≡ Menu

Escaping from the Gulag

Work Detail Execution

Even if there weren™’t such camps in existence today I’™m far too pessimistic to believe “never again.” If anything, I hope to be the one in the camp rather than the one running it. To that end, here are some lessons I learned from the book to help survive the Gulag.

  • Your best chance to escape is before you get to the Lubyanka. You’re healthy and you’ve got no walls and fewer guards than you ever will again.
  • Lie to your interrogators. Remember nothing at all. If you build them a story you’ll get tripped up in the details.
  • Sign absolutely nothing that they give to you.
  • Don’€™t trust the thieves.
  • Spend what time you have in the transit prison sleeping. You’€™ll be thankful for it after a tour on general labor.
  • If you want to survive your ten-ruble note then do whatever you can not to get out on general labor.
  • The thieves are going to get all the trustee positions.
  • It’€™s not the short ration, but the long ration that kills you. (The bonus ration is given to shock-workers who overfulfill the norm. You spend more calories earning it than you get from eating it.)
  • Don’€™t bother petitioning Stalin to release you. He wants you right where you are.
  • Don’€™t believe the rumors of a general amnesty either.
  • Gorky won’€™t tell the world about your prison conditions. Gorky depends on praising the state to maintain his livelihood.
  • Gorky will end his days in the camps anyway.
  • Tukhta: A word for the difference between the work you do and the work you tell your commissar you do.
  • If you get your Tukhta past the commissar then he’€™s going to be invested in maintaining the illusion to his bosses. He doesn’€™t want to end up behind the wire.
  • When the godfather recruits you to inform on your comrades laugh in his face.
  • Knife stoolies.
  • To escape requires constant observation, meticulous planning, and a willingness to immediately seize whatever chances fortune throws your way.
  • Study up on geography now; you’€™ll be thankful when you’€™re trying to cross the Kazakh steppes.
  • When you™’re dying of thirst in the desert it doesn’€™t help to stab your comrade to death to drink his blood to survive a little longer. He’s also badly dehydrated and won’€™t bleed much at all.
  • Lie to the commissars. Tell them what they want to hear.
  • When they let you out they aren’€™t actually letting you out. They’€™ll arrest you again and slap another tenner on you.

As a rule, it’s better not to live in a country that maintains a gulag. — On Finishing The Gulag Archipelago  


Many children of gulag prisoners were separated from their outcast parents and placed in orphanages—including illustrator Danzig Baldaev himself. Due to overcrowding and the general disregard for their lives, many were simply shot. The title reads “9 grams [the weight of a bullet] – Path to a happy childhood under the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” From “Drawings from the Gulag” by Danzig Baldaev. — Illustrating the Gulag – No Marx.com

Alert the Authorities!

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Casey Klahn September 8, 2018, 2:15 PM

    I’d say it’s also better to not live in a world with gulags, but the best one can do is keep your head on a swivel and brook no shit. Watch a lot of John Wayne. Revere your fathers. Learn woodscraft (no farking cotton!). Learn to shoot. Learn navigation. Stay honest (already said in the post).

  • Punditarian September 8, 2018, 3:19 PM

    Solzhenitsyn is good, but Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales” is better.

  • DJ September 8, 2018, 4:46 PM

    You thing I’m ever going to surrender my firearms?

  • Dan Patterson September 8, 2018, 5:59 PM

    Gritty and revealing in a way fiction cannot be. Some of us know hardship, others know poverty or depravity – the variations on a theme from “Brutality in D minor” span human experience since Eve uttered “Well, yeah, but…”. Someone with access to the newly empowered Evita/Bernie/Castro amalgam will be rewarded in the afterlife if a successful conversion from tyranny to liberty is accomplished before the rest of us are forced to pay the toll for their NewWorld Bravado.
    In the meantime: I’m Cleanin’ My Gun.

  • ghostsniper September 8, 2018, 6:05 PM

    What firearms?

  • John A. Fleming September 8, 2018, 8:51 PM

    DJ, they’re going to come at you when you least expect it. You won’t be ready. You’ll have no warning. You won’t have time to gear up. Any observed non-immediate-compliance will occasion extreme prejudice. There will be no repercussions for them.

    Before you go down, your second to last act should be to get the word out. “One if by land, two if by sea.” Imagine a flurry of gab.ai autoposts tagged “TheyCame”. With pix. Showing the tactics.

  • Rick September 9, 2018, 5:58 AM

    I look at the photo and ask myself the same question I always do when I see situations like that. 100 people who know they are ready to be shot in the head. 6,8, 20 guards. If the prisoners suddenly attacked the guards some would surely die but most probably wouldn’t, at least not at that moment. Yet, it rarely ever happens. People stand quietly waiting for sure death.

  • pbird September 9, 2018, 7:58 AM

    Don’t watch any John Wayne. Are you kidding? That blowhard faker. Really?

  • Punditarian September 9, 2018, 8:51 AM

    What makes you think they were going to kill all of them? They were only going to kill that one guy. Would you assault half a dozen armed guards because they were going to kill one guy whom you probably didn’t like anyway?

  • Casey Klahn September 9, 2018, 10:18 AM

    pbird, calling an actor a faker. I don’t get it.

    Ghost: I don’t have any firearms, either. Certified: none at all. Also, I gave all my knives to the local homeless kitchen, and any spoons with sharp edges to a nice local organization of youths who wear black hoodies.

  • pbird September 9, 2018, 10:28 AM

    I don’t get it either Casey.

Leave a Comment