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'The Gulag Archipelago is a non-fiction novel by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
An account of life in The Gulag, considered the definite text. Multiple editions exist, most of which being abridged because of the sheer length. Tells the entire story of the Gulag, its history, the lies told to the public about the nature of the Soviet prison system. The First Circle can be considered the fictional sequel.
This book contains the following tropes:
- The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best In People: There is a chapter called The Ascent that explores how people could actually become better people while living in the slavery and poverty of the work camp.
- Also this trope is Truth in Television for Solzhenitsyn as he discovered in camp just how ruthless he had been in his former life. With several years to mellow out and reflect upon his life, and to listen to the stories of those around him, Solzhenitsyn was able to collect enough truth and human sentiment to be able to publish a book that would help topple a massive and corrupt empire.
- Bad Boss: too many Gulag camp managers to count. In many cases they were responsible to no one and had total control over the zeks' lives, with predictable results.
- Benevolent Boss: ...but there were a few, very few, managers and guards who kept their human decency.
- Doorstopper: It is very large book, normally published in three heavy volumes.
- More Communist Than Thou: many of the Communist prisoners being purged still think themselves loyal to Stalin's regime, convinced that it was all a mistake that they were arrested, whereas everybody around them are of course scum and deserve every moment of their sentence. Solzhenitsyn distinguishes between them and the true socialists who carried their beliefs in their hearts and not on their sleeves--and were arrested because of it.
- The Informant: stoolies, as they were called, were universally despised by prisoners and the security services alike. In many cases they didn't have a choice when they were recruited; Solzhenitsyn himself was forced to become an informant. He considered himself very fortunate to have been transferred out to a sharashka before internal security could really pressure him into snitching on overheard conversations.
- Insane Troll Logic: Article 58 of the Soviet Penal Law, which could be--and was--routinely twisted to cover any sort of unapproved behaviour.
- No Honor Among Thieves: the "58s", as the political prisoners are called, have to share their camps with the "socially friendly" elements, the thieves and career criminals, and Solzhenitsyn makes it very clear that the romanticization of the thieves has no basis at all in reality, particularly as the thieves could be trusted by the camp administration to keep the 58s under strict control.
- Place Worse Than Death: the eponymous Gulags.
- Take That: Mostly sarcastic parenthetical asides and footnotes to Soviet officials and policies, but some of those are aimed at Western persons (at least three to Bertrand Russell, for instance) sympathetic with the Soviet Union.