths crossed the tile floors of the prison cells to approach us haughtily, and we learned with astonishment that we were no longer the youngest and most intelligent-they were. But I didn't take offense at this; at that point I was already happy to move over a bit to make room. I knew so very well their passion for arguing with everyone, for finding out everything, I understood their pride in having chosen a worthy lot and in not regretting it.

It gave me gooseflesh to hear the rustle of the prison halos hovering over those self-enamored and intelligent little faces.

One month earlier, in another Butyrki cell, a semihospital cell, I had just stepped into the aisle and had still not seen any empty place for myself-when, approaching in a way that hinted at a verbal dispute, even at an entreaty to enter into one, came a pale, yellowish youth, with a Jewish tenderness of face, wrapped, despite the summer, in a threadbare soldier's overcoat shot full of holes: he was chilled. His name was Boris Gammerov. He began to question me; the conversation rolled along: on one hand, our biographies, on the other, politics. I don't remember why, but I recalled one of the prayers of the late President Roosevelt, which had been published in our newspapers, and I expressed what

seemed to me a self-evident evaluation of it:

I 612 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO "Well, that's hypocrisy, of course."

And suddenly the young man's yellowish brows trembled, his

pale lips pursed, he seemed to draw himself up, and he asked me:

"Why? Why do you not admit the possibility that a political leader might sincerely believe in God?" And that is all that was said! But what a direction the attack had come from! To hear such words from someone born in 1923?

I could have replied to him very firmly, but prison had already undermined my certainty, and the principal thing was that some kind of clean, pure feeling does live within us, existing apart from all our convictions, and right then it dawned upon me that I had not spoken out of conviction but because the idea had been implanted in me from outside. And because of this I was unable to reply to him, and I merely asked him: "Do you believe in God?" "Of course," he answered tranquilly.

Of course? Of course... Yes, yes. The Komsomols were flying ahead of the flock--everywhere, but so far only the NKGB had noticed.

Notwithstanding his youth, Borya Gammerov had not only fought as a sergeant in an antitank unit with those antitank 45's the soldiers had christened "Farewell, Motherland!" He had also been wounded in the lungs and the wound had not yet healed, and because of this TB had set in. Gammerov was given a medical discharge from the army and enrolled in the biology department

of Moscow University. And thus two strands intertwined in him:

one from his life as a soldier and the other from the by no means foolish and by no means dead students' life at war's end. A circle formed of those who thought and reasoned about the future (even though no one had given them any instructions to do so), and the experienced eye of the Organs singled out three of them and pulled them in. (In 1937, Gammerov's father had been killed in prison or shot, and his son was hurrying along the same path.

During the interrogation he had read several of his own verses to the interrogator with feeling. And I deeply regret that I have not managed to remember even one of them, and there is nowhere to seek them out today. Otherwise I would have cited them here.) For a number of months after that my path crossed those of all three codefendants: right there in a Butyrki cell I met Vyacheslav D.-and there is always someone like him when young people I 613 From Island to Island are arrested: he had taken an iron stand within the group, but he quickly broke down under interrogation. He got less than any of the others-five years-and it looked as though he were secretly counting a good deal on his influential papa to get him out.

And then in the Butyrkichurch I encountered Georgi Ingal, the eldest of the three. Despite his youth, he was already a candidate-member of the Union of Soviet Writers. He had a very bold pen. His style was one of strong contrasts. If he had been willing to make his peace politically, vivid and uIitrodden literary paths would have opened up before him. He had already nearly finished a novel about Debussy. But his early success had not emasculated him, and at the funeral of his teacher, Yuri Tynyanov, he had made a speech declaring that Tynyanov had been persecutedand by this means had assured himself of an eight-year term.

And right then Gammerov caught up with us, and, while waiting to go to Krasnaya Presnya, I had to face up to their united point of view. This confrontation was not easy for me. At the time I was committed to that world outlook which is incapable of admitting any new fact or evaluating any new opinion before

a label has been found for it from the already available stock:





be it the "hesitant duplicity of the petty bourgoisie," or the "militant nihilism of the declasse intelligentsia." I don't recall that Ingal and Gammerov attacked Marx in my presence, but I do remember how they attacked Lev Tolstoi, and from what direction the attack was launched! Tolstoi rejected the church?

But he failed to take into account its mystical and its organizing role. He rejected the teachings of the Bible? But for the most part modern science was not in conflict with the Bible, not even with its opening lines about the creation of the world. He rejected the state? But without the state there would be chaos. He preached the combining of mental and physical work in one individual's life? But that was a senseless leveling of capabilities and talents.

