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"I wish you happiness, Captain!" Not only was I no longer a captain, but I had been exposed I
20 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGOas an enemy of the people (for among us every person is totally exposed from the moment of arrest). And he had wished happiness-to an enemy?8 The panes rattled. The German shells tore up the earth two hundred yards away, reminding one that this could not have happened back in the rear, under the ordinary circumstances of established existence, but only out here, under the breath of death, which was not only close by but in the face of which all were equal.
This is not going to be a volume of memoirs about my own life. Therefore I am not going to recount the truly amusing details of my arrest, which was like no other. That night the SMERSH officer~ gave up their last hope of being able to make out where we were on the map-they never had been able to read maps anyway. So they politely handed the map to me and asked me to tell the driver how to proceed to counterintelligence at army headquarters. I, therefore, led them and myself to that prison, and in gratitude they immediately put me not in an ordinary cell but in a punishment cell. And I really must describe that closet in a German peasant house which served as a temporary punishment cell.
It was the length of one human body and wide enough for three to lie packed tightly, four at a pinch. As it happened, I was the fourth, shoved in after Inidnight. The three lying there blinked sleepily at me in the light of the smoky kerosene lantern and moved over, giving me enough space to lie on my side, half between them, half on top of them, until gradually, by sheer weight, I could wedge my way in. And so four overcoats lay on the crushed-straw-covered floor, with eight boots pointing at the door. They slept and I burned. The more self-assured I had been as a captain half a day before, the more painful it was to crowd onto the floor of that closet. Once or twice the other fellows woke up numb on one side, and we all turned over at the same time.
'6. Here is what is most surprising of all: one can be a human being despite everything! Nothing happened to Travkin. Not long ago, we met again cordially, and I really got to know him for the first time. He is a retired general and an inspector of the Hunters' Alliance.
I A "est 21 Toward morning they awoke, yawned, grunted, pulled up their legs, moved into various corners, and our acquaintance began.
"What are you in for?" But a troubled little breeze of caution had already breathed on me beneath the poisoned roof of SMERSH and I pretended to
"No idea. Do the bastards tell you?" However, my cellmates-tankmen in soft black helmets-hid nothing. They were three honest, openhearted soldiers-people of a kind I had become attached to during the war years because I myself was more complex and worse. All three had been officers. Their shoulder boards also had been viciously tom off, and in some places the cotton batting stuck out. On their stained field shirts light patches indicated where decorations had been removed, and there were dark and red scars on their faces and arms, the results of wounds and bums. Their tank unit had, unfortunately, arrived for repairs in the village where the SMERSH counterintelligence headquarters of the Forty-eighth Army was located. Still damp from the battle of the day before, yesterday they had gotten drunk, and on the outskirts of the village broke into a bath where they had noticed two raunchy broads going to bathe. The girls, half-dressed, managed to get away all right from the soldiers' staggering, drunken legs. But one of them, it turned out, was the property of the army Chief of Counterintelligence, no less.
Yes! For three weeks the war had been going on inside Germany, and all of us knew very well that if the girls were German they could be raped and then shot. This was almost a combat distinction. Had they been Polish girls or our own displaced Russian girls, they could have been chased naked around the garden and slapped on the behind-an amusement, no more.
But just because this one was the "campaign wife" of the Chief of Counterintelligence, right off some deep-in-the-rear sergeant had viciously tom from three front-line officers the shoulder boards awarded them by the front headquarters and had taken off the decorations conferred upon them by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. And now these warriors, who had gone through the whole war and who had no doubt crushed more than one I
22 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGOline of enemy trenches, were waiting for a court-martial, whose members, had it not been for their tank, could have come nowhere near the village.
We put out the kerosene lamp, which had already used up all the air there was to breathe. A Judas hole the size of a postage stamp had been cut in the door and through it came indirect light from the corridor. Then, as if afraid that with the coming of daylight we would have too much room in the punishment cell, they tossed in a fifth person. He stepped in wearing a newish Red Army tunic and a cap that was also new, and when he stopped opposite the peephole we could see a fresh face with a turned-up nose and red cheeks.
"Where are you from, brother? Who are you?" "From the other side," he answered briskly. "A shhpy."
"You're kidding!" We were astounded. (To be a spy and to admit it-Sheinin and the brothers Tur had never written that kind of spy story!) "What is there to kid about in wartime?" the young fellow sighed reasonably. "And just how else can you get back home from being a POW? Well, you tell me!" He had barely begun to tell us how, some days back, the Germans had led him through the front lines so that he could play the spy and blow up bridges, whereupon he had gone immediately to the nearest battalion headquarters to turn himself in; but the weary, sleep-starved battalion commander hadn't believed his story about being a spy and had sent him off to the nurse to get a pill. And at that moment new impressions burst
"Out for toilet call! Hands behind your backs!" hollered a master sergeant hardhead as the door sprang open; he was just built for swinging the tail of a 122-millimeter cannon.
