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Of course, they proclaimed immediately that the horrors of the Tsarist prisons would not be repeated; that fatiguing correction would not be permitted; that there would be no compulsory silence in prison, no solitary confinement, no separating the prisoners from one another during outdoor walks, no marching in step and single file, not even any locked cells. 6 Go ahead, dear guests, get together, and talk as much as you like and complain about the Bolsheviks. And the attention of the new prison authorities was directed toward the combat readiness of the prison guards outside the walls and the takeover of the stock of prisons inherited from the Tsar. (This was one particular part of the machinery of state that did not have to be destroyed and rebuilt from its foundations.) Fortunately, it turned out that the Civil War had not resulted in the destruction of all the principal central prisons and jails. What was really necessary, however, was to repudiate all those old, besmirched words. So now they called
6. Vyshinsky, Ot Tyurem k Vospitatelnym Uchrezhdeniyam.
I 460 THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO them political isolators-political detention centers-demonstrating with this phrase their view of the members of once revolutionary parties as political enemies and stressing not the punitive role of the bars but only the necessity of isolating (and only temporarily, it appeared) these old-fashioned revolutionaries from the onward march of the new society. So that was how the arches of the old central prisons (evidently including the one in Suzdal from the very beginning of the Civil War) came to receive SR's, Social Democrats, and Anarchists.
They all returned to prison with a consciousness of their rights as convicts and a long-established tradition of how to stand up for them. They accepted as their legal due a special political ration (conceded by the Tsar and confirmed by the Revolution), which included half a pack of cigarettes a day; purchases from the market (cottage cheese, milk) ; unrestricted walks outdoors during most hours of the day; being addressed with the formal personal pronoun by prison personnel and not having to stand up when addressed by them; confinement of husband and wife in the same cell; the right to have newspapers, magazines, books, writing materials, and personal articles, even including razors and scissors;
sending and receiving letters three times a month; visits from relatives once a month; windows without bars, of course (at that time the concept of the "muzzle" did not exist); unrestricted visits from cell to cell; courtyards with greenery and lilacs for outdoor walks;
the freedom to choose companions for outdoor walks and to toss small mailbags from one courtyard to another; and the dispatching of pregnant women from prison into exile two months before they were due to give birth. 7 All this was just the politregime-the prison regimen for political prisoners. But the political prisoners of the twenties remembered well something even more important: self-government for political prisoners, and hence even in prison the sense of oneself as part of a whole, a member of a community. Self-government (the free election of spokesmen who represented all the interests of all the prisoners in negotiations with the prison administration) weakened the pressure on the individual because all shoulders bore it together; and it augmented each protest because all voices spoke as one.
7. From 1918 on, they did not hesitate to imprison women SR's, even when they were pregnant.
I 461 Tyurzak They undertook to defend all this! And the prison authorities undertook to take it all away from them. And a silent battle began in which no artillery shells were fired, and rifle shots only rarely, and the crash of broken glass wasn't audible even half a verst away. A mute struggle went on for vestiges of freedom, for vestiges of the right to have individual opinions, and it went on for almost twenty years-but no large, richly illustrated volumes describing it have ever been published. And all its ups-and-downs, its catalogue of victories and of defeats, are almost lost to us now, because, after all, there is no written language in the Archipelago and oral communication is broken off when people die. And only random particles of that struggle have occasionally come down to us, illuminated by moonlight that is indirect and indistinct.
And since that time we have grown so supercilious! We are familiar with tank battles; we know about nuclear explosions.
What kind of struggle is it over the question of whether cells are kept locked and whether prisoners, to exercise their right to communicate, can openly spell out messages to each other by knocking on the walls, shout from window to window, drop notes from floor to floor on threads, and insist that at least the elected spokesmen of the various party fractions be allowed to move freely among the cells? What sort of a struggle is it to Us when the chief of the Lubyanka goes into the cell and the Anarchist Anna G--va (in 1926) or the SR Katya Olitskaya (1931) refuses to stand up when he enters? And that savage beast thought up a punishment for Katya: to deprive her of the right to go to the toilet. What kind of struggle was it when two girls, Shura and Vera (in 1925), in protest against the Lubyanka rule-intended to stifle personality-that conversations may be carried on only in whispers, sang loudly in their cell (only about lilacs and the spring), and thereupon the prison chief, the Latvian Dukes, dragged them through the corridor to the toilet by their hair? Or when the students in a Stolypin car en route from Leningrad ( 1924) sang revolutionary songs and the convoy thereupon deprived them of water? They yelled out: "A Tsarist convoy wouldn't have done that!" and the convoy beat them. Or when the SR Kozlov, at the transit prison in Kem, loudly called the guards "executioners"-and because of that was dragged off and beaten?
