Saturday, February 14, 2015

Question Commander - Alexandre - Rotation 2

There are so many gaps and holes in the camp security so why don't the prisoners escape?

Though there already have been instances in which some prisoners have escaped, most choose not to, because of the extreme weather conditions. Although Gulag camps were present in every part of the USSR, the harshest and most inhumane ones were located around the arctic circle, in the coldest part of Russia (Siberia). The inexperienced prisoners were forced to perform harsh and dangerous manual labor for the profit of many industries in the USSR, namely the mining industry, the wood industry and railway construction. In Siberia, the average annual temperature is below 0 degrees Celsius. In addition, whenever the book mentions escapees, the author chooses not to divulge any more information about after they were seen jumping the camp walls and dodging the guards' bullets. This, subsequently, gives the impression that the author is implying that the prisoners died of hunger, exhaustion and cold before reaching civilization. Another reason that prisoners cannot escape can also be the lack of moral or strength. They have been continuously weakened from a lack of nutrition and abused by the guards for years upon years. This completely discourages them from taking any risks or chances given the probability that they will be caught and punished.

"Kolyma. 1931-1955. A tin and uranium ore mine, Butugychag mountain, south-west Kolyma, the end of the 1940s. Kolyma was one of the harshest places in GULAG. The complex of camps at Kolyma lying at the northeastern tip of the Soviet Union, was the biggest prison camp system in the USSR which take in total about 10 per cent of the territory of the USSR. The main activity was extraction of gold and later uranium."
Why did the author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, choose for Ivan to be sent to camp for being wrongly convicted of treason during WWII?

The prisoners inside the Gulag varied from "normal criminals" (robbers and killers) to political prisoners caught by the NKVD or similar secret police organizations. Many times, the so-called "political prisoners" were actually innocent people who were guilty in the mistrustful eyes of the NKVD. My previous theory on Ivan's charges as a criminal were centered around the author's own experience. Since the story is based on the author's life in camp, I had believed that Ivan was sent into the Gulag system for the same reason that his creator was. That is, for writing derogatory comments about the way Stalin was ruling the country and fighting the war in letters to his friends. These letters were most likely intercepted by the NKVD, which led to his arrest. I think that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was attempting to show how many innocent victims were swept up by the Gulag system and killed on false charges.

"Solovki, 1923-1939. Prisoners on their way from Murmansk railroad station to be sent to the monastery turned to be a camp on Solovki Islands on the White Sea. The Solovetski Special Purpose Camp has particular place in the history of GULAG for since 1929 system of camps started rapidly grow on the basis of Solovki camp experience. Solovki are also a symbol of the destruction of Russian tradition and religion by Communism."
Why are there no international organizations trying to save or spread awareness of the issues inside the USSR?

I believe the answer to this question lies in a modern-day example, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), colloquially known as North Korea. The DPRK is, perhaps, the most sealed off and mysterious nation in the world. Its population is controlled through fright by a ruthless authoritarian regime led by Kim Jong Un. The international community has extreme difficulties with getting access into the country. Even when they do manage, what they are shown is a fake "stage" version of reality. I believe that this is similar to the situation in the USSR during Stalin's rule. The Gulag system was Russia's dirty little secret that they kept hidden from the world and used to terrify their own population with. 

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