The Soviet Union was meant to provide a new politics that provided for all. Today, the Mask of Sorrow serves as an eternal reminder of the Soviet reality.
Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn opened his classic Gulag Archipelago with the vision of a salamander being discovered–and perfectly preserved–in a frozen stream.
The salamander, forgotten in ice for tens of thousands of years, was made “present” thanks to critical inquiry.
By studying the salamander, we are reminded of our heritage; our understanding of history and the subtle distinctions among past, present and future become much more acute. Such is the goal of science; such is the goal Solzenitsyn’s vital tome on the horrors of the gulag; such is the purpose of the Mask of Sorrow, the statue seen above.
Says Solzenitsyn in the preface, “Decades go by, and the scars of the past are healing over for good. In this course of the period some of the islands of the Archipelago have shuddered and dissolved and the polar sea of oblivion rolls over them…perhaps I shall be able to give some account of the bones and flesh of that salamander–which, incidentally, is still alive.”
The Mask of Sorrow, featured above, rests grimly atop a hill in Magadan, Russia. The statue, which features stone “tears” in the form of faces and an eye blinded by bars, bears quiet testimony to the millions of lives lost in the name of creating a “new” politics.
At least 14 million people were forced into the gulags from 1929 to 1953, with millions more deported and exiled to remote areas of the so-called Soviet paradise.