There is a proverb: “No, don’t dig up the past! Dwell on the past and you’ll lose an eye!” But the proverb goes on to say: “Forget the past and you’ll lose both eyes.”

Such is quoted by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) in the Preface to The Gulag Archipelago, hastily published in 1973 by the French publishing house, Editions du Seuil after State Security had seized a copy of the manuscript in Moscow. Its release stunned Western readers, largely unaware of the monstrous ideology that condoned the arrest and torture of political prisoners that was begun under Lenin and expanded by Stalin. Over eighty thousand Russians lost their lives, many in slave labor camps in Siberia.

A political prisoner himself, Solzhenitsyn spent eleven years in prisons, labor camps and exile. Coerced into the maw of Evil, he was mangled, yet emerged with stories to tell. His survival depended upon memorizing the stories of cellmates, upon playing well the brutal games of his captors, and upon his passionate witness to reveal these atrocities to the world. Of that period, he says: “… I came to almost love those monstrous years…” during which he cast off his Marxism and became a Christian.

Following Khrushchev’s 1956 exoneration, Solzhenitsyn set to work incorporating the reports of two hundred and twenty-seven other cellmates and those of thirty-six writers in what became The Gulag. Only incidentally did he incorporate his own story, thereby setting him off as a unique witness. Nights secreted this composition that ended in 1967.

His reference to “my dear reader” riveted me into this 600+ page jaw-dropping testimony.

Might you become one of them?

 

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