Kolyma Tales Characters

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Kolyma Tales Summary & Study Guide Description

Kolyma Tales 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 Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Kolyma Tales by Varlam Shalamov.

The Narratorappears in A Pushover Job

The narrator is out with a companion on a job to collect the needles of the Siberian dwarf cedar tree. They are both exhausted and in bad shape, and the narrator looks at it as a big break to be on the assignment of collecting needles.

Glebovappears in In the Night

Glebov goes out with his companion at night, to dig up a corpse of someone that died that day, and steal the underwear. Glebov was a doctor before being sent to the camps. Now, he realizes that, in his present situation, his medical knowledge is totally useless.

Merzlakovappears in Shock Therapy

Merzlakov is a large man who has survived a year and a half in the camps. He is now desperately trying to avoid the mines with their back-breaking work and short rations. He is very stubborn in keeping up his charade of a broken back, even when he is being exposed.

Potashnikovappears in Carpenters

Potashnikov pretends to be a trained carpenter, in order to get warm for a while and stay alive. He is desperate to stay alive, as this is his last chance to avoid the killing cold.

Savelevappears in Dry Rations

Savelev is a former Young Communist League leader, who does not understand how he was sentenced to the camps. He is very cynical, but collapses when Ivan commits suicide.

Ivan Ivanovichappears in Dry Rations

Ivan Ivanovich is a good worker who has been worn down physically by the hard labor in the mines. Now, in his weakness, he is beaten in the camps. He gets a reprieve by being sent to the woods to build a road.

Fedya Shapovappears in Dry Rations

Fedya is a teenager from a farm background. He is sent to the camps for the illegal slaughtering of one of his own sheep. He is only a teenager, but probably has the best chance of surviving.

The Narratorappears in Sententious

The narrator is gradually recovering from his loss of strength in the mines. Now he is free, but still in exile in a work camp for exiles where he cuts firewood and makes a fire. He is discovering the freedoms of not being a prisoner anymore.

The Topographerappears in Sententious

The topographer wants to shoot a bird while out with the narrator, but the narrator does not let him. Nevertheless, he does not make trouble; he does not report the narrator for disturbing him.

Dimitriev, the Religious Sectarianappears in Quiet

Dimitriev, the sectarian, is a member of the so-called "God knows" sect and refuses to answer to his name at roll call. He, like many other religious people, is persecuted. He sings and prays all the time.

Major Pugachovappears in Major Pugachov's Last Battle

Major Pugachov is a jailed Russian army officer, who leads an escape from the Kolyma prison camp. He is a determined man who previously escaped from a Nazi German prison camp.

Sevaappears in On Tick

Seva is a criminal, master card player and cheater at cards.

Naumovappears in On Tick

Naumov is a violent man, and convicted railroad thief. He is the victim of the card shark, Seva.

Garkunovappears in On Tick

Garkunov is a political prisoner who is ordered to give up his sweater. He thinks of his wife, who gave it to him, not of his danger in defying the criminals.

Golubevappears in A Piece of Meat

Golubev is a clever political prisoner who is scheming about how to avoid hard labor in the mines. His scheme works but faces him with unforseen difficulties. He is cool under pressure.

Kononeko, Kazakov

Kononenko and Kazakov are two names that a single criminal and murderer uses. He periodically murders a political prisoner, stands trial and rests in the hospital. This criminal openly brags of his ability to murder people without remorse.

Platonovappears in The Snake Charmer

Platonov is a former movie scriptwriter who is a political prisoner. He ends up reciting novels, such as "The Club of Black Jacks" to the criminal element and thus gains food and protection. He has the ability to remember his former life and not be overwhelmed by his present misery.

Fedya, the Criminal Leaderappears in The Snake Charmer

Fedya is a criminal leader in the barracks, and is playing cards. He turns to Platonov to provide entertainment and to relieve his boredom. He is brutal, but also suffers from the unhappy camp life.

Chief of Political Controlappears in Chief of Political Control

The new Chief of Political Control is a naive man who thinks that a system of slave labor can be affected by his complaints against beating of convicts, even if he has the backing of Stalin. He does not realize that he is totally manipulated by the hospital staff. The prisoners dare not tell him what is really going on.

Stukovappears in Magic

Stukov is a camp section boss who needs to pick out carpenters, clerks and men with other skills, and can do so just by looking at them. He is a fair man and not brutal. He seems to have his own resentments against the police state.

Sherbakovappears in My First Tooth

Sherbakov is the head guard who is directing a column of prisoners in the Urals. He controls a group of loud and young guards. He seems a fair man, but he can be brutal in enforcing his power.

Peter Zayatsappears in My First Tooth

Peter Zayats is a religious sect member who refuses to respond to roll call. Like many religious in the Soviet Union, he is brutally persecuted, but will not bend to the regime.

Romanovappears in The Lawyers' Plot

Romanov is the prison camp member of the secret police, the NKVD, who calls Andreev in to interrogate him on certain matters. He is friendly and gives gifts to the prisoner, who then may be executed shortly.

The Narrator, Prisoner Andreevappears in The Lawyers' Plot

The Narrator, Prisoner Andreev, is taken out of his group going to the mines, and is asked if he is a lawyer. Then he is taken for a trip for further legal processing. He only thinks day to day. He enjoys today's food, and does not worry about tomorrow's firing squad.

Captain Rebrovappears in The Lawyers' Plot

Captain Rebrov is the originator of the theory that there is a "Lawyers' Plot" and who orders a group of prisoners who are lawyers to be arrested. He merrily searches out all the possible lawyers in the camp.

Shestakovappears in Condensed Milk

Shestakov is a prisoner who is allowed to work in his trained profession, as a geologist, and he has special privileges. He is a resentful man, who does not like to give a gift, however small, without getting something.

Skoroseevappears in Esperanto

Skoroseev is an Esperantist, and a chronic informer for the Soviet authorities. Though the privileges he wins are small, he is happy to survive at the expense of others.

The Narratorappears in The Train

The narrator is in Irkutsk and is heading back to Moscow to be reunited with his wife. He has faced the horrors of the camps, and now faces the dangers of the train in a calm fashion.

The Father and Sonappears in The Train

The father and son on the train are very happy together. The young father is with his two-year old son. The father has just been released from Kolyma and gotten himself and his son out of the area. He also has had to abandon his wife who stays in the Kolyma area.

Flemingappears in The Used-Book Dealer

Fleming is a former member of the Soviet secret police, the NKVD. He is in Kolyma and meets the narrator in a paramedic course. Fleming is released and still thinks about resuming his work with intellectuals and his work in the secret police. He has a certain shamelessness in trying to win back a bit of status.

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