Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
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09-05-2017, 12:48 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(09-05-2017 12:41 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I was only referring to the tales of people A.S. recounted which got them in trouble and how they were tortured before being sent to the Gulags.

What makes you doubt the torture? Every totalitarian regime tortured their victims one way or the other to make them sign a confession. There are numerous accounts of former prisoners being tortured, beaten, starved, before being sent off to some camp. It's not a unique account by any measure.

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09-05-2017, 01:27 PM (This post was last modified: 09-05-2017 01:38 PM by Deltabravo.)
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(09-05-2017 12:48 PM)abaris Wrote:  
(09-05-2017 12:41 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I was only referring to the tales of people A.S. recounted which got them in trouble and how they were tortured before being sent to the Gulags.

What makes you doubt the torture? Every totalitarian regime tortured their victims one way or the other to make them sign a confession. There are numerous accounts of former prisoners being tortured, beaten, starved, before being sent off to some camp. It's not a unique account by any measure.

No, not at all. I have never doubted any stories of torture. I picked up the book because I just wanted to read it. We know a lot of Russians and I just thought it would be a good read.

I was just surprised that it had a funny ring to it. I suppose part of the problem is that I had just looked at the Soviet Union as having got rid of religion and it never occurred to me that this might not be the case. I didn't know any Russians at all until recently but there has been an influx of Russians into the Mediterranean area of recent years so I now know quite a few and they are all Russian Orthodox, and, it seems, Putin is supported by the Russian Orthodox Church.

I put the book down, not because I doubt there was torture etc. I also read Stalin's biography at the same time, btw. The point is, I suppose, that I don't know anything much about Solzhenitsyn and what he did certainly did not justify his being imprisoned or exiled to Siberia. That's not the point. What I wonder is whether there was some exaggeration of the stories of torture of the people who he met. If they were, in fact, anti-Soviet Christians, then I would expect they would have wanted to portray the Soviet Union in as poor a light as possible. And I'm not pro-Soviet either so I have horse in this race. The book just seemed to me not to be plausible so I stopped reading it.

On a completely different track, I watched Al Jazeera's coverage of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict a while back. One of the stories they aired repeatedly was about how the Israelis tortured a captured Palestinian fighter. The Palestinian went on a hunger strike. He recounted how he was tortured and what it amounted to is that they would give him food and ask him to eat. When he refused they would wheel him into an office in a wheelchair, because he was very weak, and an official in the prison hospital would ask him why he wasn't eating. When he refused to talk, they would take him back to his cell. I suppose, eventually, he ate, because he lived to tell the tale. It was plainly ridiculous and pure propaganda.
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09-05-2017, 02:01 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
Solzhenitsyn was writing about the Russia of 50 or more years ago. How many of your Russian acquaintances are old enough to remember those days? I know very little about Russia, but I would guess that Putin's Russia is quite different from Stalin's Russia.
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09-05-2017, 02:20 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(09-05-2017 02:01 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  I know very little about Russia, but I would guess that Putin's Russia is quite different from Stalin's Russia.

Chruschtschow's Russia already was different.

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09-05-2017, 02:27 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(09-05-2017 12:41 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  
(08-05-2017 11:30 PM)Deesse23 Wrote:  Gulag was perceived as a very real threat to my family living in the SU under Uncle Joe. My dad turned 78 two days ago. You might want to go and tell him it all was propaganda before he passes away.

I vividly remember him saying that you are going to go and "comb polar bears" if you did anything wrong back then, or anybody said you did anything wrong. I wonder where he got this from, because he isnt and wasnt a book reader.

I was only referring to the tales of people A.S. recounted which got them in trouble and how they were tortured before being sent to the Gulags. I wasn't referring to their experiences in the Gulags. The stories just seemed exaggerated in comparison to what they didn't do to A.S. That's all.

Anyway, the answer to my question would be a "no", although I don't get the impression anyone posting in response has read the book.

Indeed, i havent read the book, but what makes you think someone exaggerates, when its well known about Stalins regime that unspeakable things have been done, to entire populations, to paupers and Marshals, noone exempt, not the companions of Stalin himself, not the family (it is unclear however what he is responsible of exactly in regards to his first wife). Trotzki has been followed as far as Mexico many many years after he was removed from any power, and has been assasinated. Before that, "damnatio memoriae" was done to him, his image shouldnt even be remembered!

The red armies whole officer corps was in major parts eradicated by purges and killings, just because.

Look at what Berija was allowed to do. He personally tortured people even. People by the thousands (100.000 are being said in total!) "disappeared" into Lubyanka and its vast dungeons and were never seen again.

So considering all of this (and much more): What makes you think that anything could have been exaggerated about what happened to deliquents during their ordeal once the state targeted and victimized them? If Stalin was able and well willing to send about anyone to Gulag to have them work, starve and freeze to death, and considering he had helpers like Berija, what makes you think he went "oh, but please dont torture them before you send them to gulag. That would be over the top"?

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09-05-2017, 02:34 PM (This post was last modified: 09-05-2017 02:44 PM by Vera.)
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
"No, Vera, I just didn't feel it rang true" - well now I, and the whole world, are convinced. You really *are* a special kind of stupid. And a vile one at that.

