One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a compelling account of life in the Russian gulag system, based on Solzhenitsyn’s experiences. It deals with the various trials of living in labour camp, and strikingly presents the idea of the relativity of good fortune. A perfect example is the apparent good fortune of Ivan, because he sleeps in the barracks instead of the cells (165). However, the alternative example that I wish to focus on, is Solzhenitsyn’s ┬ácommentary on the Russian Orthodox Church. He describes Alyosha, a fellow prisoner who has been imprisoned for his Baptist beliefs. He is described as a naive prisoner, who does not understand the methods for survival within the camp. However, in one exchange between Ivan and Alyosha, the latter talks about the betrayal of the Orthodox Church. He implies that the Orthodox Church’s attempts to work within the communist system is a sin, and that those men who are imprisoned are more righteous in the eyes of the Lord (162-3). This opinion that prison is a method of penance raises a question pertaining to the legality and authority of the Orthodox Church. While the Church collaborated with the government to ensure it’s survival, what was the sentiment of the common man? Did the everyday Orthodox priest loyally follow the Church’s orders, or were they defiant like Alyosha and the other sects of Christianity?