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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. By Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The story…. Chronicles one “typical” day for one man, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, as he attempts to survive with dignity and humanity in a Soviet prison camp (“gulag”)

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One day in the life of ivan denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

By Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The story
The story…

  • Chronicles one “typical” day for one man, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, as he attempts to survive with dignity and humanity in a Soviet prison camp (“gulag”)

  • The dehumanizing atmosphere of the gulag forces its occupants to discover creative ways to preserve their individuality while conforming to the rigid rules of the camp.

The themes
The themes

  • Reminder of the resilience of the human spirit

  • Study of the history of human cruelty and miscarriages of justice

  • Ponders the importance of preserving one’s dignity and individuality at all costs

  • Regionalism/ethnic pride

  • The relationship between power and cruelty: is it inevitable?

The terminology
The terminology

  • Valenki (plural): knee-length winter boots made from felt

  • Kolkhoz: a collective farming community

  • Gulag: forced labor camp in USSR (“special” camps—for prisoners convicted of political crimes—were located in Siberia)

  • Taiga: swampy forest in Siberia, the “outlands”

The terminology cont d
The terminology, cont’d

  • Zek: prisoner in the gulag

  • Kasha: oatmeal mush made from barley or wheat

  • Oprichniki (plural): members of the Imperial Russian police force

  • Kulak: rich peasants who were punished by the Communists for their prosperity by having their property taken away

  • Tartar: a person of irritable or violent temper

Alexander s background
Alexander S. background

  • A.S. spent his youth under the Bolshevik system: post-revolution Russia

  • He studied physics and mathematics while in University

  • In 1941, he was drafted into the Soviet army to fight in WWII for the Allies

  • In 1945, he was arrested for writing a derogatory remark about Stalin in a letter to a friend

  • He was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in a Siberian Gulag—from this experience, he gained the insight necessary to write this novel

Alexander s background cont d
Alexander S. background cont’d

  • He was released from the camp in 1953, after the death of Stalin, but still had to live in exile on the outskirts of Russia

  • In 1957, he was cleared of all charges and began living a normal life as a math teacher, writing this book in his spare time

  • In 1962, this novel was published in the Soviet literary magazine Novy Mir—it became an instant sensation in Russia

Alexander s cont d
Alexander S. cont’d

  • Nikita Khruschev—the leader in Russia after Stalin’s death—denounced Stalin and his tactics in the early 1960s, hoping to begin a “new day” for Russia

  • That new policy of openness and freedom in Russia (although not complete by any means) made this story of Stalinist (totalitarian) injustice in the prison camps extremely popular and important to “typical” Russians in the 1960s

  • True Socialism, according to N.K., did not depend on labor camps and baseless political charges to keep its citizens in line

Alexander s cont d1
Alexander S., cont’d

  • A.S. was eventually forced to leave Russia in 1974 by the KGB

  • He wrote another book that shed more light on the Gulag system, but by then Russia had evolved into the USSR and the political climate was much less sympathetic to the government-challenging views of “liberal” writers

Alexander s cont d2
Alexander S., cont’d

  • He settled in Vermont and lived there for 20 years

  • He disliked the culture of America, and spent his time in the US as a recluse

  • It is said that he hated the pop culture of the US, especially its materialism, rock music, and the US’ fascination with celebrity

  • He returned to Russia in 1994

  • Died in August 2008