And whether or not I "know any Russians" is irrelevant. I know the history. I have FUCKING lived some of it and so have my family and friends.

And I'll engage in whatever rudeness I bloody well like, you ignorant asshole.

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09-05-2017, 02:39 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(09-05-2017 02:27 PM)Deesse23 Wrote:  Trotzki has been followed as far as Mexico many many years after he was removed from any power, and has been assasinated. Before that, "damnatio memoriae" was done to him, his image shouldnt even be remembered!

But one may not forget that Trotzki only got his halo in the minds of western intellectuals because he was murdered by Stalin. He was a murderous bastard in his own right. The massacre of Kronstadt, the only attempt of ordinary people establishing something like real communism, was his doing. Only the most prominent incident of him acting as Lenin's bloodhound.

Trotzki was victim as well as perpetrator.

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09-05-2017, 03:14 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(09-05-2017 02:39 PM)abaris Wrote:  
(09-05-2017 02:27 PM)Deesse23 Wrote:  Trotzki has been followed as far as Mexico many many years after he was removed from any power, and has been assasinated. Before that, "damnatio memoriae" was done to him, his image shouldnt even be remembered!

But one may not forget that Trotzki only got his halo in the minds of western intellectuals because he was murdered by Stalin. He was a murderous bastard in his own right. The massacre of Kronstadt, the only attempt of ordinary people establishing something like real communism, was his doing. Only the most prominent incident of him acting as Lenin's bloodhound.

Trotzki was victim as well as perpetrator.

Sure, but the topic was "what was possible to happen to you under Stalin". The case of Trotzki just shows that noone was exempt, not the generals, and not the founder of the red army. Anything could happen to you, at any time, to anyone. Why DB thinks "torture before deportation" is exaggeration is beyond me, even if possibly Solchenyzins story may be wrong, there most probably were millions of other fates that went just that way.

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10-05-2017, 05:19 PM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
(06-05-2017 02:34 PM)Deltabravo Wrote:  I recall when Alexander Solzhenitzyn's book came out and he arrived in the US, all the fuss about it and my initial reaction was that this was a great man, a great author, but I had no desire to read his book.

A few months ago, I eventually succumbed and picked up a copy at the local library and sat down to read it. After the first few chapters I had to put it down because I had an overwhelming sensation that the book didn't ring true. I was wondering if anyone else had the same feeling about it. The reason I say this is that he goes on and on about very insignificant people he met telling him story after story about how they had been arrested, wrongly, because some relative had done something relatively trivial which had given away that they were dissidents. Typically, the detainee would be made to stand in knee deep water for three days or hung upside down by their toes, or have their testicles crushed repeatedly or some other equally horrific punishment would be inflicted on them.

But, Al, who was caught communicating across enemy lines was arrested and, shock of horrors, was left in a room by himself for a few hours, before being put on a train. I realized after a while that all the stories of truly eye-watering torture were second hand tales with no corroboration, while he wasn't tortured at all. One would think that when a 23 year old grocer's assistant whose uncle sneezed inappropriately as politburo member was passing by was racked, a serving army officer who was, in fact, anti-Soviet, would have been harshly dealt with. Apparently not.

There are a lot of Russians living near us now and what I realize is they are all devout Orthodox Christians. I hadn't realized that this religion survived quite successfully through the Soviet era and none of these people seem any different in outlook than Westerners. None of them seem to have anything bad to say about their or their families' experiences or have anything bad to say about their lives back home and they all think Putin is a great guy. It's most peculiar.

I don't doubt Al was locked up in a Gulag but I just couldn't finish the book because it just seemed like a work of a propagandist, not that I am a fan of the Soviets or Russia.
Solzhenitzyn's first wife, Natalia Reshetovskaia, maintained that a significant portion of the book was what she called "camp folklore".
Sanya: My life with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/06/world/...gulag.html


Of course, she also had a bit of an ax to grind with Al, and there is some suspicion that her statements may have been part of a KGB effort to smear Solzhenitsyn .
Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB In Europe And The West

Among historians, Solzhenitsyn's reliability as an historical source is ambiguous. His history of the Russian Jews (Two Hundred Years Together), for example, has been denounced by some as an anti-Semitic screed.
Dimensional Spaces in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Two Hundred Years Together


As regards The Gulag Archipelago, there are issues with the quantitative data in Solzhenitsyn's account differing significantly from those gleaned from actual Soviet archives after the fall of the Soviet Union. He claims, for example, that at least 50 million passed through the camps, which had a collective population as high as 15 million; information from the archives puts those numbers at more like 14 million total, with a peak population (in 1953) of about 2 million. (Of course Al may have just not been particularly good at making estimates...)

There seems to be a tendency to treat Solzhenitsyn's reports as literary and political works, valuable as qualitative accounts of life within the Gulags, but weak as sources of quantitative data, or in generalizing across the whole network of camps.
(See, for example):
Images of Dictatorship, Vol. 3

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Dr H

"So, I became an anarchist, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
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11-05-2017, 10:10 AM
RE: Gulag Archipeligo - truth or propaganda?
Kolyma. I needn't say more.

"If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality.
The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination."
- Paul Dirac
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