One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Characters

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.


Ivan's bunk mate, he is known by his religion. He represents the spiritual element that survives despite the atheism that is a cornerstone of Communism, in which the State is the only religion. He reads his Bible and is protected by Ivan, who respects his faith. In fact, Ivan wonders how Alyoshka can survive without extra rations and shares his cookie from Caesar with him.

The Baptist


Big Ivan

A tall, thin guard, he is the most easygoing of the lot.


One of Ivan's bunk mates.

Captain Buynovsky

In the Russian navy, he was once a liaison officer on a British ship, since the British and Russians were allies during World War II. But after receiving a thank-you gift from a British officer for his good service, he was sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor. Throughout the novel he changes from a die-hard military man to a clever inmate. When Buynovsky is sentenced to face ten days in solitary confinement for insubordination, Ivan wonders whether he will survive.

Captain Buynovsky

As his name implies, he is handicapped, but uses his disability to secure a good job. He's as hardboiled as anyone can be and even earns enough money to pay an assistant.


The foreman at the construction site, he treats his fellow prisoners badly, but Ivan's gang sticks together against him to keep him in check.


These two seem like brothers although they first met in camp; both are tall, fair, and thin and sleep in the same bunk. One of the two, called Eino, fills Ivan's request for tobacco after first consulting with his best friend.


A scavenger whom Ivan dislikes. He used to be a big shot in an office, but in prison he is beaten up for scrounging. In the end Ivan feels sorry for him.


Only sixteen years old, he is enthusiastic and alert. Ivan thinks he will go far in the camps. Ivan lost his own son and seems to have fatherly feelings for Gopchik.

Stepan Grigoryevich

Although new, he is already known as a loudmouth, know-it-all doctor who believes work is the best cure for illness.

Ivan Kilgas

A Latvian and former bricklayer, he receives two packages a month, speaks Russian like a native, and jokes most of the time. He works well with Ivan, who realizes he has more in common with the Latvian than with his own family.

Senka Klevshin

A little deaf, the former Buchenwald inmate says if you fussed there, you were finished. Ivan works with him and respects him as a fellow survivor.


An old gang boss of Ivan's, he tells his men that the law of the jungle prevails in prison: the only way to survive is to not lick your bowl clean, not count on the infirmary, and not betray or "squeal on" other prisoners. Ivan took his advice to heart and never forgot it.

Caesar Markovich

Caesar was a cinematographer before his imprisonment. A rich intellectual, he receives packages that keep him well fed, yet he shares his food. Art is his god.


He falls asleep in a warm corner during the work day and fails to turn up for the count. When finally discovered, he is extremely remorseful but is nevertheless taken to solitary confinement, where rations are eight ounces of bread a day and a hot meal every third day. Shukhov says that after ten days in solitary, a man would be so weakened that he would have a difficult time getting back on his feet again.


The man missing from the gang: no one knows if he is sick or a squealer.


The assistant gang boss from West Ukrainia, which was under Poland until after World War II and where the people are still polite, unlike the typical Soviet.


Of beanpole physique, he is a prisoner paid to guard prefabricated panels against the prisoners pilfering them.

Ivan Denisovich Shukhov

The main character, Ivan is a peasant who was drafted during World War II. He managed to escape a German prison camp and return to Russia. For this he was imprisoned, since Soviet law considered any escapee a spy for the Germans. Although Ivan was innocent he thought it wiser to plead guilty, knowing that if he pleaded innocent, he'd be shot, but if he pleaded guilty, he'd go to prison. Ivan is forty years old, balding, and missing half his teeth. Although he'll do everything he can to survive, he maintains a strict personal code. For example, he will never take or give a bribe, betray others, or lick his bowl clean. He represents the common man in the Soviet Union, an inspiring Russian survivor.

Thin Tartar

Called by his nationality, he is one of the guards, thin and hairless, who threatens to send Ivan to solitary confinement but then relents and sends him to mop the warders' office. The cold doesn't seem to bother him.


On his second sentence, this gang boss does everything he can to take care of the gang. Ivan knew him at another camp but wasn't in his gang. Of all the men in the camp, Tyurin is the one man Ivan would never cheat; the gang boss is crucial to survival.

Nikolay Semyonovich Vdovushkin

Technically a medic, he spends the day writing poetry, thanks to Dr. Grigoryevich, his patron. The Russian love for poetry is evident here.

Lieutenant Volkovoy

A much-feared disciplinary officer with a reputation for using a whip. His name is derived from "wolf."


An old prisoner who has survived with his dignity intact, he is Ivan's hero.

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