After Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, a lot of changes would soon be occurring in the Soviet Union; one of them being the De-Stalination of the Gulags. On March 27, 1953, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued an amnesty to release prisoners that fall under the following: “persons sentenced for up to five years, those convicted of economic and military crimes regardless of their terms of imprisonment, women with children under 10 years of age or who were pregnant, juveniles up to age 18, men over 55 years of age and women over 50 years of age, and convicts suffering from incurable diseases.”
This was a huge step for the De-Stalination of the Soviet Union, because millions of people would be released from the Gulags; 1.5 million being released in the first 3 months of the amnesty. However, many released prisoners would never be integrated back into society, and the horrors of the Gulags would not be exposed until many years later.
Gulag was the acronym for the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps. At these camps prisoners were expected to work 14 hours per day and they experienced grueling physical work. Prisoners were only fed enough to keep them alive, but it was not enough to sustain them for the work they were doing. Many prisoners would die of hunger, cold, or from the injuries they would suffer throughout their time there.
It seems as if the life of the prisoners were kept secret from the rest of the world and when released, prisoners were too scared to speak up. I believe both would be true, until Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stepped up. After fighting for the Soviet Union in WWII, Aleksandr was arrested for writing a letter that criticized Stalin. He then spent 8 years in a Gulag and 3 years in enforced exile. In 1956, Aleksandr was allowed to settle in Ryazan, located in central Russia. In 1962 Aleksandr released his short novel, Odin Den iz zhizni Ivan Denisovicha (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich), which was about his experiences in the Gulag. This novel inspired many other writers to produce accounts of their imprisonment under Stalin’s regime and inform the world of the true horrors that lie within the Gulags.