Risk Taking Researcher
This week, the book continued to describe the regular day in the life of a Gulag prisoner. Ivan resumes his work on the construction of the building. However, it was one specific scene that caught my attention in this section. It was when Tiurin, their squad leader, is telling the story of how he got thrown in the "special" camp.
" 'Machine-gunner, first-class. Excellent marks in military training and polit...' 'First class! What are you talking about, you shit? Your father's a kulak. Look, this document has come from Kamen. Your father's a kulak and you've been hiding.'"
I decided that in order to understand what he was talking about I must research what was a kulak and why it was so terrible to be related to one. In the beginning, kulaks were farmers who had grown wealthier than others due to their production, however, once the USSR got to the Stalin regime, everything changed. Kulaks were farmers who had more animals or land than others, and were considered an enemy of the poorer peasants. They were described as "bloodsuckers, vampires, plunderers of the people and profiteers, who fatten on famine". There came a point in which there was a start of a revolution to completely eliminate this class separation, and government official murdered and seized kulaks' land. Some were also sent to labor camps.
Kulaks were just one of the many people who were labeled as "enemies of the people". This was a term that used to identify a group that was acting against society. In the Soviet Union this title was given to anyone who was in control. They were imprisoned, executed and their relatives could be sent to the Gulag prison camps. These citizens were "awarded" that title mainly due to their profession or social position before the revolution. This included those who used labor, merchants, policemen, etc. The enemies of society were deprived of rights such as voting and rationing.
As I was researching this entire term, I noticed the revolution being mentioned, and I decided to research more on that entire concept to help me understand what was truly happening in the country to get to that point.
It all started in the First World War, which changed the map of Europe entirely. Around 1917, the power in Russia started to change, as the Temporary Government was starting to gain control. Their popularity among the people increased due to their posters, slogans and their charismatic leader, Vladimir Lenin. However, it took five years for them to reach complete power. These were years of Civil War, which caused Russia to loose millions of lives, industry to fall and they lost control of Poland and other smaller nations. That led to a form of Renaissance of the Russian people. With the new government, the country had the opportunity to complete change grow once again, now as a communist nation. Various of the greatest artists and film-makers in Russian history arouse at that time. Economy started to grow at a high rate. Russians only thought about transformation. Everything changed once again in 1922, when Joseph Stalin rose to power after the death of Lenin. Russia began to grow in industrialization, and gain nuclear and military power. It was no longer the mainly agricultural country it was before, now it was a completely industrial state. This new regime brought with it a time of great misery for the population. There was food scarcity, and many people lived in poverty due to the government confiscating their supplies and land. It was completely Communist. That was also the time of the first Gulags.
Poster created by Lila Brick advertising the Lenin Soviet regime.
In the book, even though it was a Communist nation, Ivan mentions that people still starved. This is due to the USSR's rationing system. It started with a basis of coupons, where people would receive coupons for doing the right things, such as a good worker would receive a coupon for a TV. That resulted into a time of food and supple shortage in the country, this lead to food being completely rationed to the people.
|The coupon-based system resulted in extremely long queues to get to their food and supplies.|
Wikipedia. "Kulak." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 09 Jan. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulak>.
Wikipedia. "Enemy of the People." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_of_the_people>.
Paranyushkin, Dmitry. "20th Century – Revolution, Communists, USSR, Stalin's Industrialisation." Way to Russia Guide. Way to Russia Guides / Ways Ltd, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <http://www.waytorussia.net/WhatIsRussia/20thCentury-History.html>.
Revinskaya, Elena. "A Look at the Old Ration System in Russia | Russia & India Report." Russia & India Report. Russia Beyond The Headlines, 16 Oct. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <http://in.rbth.com/society/2013/10/16/a_look_at_the_old_ration_system_in_russia_30163.html>.