“What about the formalities of rehabilitation? Ch , an old
woman, receives a brusque summons: “Report to the militia at 10
a.m. tomorrow.” Nothing more! Her daughter hurries there with
the summons that evening. “I’m afraid for her; this could kill her.
What’s it all about? What should I prepare her for?” “Don’t be
afraid— it’s something that will please hen her late husband has
been rehabilitated.” (But perhaps the news will be like wormwood
to her? That would never occur to her benefactors.)
If these are the forms which our mercy takes, just imagine what
our cruelty is like!
What an avalanche of rehabilitations there was! But even this
could not crack the stony brow of our infallible society! For the
avalanche fell not on the road along which you need only frown,
but on that for which you must harness a thousand oxen.
“Rehabilitation was just a stunt!” Party bosses win tell you so
frankly. “Far too many were rehabilitated!”
Voldemar Zarin (Rostov-on-the-Don) did fifteen years and
meekly held his tongue for another eight. Then in 1960 he thought
it right to tell his fellow employees how bad things were in the
camps. He was put under investigation, and a KGB major told
him: “Rehabilitation does not mean that you were innocent, only
that your crimes were not all that serious. But there’s always a bit
In Riga, also in 1960, Petropavlovsky’s colleagues to a man
joined in making his life a misery for three months on end, because
he had concealed the fact that his father had been shot… in 1937!
Komogor is at a loss. “Who is supposed to be in the right
nowadays, and who is guilty? Where do I put myself when some
plugugly suddenly starts talking about equality and fraternity?”
After his rehabilitation Markelov became — of all things —
chairman of an industrial insurance council, or putting it simply,
of the trade union branch in a cooperative enterprise. The chair-
man of the enterprise would not risk leaving this chosen of the
people alone in his office for a single minute! And Bayev, secretary
of the Party Bureau, who was simultaneously in charge of person-
nel, to be on the safe side intercepted all mail intended for Mar- kelov as head of the trade union committee. “There’s a piece of
paper about midterm elections to local committees — has it come
your way?” “Yes, there was something a month ago.” “Well, I
need it!” “Here you are, then— read it, but be quick; it’s nearly
time to go home!” “Look, if s addressed to me! I’ll let you have
it back tomorrow!” “What are you talking about — it’s an official
document” Put yourself in Marketers shoes, with a thug like
Bayev over you; imagine that your salary and residence permit
depend entirely on the said Bayev — and fill your lungs with the
air of freedom!
Deyeva, a schoolteacher, was dismissed for “inimorality”: she
had lowered the dignity of her calling by marrying … a dis-
charged convict (a pupil of hers in the camp)!
And this was under Khrushchev, not Stalin.
You have nothing concrete to show for your past except the
A small sheet of paper, 12 centimeters by 18. Declaring the
living “rehabilitated” and the dead “dead.” The date of decease
there is no way of checking. Death occurred at— a big capital “Z”
(meaning “in prison”). Cause of death — you can leaf through a
hundred of them and find the same “disease of the day/* 3 Some-
times the names of (bogus) witnesses are added.
While the real witnesses all remain silent
We … are silent
From whom can future generations learn anything? The door
is locked, nailed up; the cracks papered over. . . .
“Even the young,” Verbovsky complains, “look upon the
rehabilitated with suspicion and contempt.”
Not all of them, though. The majority of young people could
not care less whether we have been rehabilitated or not, whether
twelve million people are still inside or are inside no longer; they
do not see that it affects them. Just so long as they themselves are
at liberty, with their tape recorders and their disheveled girl
A fish does not campaign against fisheries — it only tries to slip
through the mesh.”
The Gulag Archipelago Vol.III
Aleksandr L Solzhenitsyn