I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

Turmoil

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We have to remind our readers once again that this chapter does not attempt by any means to list all the waves which fertilized Gulag—but only those which had a political coloration. And just as, in a course in physiology, after a detailed description of the circulation of the blood, one can begin over again and describe in detail the lymphatic system, one could begin again and describe the waves of nonpolitical offenders and habitual criminals from 1918 to 1953. And this description, too, would run long. It would bring to light many famous decrees, now in part forgotten (even though they have never been repealed), which supplied abundant human material for the insatiable Archipelago. One was the Decree on Absenteeism. One was the Decree on Production of Bad Quality Goods. Another was on samogon [moonshine] distilling. Its peak period was 1922—but arrests for this were constant throughout the twenties. And the Decree on the Punishment of Collective Farmers for Failure to Fulfill the Obligatory Norm of Labor Days. And the Decree on the Introduction of Military Discipline on Railroads, issued in April, 1943—not at the beginning of the war, but when it had already taken a turn for the better.

In accordance with the ancient Petrine tradition, these decrees always put in an appearance as the most important element in all our legislation, but without any comprehension of or reference to the whole of our previous legislation. Learned jurists were supposed to coordinate the branches of the law, but they were not particularly energetic at it, nor particularly successful either.

This steady pulse of decrees led to a curious national pattern of violations and crimes. One could easily recognize that neither burglary, nor murder, nor samogon distilling, nor rape ever seemed to occur at random intervals or in random places throughout the country as a result of human weakness, lust, or failure to control one’s passions. By no means! One detected, instead, a surprising unanimity and monotony in the crimes committed. The entire Soviet Union would be in a turmoil of rape alone, or murder alone, or samogon distilling alone, each in its turn—in sensitive reaction to the latest government decree. Each particular crime or violation seemed somehow to be playing into the hands of the latest decree so that it would disappear from the scene that much faster! At that precise moment, the particular crime which had just been foreseen, and for which wise new legislation had just provided stricter punishment, would explode simultaneously everywhere.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1, 86–87

Written by Scott Moonen

July 5, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Quotations

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