The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 Quotes

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The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 Quotes (showing 1-30 of 45)
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Thus it is that no cruelty whatsoever passes by without impact. Thus it is that we always pay dearly for chasing after what is cheap.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“… What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusionary -property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life -don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn for happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart -and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it may be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted on their memory.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?... The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation.... We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
tags: evil, good
“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. Use your memory! Use your memory! It is those bitter seeds alone which might sprout and grow someday.

Look around you - there are people around you. Maybe you will remember one of them all your life and later eat your heart out because you didn't make use of the opportunity to ask him questions. And the less you talk, the more you'll hear.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“At what point, then, should one resist? When one's belt is taken away? When one is ordered to face into a corner? When one crosses the threshold of one's home? An arrest consists of a series of incidental irrelevancies, of a multitude of things that do not matter, and there seems no point in arguing about one of them individually...and yet all these incidental irrelevancies taken together implacably constitute the arrest. ”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“It is unthinkable in the twentieth century to fail to distinguish between what constitutes an abominable atrocity that must be prosecuted and what constitutes that "past" which "ought not to be stirred up.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Oh, how hard it is to part with power! This one has to understand.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Every man always has handy a dozen glib little reasons why he is right not to sacrifice himself.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn't change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

Socrates taught us: 'Know thyself!”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
tags: evil, good
“Look around you--there are people around you. Maybe you will remember one of them all your life and later eat your heart out because you didn't make use of the opportunity to ask him questions. And the less you talk, the more you'll hear. Thin strands of human lives stretch from island to island of the Archipelago. They intertwine, touch one another for one night only in just such a clickety-clacking half-dark car as this and then separate once and for all. Put your ear to their quiet humming and the steady clickety-clack beneath the car. After all, it is the spinning wheel of life that is clicking and clacking away there.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“The most intense patriotism always flourishes in the rear.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience; how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains… an unuprooted small corner of evil.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
tags: evil, good
“Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions. This cannot be denied, nor passed over, nor surpressed. How, then, do we dare insist that evildoers do not exist? And whi was it that destroyed these millions? Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.

There was a rumor going the rounds between 1918 and 1920 that the Petrograd Cheka, headed by Uritsky, and the Odessa Cheka, headed by Deich, did not shoot all those condemned to death but fed some of them alive to the animals in the city zoos. I do not know whether this is truth or calumny, or, if there were any such cases, how many were there. But I wouldn't set out to look for proof, either. Following the practice of the bluecaps, I would propose that they prove to us that this was impossible. How else could they get food for the zoos in those famine years? Take it away from the workibg class? Those enemies were going to die anyway, so why couldn't their deaths support the zoo economy of the Republic and thereby assist our march into the future? Wasn't it expedient?

That is the precise line the Shakespearean evildoer could not cross. But the evildoer with ideology does cross it, and his eyes remain dry and clear.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
“And even in the fever of epidemic arrests, when people leaving for work said farewell to their families every day, because they could not be certain they would return at night, even then almost no one tried to run away and only in rare cases did people commit suicide. And that was exactly what was required. A submissive sheep is a find for a wolf.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time that those bluecaps were out at night for no good purpose. And you could be sure ahead of time that you’d be cracking the skull of a cutthroat.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Ideology—that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes, so that he won't hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Then came the time for the evening visit to the toilet, for which, in all likelihood, you had waited, all atremble, all day. How relieved, how eased, the whole world suddenly became! How the great questions all simplified themselves at the same instant---did you feel it?”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“But it is impossible to picture any of our interrogators, right up to Abakumov and Beria, wanting to slip into prisoner's skin even for one hour, or feeling compelled to sit and meditate in solitary confinement.

Their branch of service does not require them to be educated people of broad culture and broad views - and they are not. Their branch of service does not require them to think logically - and they do not. Their branch of service requires only that they carry out orders exactly and be impervious to suffering - and that is what they do and what they are. We who have passed through their hands feel suffocated when we think of the legion, which is stripped bare of universal human ideals.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
“Sometimes the principal emotion of the person arrested is relief and even happiness! This is another aspect of human nature. It happened before the Revolution too: the Yekaterinodar schoolteacher Serdyukova, involved in the case of Aleksandr Ulyanov, felt only relief when she was arrested. But this feeling was a thousand times stronger during epidemics of arrests when all around you they were hauling in people like yourself and still had not come for you; for some reason they were taking their time. After all, that kind of exhaustion, that kind of suffering, is worse than any kind of arrest, and not only for a person of limited courage.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Without even knowing it ourselves, we were ransomed by the small change in copper that was left from the golden coins our great-grandfathers had expended, at a time when morality was not considered relative and when the distinction between good and evil was very simply perceived by the heart.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“Now for the first time you were about to see people who were not your enemies. Now for the first time you were about to see others who were alive, who were traveling your road, and whom you could join to yourself with the joyous word "we.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
“In the twenties the religious education of
children was classified as a political crime under Article 58-10 of the Code—in other words, counterrevolutionary propaganda! True, one was still permitted to renounce one's religion at one's trial: it didn't often happen but it nonetheless did happen that the father would renounce his religion and remain at home to raise the children while the mother went to the Solovetsky Islands. (Throughout all those years women manifested great firmness in their faith.) All persons convicted of religious activity received tenners, the longest term then given.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

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