A circle of machine gunners had been strung around the peasant courtyard, guarding the path which was pointed out to us and which went behind the barn. I was bursting with indignation that some ignoramus of a master sergeant dared to give orders to us officers: "Hands behind your backs!" But the tank officers put their hands behind them and I followed suit.
Back of the barn was a small square area in which the snow had been all trampled down but had not yet melted. It was soiled I A"est 23 all over with human feces, so densely scattered over the whole square that it was difficult to find a spot to place one's two feet and squat. However, we spread ourselves about and the five of us did squat down. Two machine gunners grimly pointed their machine pistols at us as we squatted, and before a minute had
passed the master sergeant brusquely urged us on:
"Come on, hurry it up! With us they do it quickly!" Not far from me squatted one of the tankmen, a native of Rostov, a tall, melancholy senior lieutenant. His face was blackened by a thin film of metallic dust or smoke, but the big red scar stretching across his cheek stood out nonetheless.
"What do you mean, with us?" he asked quietly, indicating no intention of hurrying back to the punishment cell that still stank of kerosene.
"In SMERSH counterintelligence!" the master sergeant shot back proudly and more resonantly than was called for. (The counterintelligence men used to love that tastelessly concocted word "SMERSH," manufactured from the initial syllables of the words for "death to spies." They felt it intimidated people.) "And with us we do it slowly," replied the senior lieutenant thoughtfully. His helmet was pulled back, uncovering his still untrimmed hair. His oaken, battle-hardened rear end was lifted toward the pleasant coolish breeze.
"Where do you mean, with us?" the master sergeant barked at him more loudly than he needed to.
"In the Red Army," the senior lieutenant replied very quietly from his heels, measuring with his look the cannon-tailer that never was.
Such were my first gulps of prison air.
Chapter 2 • The History of Our Sewage Disposal System When people today decry the abuses of the cult, they keep getting hung up on those years which are stuck in our throats, '37 and '38. And memory begins to make it seem as though arrests were never made before or after, but only in those two years.
. Although I have no statistics at hand, I am not afraid of erring when I say that the wave of 1937 and 1938 was neither the only one nor even the main one, but only one, perhaps, of the three biggest waves which strained the murky, stinking pipes of our prison sewers to bursting.
Before it came the wave of 1929 and 1930, the size of a good River Ob, which drove a mere fifteen million peasants, maybe even more, out into the taiga and the tundra. But peasants are a silent people, without a literary voice, nor do they write complaints or memoirs. No interrogators sweated out the night with them, nor did they bother to draw up formal indictments-it was enough to have a decree from the village soviet. This wave poured forth, sank down into the permafrost, and even our most active minds recall hardly a thing about it. It is as if it had not even scarred the Russian conscience. And yet Stalin (and you and I as well) committed no crime more heinous than this.
And after it there was the wave of 1944 to 1946, the size of a good Yenisei, when they dumped whole nations down the sewer pipes, not to mention millions and millions of others who I 25 The History of Our Sewage Disposal System (because of us!) had been prisoners of war, or carried off to Germany and subsequently repatriated. (This was Stalin's method of cauterizing the wounds so that scar tissue would form more quickly, and thus the body politic as a whole would not have to rest up, catch its breath, regain its strength.) But in this wave, too, the people were of the simpler kind, and they wrote no memoirs.
But the wave of 1937 swept up and carried off to the Archipelago people of position, people with a Party past, yes, educated people, around whom were many who had been wounded and remained in the cities... and what a lot of them had pen in hand!
And today they are all writing, speaking, remembering: "Nineteen thirty-seven!" A whole Volga of the people's grief!
But just say "Nineteen thirty-seven" to a Crimean Tatar, a Kalmyk, a Chechen, and he'll shrug his shoulders. And what's 1937 to Leningrad when 1935 had come before it? And for the second-termers (i.e., repeaters), or people from the Baltic countries-weren't 1948 and 1949 harder on them? And if sticklers for style and geography should accuse me of having omitted some Russian rivers, and of not yet having named some of the waves, then just give me enough paper! There were enough waves to use up the names of all the rivers of Russia!
It is well known that any organ withers away if it is not used.
Therefore, if we know that the Soviet Security organs, or Organs (and they christened themselves with this vile word), praised and exalted above all living things, have not died off even to the extent of one single tentacle, but, instead, have grown new ones and strengthened their muscles-it is easy to deduce that they have had constant exercise.
Through the sewer pipes the flow pulsed. Sometimes the pressure was higher than had been projected, sometimes lower.
But the prison sewers were never empty. The blood, the sweat, and the urine into which we were pulped pulsed through them continuously. The history of this sewage system is the history of an endless swallow and flow; flood alternating with ebb and ebb again with flood; waves pouring in, some big, some small; brooks and rivulets flowing in from all sides; trickles oozing in through gutters; and then just plain individually scooped-up droplets.
The chronological list which follows, in which waves made up I