And, finally, as we see from Stalin's violence, an historical personage can be omnipotent, yet Tolstoi scoffed at the very idea. 4

4. In my preprison and prison years I, too, had long ago come to the conclusion that Stalin had set the course of the Soviet state in a fateful direction. But then Stalin died quietly-and did the ship of state change course very noticeably? The personal, individual imprint he left on events consisted of dismal stupidity, petty tyranny, self-glorification. And in all the rest he followed the beaten path exactly as it had been signposted, step by step.

I 614 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO The boys read me their own verses and demanded mine in exchange, and I as yet had none. They read Pasternak particularly, whom they praised to the skies. I had once read "My Sister Life" and hadn't liked it, considering it precious, abstruse, and very, very far from ordinary human paths. But they recited to me Lieutenant Shmidt's last speech at his trial, and it touched me

deeply because it applied so to us:

For thirty years I have nurtured My love for my native land, And I shall neither expect Nor miss your leniency.

Gammerov and Ingal were just as shiningly attuned as that: We do not need your leniency! We are not languishing from imprisonment; we are proud of it. (But who is really capable of not languishing? After a few months Ingal's young wife renounced and abandoned him. Gammerov, because of his revolutionary inclinations, did not even have a sweetheart yet.) Was it not here, in these prison cells, that the great truth dawned? The cell was constricted, but wasn't freedom even more constricted? Was it not our own people, tormented and deceived, that lay beside us there under the bunks and in the aisles?

Not to arise with my whole land Would have been harder still, And for the path that I have trod I have no qualms at all.

The young people imprisoned in these cells under the political articles of the Code were never the average young people of the nation, but were always separated from them by a wide gap. In those years most of our young people still faced a future of "disintegrating," of becoming disillusioned, indifferent, falling in love with an easy life-and then, perhaps, beginning all over again the bitter climb from that cozy little valley up to a new peakpossibly after another twenty years? But the young prisoners of 1945, sentenced under 58-10, had leaped that whole future chasm of indifference in one jump-and bore their heads boldly erect under the ax.

In the Butyrki church, the Moscow students, already sentenced, I From Island to Island 615 cut off and estranged from everything, wrote a song, and before

twilight sang it in their uncertain voices:

Three times a day we go for gruel, The evenings we pass in song, With a contraband prison needle We sew ourselves bags for the road.

We don't care about ourselves any more, We signed-just to be quicker!

And when will we ever return here again From the distant Siberian camps?

Good Lord, how could we have missed the main point of the whole thing? While we had been plowing through the mud out there on the bridgeheads, while we had been cowering in shell holes and pushing binocular periscopes above the bushes, back home a new generation had grown up and gotten moving. But hadn't it started moving in another direction? In a direction we wouldn't have been able and wouldn't have dared to move in?

They weren't brought up the way we were.

Our generation would return-having turned in its weapons, jingling its heroes' medals, proudly telling its combat stories. And

our younger brothers would only look at us contemptuously:

Oh, you stupid dolts!

END OF PART IITranslator's Notes

These translator's notes are not intended to overlap the extensive explanatory and reference material contained in the author's own notes in the text and in the glossary which follows. They attempt to give that minimum of factual material about this book and the whole work of which it is a part which will enable the reader better to put it in perspective and understand what it is, and also to deal with several areas of special Russian terminology.

The glossary which follows these notes can be very useful. It gives in alphabetical order capsule identification of persons, institutions and their acronyms, political movements, and events mentioned in the text.

The title of the book in Russian-Arkhipelag GULag-has a resonance resulting from a rhyme which cannot be rendered in English.

The image evoked by this title is that of one far-flung "country" with millions of "natives," consisting of an archipelago of islands, some as tiny as a detention cell in a railway station and others as vast as a large Western European country, contained within another country-the U.S.S.R. This archipelago is made up of the enormous network of penal institutions and all the rest of the web of machinery for police oppression and terror imposed throughout the author's period of reference on all Soviet life.

Gulag is the acronym for the Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps which supervised the larger part of this system.

I 617 Translator's Notes The author's decision to publish this work was triggered by a tragedy of August, 1973: A Leningrad woman to whom the author had entrusted a portion of his manuscript for safekeeping broke down after 120 sleepless hours of intensive questioning by Soviet Security officers and revealed where she had hidden itenabling them to seize it. Thereupon, in her desperation and depression, she committed suicide. It is to this event that the author refers in the statement that precedes the text: "Now that State Security has seized the book anyway, I have no alternative but to publish it immediately."

This present English-language edition of Parts I and II of The Gulag Archipelago differs very slightly, as a result of author's corrections and other corrections, from the Russian-language first edition of these parts which was published by the YMCA-Press in Paris in late December, 1973.

The Gulag Archipelago is a sweeping, panoramic work which consists in all of seven parts divided into three volumes--of which this present book, the first volume, contains two parts, representing about one-third of the whole.



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