An indication of just how low the temperature could drop is given in the climate records for the nearby region of Tselinograd (today Astana, capital of Kazakhstan). In February 1951 the lowest recorded temperature was -32ºC.
Before the emergence of the Soviet Union, the Imperial Russian Table of Ranks was used; this was abolished in favour of the Soviet Union’s version. This underwent many changes up until the Second World War, when it was finally standardised and rationalised.
By referring to this guard throughout as The Tartar, Solzhenitsyn depersonalises his character, thereby emphasising his relatively insignificant place in the Soviet machinery while at the same time distancing him from Shukhov and the other prisoners.
This award was created in 1934 and given to individuals who had participated in heroic deeds in the form of the Order of Lenin and a certificate detailing the deed. Five years later, in 1939, the Gold Star medal was introduced to distinguish between those who were merely worthy of merit and those who had carried out truly heroic deeds. Extraordinary success in battle and participation in space, polar and underwater exploration were frequently rewarded with the Gold Star and title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Although the majority of the 11,635 total recipients were citizens of the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro was among the list of foreigners to receive the title.
In Russian the tractor works is called Chelyabinskiy traktornyy zavod, hence the abbreviation of Che-te-ze.
The River Lovat, 530km long, runs from the Lovatets Lake in northwestern Belarus into the Lake Ilmen in the northwestern Russian province of Novgorod.
In Russia, the patronymic is formed from the name of the father – in the case of a male, the suffix -ovich/-yevich/-yich is added to the name; for a female the suffixes are –ovna/-yevna.
This quotation read aloud by Alyosha the Baptist comes from Peter 4: 15-16, and completely encapsulates his attitude towards his imprisonment in the labour camp - he eschews preoccupations about his physical situation and prays only about matters of the spirit.