After all, we have gotten used to regarding as valor only valor I 462 THE G U LAG ARC HIP E LAG 0 in war (or the kind that's needed for flying in outer space), the kind which jingle-jangles with medals. We have forgotten another concept of valor--civil valor. And that's all our society needs, just that, just that, just that! That's all we need and that's exactly what we haven't got.
In 1923, in Vyatka Prison, the SR Struzhinsky and his comrades (how many were there? who were they? what were they protesting against?) barricaded themselves in a cell, poured kerosene over all the mattresses, and incinerated themselves. Now that was an act altogether in the tradition of SclJiisselburg before the Revolution; and, not to go further, what an uproar such an act provoked then, before the Revolution, and how all Russian society was aroused! But this time around neither Vyatka knew about them, nor Moscow, nor history. And yet the human flesh crackled in the flames in exactly the same way.
That was the initial purpose of imprisonment on the Solovetsky Islands (nicknamed Solovki): it was such a good place, cut off from communication with the outside world for half a year at a time. You couldn't be heard from there no matter how loud you shouted, and you could even bum yourself up for all anyone would know. In 1923 the imprisoned socialists were transported there from Pertominsk on the Onega Peninsula-and split up among three isolated monasteries.
Take Savvatyevsky Monastery, consisting of the two buildings which had formerly been guest quarters for religious believers on pilgrimage. Part of the lake was included in the prison compound.
In the early months everything seemed to be all right: they had their special political regimen, several relatives succeeded in getting there for visits, and three spokesmen from the three parties were wholly responsible for negotiating with the prison administration. And the monastery compound was a free zone. Inside it the prisoners could talk, think, and do as they pleased without hindrance.
But even then, at the dawn of the Archipelago, there were insistent unpleasant latrine rumors (not yet so called) to the effect that the special political regimen was going to be liquidated.
And, in reality, having waited until the middle of December, until the White Sea was no longer navigable, with the consequent cutoff in all communication with the outside world, the chief of I Tyurzak 463 the Solovetsky Camp, Eichmans, 8 announced that new instructions had indeed been received regarding the regimen. They wouldn't, of course, take everything away, not by any means!
They would cut down on correspondence, and then on something else, too, and, as the most keenly felt measure of the lot, from that day on, December 20, 1923, the right to go in and out of prison buildings twenty-four hours a day would be curtailedlimited to the daylight hours up to 6 P.M.
The party fractions decided to protest, and the SR's and Anarchists called for volunteers: on the first day of the new prohibition they would go outside exactly at 6 P.M. But, as it turned out, Nogtyev, the chief of the Savvatyevsky Monastery Prison, had such an itchy trigger finger that even before the appointed hour of 6 (and maybe their watches showed different times; after all, there was no checking it by radio in those days), the guards entered the compound with rifles and opened fire on the prisoners there, who were out of doors quite legally. Three volleys killed six and critically wounded three.
The next day Eichmans himself showed up: there had been an unfortunate misunderstanding. Nogtyev was removed (transferred and promoted). A funeral was held for the victims. They
sang in chorus across the Solovetsky wilderness:
You fell a victim in a fateful fray.
(Was not this perhaps the last occasion when that long-drawn-out melody was permitted for newly dead victims?) They pushed a great boulder onto the common grave and carved on it the names of those who had been killed. 9 One cannot say that the press concealed this event. Pravda, for example, carried a report in small type: the prisoners had attacked the convoy, and six had been killed. The honest newspaper Rote Fahne reported revolt on Solovki. 1o
8. How like Eichmann, is it not?
9. In 1925 the stone was overturned, and the names on it were thus buried too. Any of you who clamber about Solovki-seek it out and gaze upon it!
10. One of the SR's in the Savvatyevsky Monastery was Yuri Podbelsky.
He collected the medical documents on the Solovetsky massacre-for publication at some future date. But a year later, at the Sverdlovsk Transit Prison, they discovered a false bottom in his suitcase and confiscated the material he'd hidden. And that is how Russian history stumbles and falls.
464 \ THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO Yet the prisoners had defended the regimen successfully! And for a whole year no one spoke of changing it.
For the whole of 1924, yes. But toward the end of the year, insistent rumors circulated again that they were planning to introduce a new system in December. The Dragon had grown hungry again. He wanted new victims. So even though the three monasteries in which socialists were confined-Savvatyevsky, Troitsky, and Muksalmsky-were on separate islands, they managed, by conspiratorial methods, to reach an agreement that all the party fractions in all three monasteries would on one and the same day deliver an ultimatum to Moscow and to the Solovki administration: They must either be removed from the Solovetsky Islands before navigation stopped or else the previous political regimen must be left unchanged. The ultimatum stipulated a time limit of two weeks, and then all three prisons would go on a hunger strike.