One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich Characters

Character List

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Ivan Denisovich Shukhov

A common Russian peasant from Temnenovo serving a sentence for treason in a Soviet prison camp. Shukhov is forty-one and in the eighth year of his ten year sentence. He is from a small town, which he has not seen since 1941, when he left for WWII, and has a wife and two grown daughters at home. He was captured by the Germans during the war and charged with treason when he managed to return to Soviet lines. He spent the earlier part of his sentence at the Ust-Izhma camp and is now an inmate at this "special" political camp. He knows all the tricks of the camp system, how to get extra food or favors, but he acts under a moral code that allows him to continue to respect himself. He no longer thinks much of home or freedom but instead thinks about that day, taking pride in his work as a mason. For him, this tiring day in the cold camp is almost a good day.

Tiurin

Leader of the 104th squad of which Shukhov is a member. He is serving the second of two sentences and calls the other prisoners "boys" even though he is the same age as most of them. He was in the Navy but was discharge because of his kulak heritage and fled from the authorities before being placed in the camp. Shukhov considers him a good squad leader, because he knows how to grease palms and finesse work reports to protect his men. His hair is turning white and skin is pockmarked.

Pavlo

Tiurin's deputy squad leader. A friendly, responsible man willing to work and thoughtful in handing out extras. He gives Shukhov an extra bowl of oatmeal at lunch, and gives the second bowl Shukhov swiped to Buinovsky, who needs it, rather that Fetiukov.

Fetiukov

A prisoner lower in the camp hierarchy than Shukhov. For that reason, he saves Shukhov's breakfast for him. He was a management-level official before the camps and is a bad worker, often lazy. He has no standards and stoops to collecting cigarette butts. Shukhov doesn't believe he will last out his sentence.

Senka Kleyshin

An older, mostly deaf man in Shukhov's squad. He was imprisoned at Buchenwald where he was tortured and was a member of the resistance. He is a good man, willing to stay with Shukhov and risk returning for roll call late, and he is also a big man, standing up for Tiurin against Der.

Alyosha

A Baptist in Shukhov's squad. He reads a Bible he has copied into a notebook and hides in a partition. He tries to convince Shukhov to have faith to endure the camps but Shukhov cannot. He truly believes that he is in prison because Jesus wants him to be and it is a place he can avoid temptation and truly believe. His faith allows him to survive the harsh camp system.

The Estonians

Two men from Estonia who met in camps and have become like brothers. They always sit and talk together and share tobacco. They are good men and even lend Shukhov tobacco for a cigarette, believing he will repay it. One of them is named Eino and the name of the other is not given.

Kilgas

A Lett in Shukhov's squad who speaks fluent Russian because he grew up near a settlement of Old Believers. He has been in the camp only two years but understands everything about how things work there. His name is Johann, and Shukhov calls him Vanya. The two of them go and swipe some roofing felt that Kilgas knows the location of, to cover up the power station windows to keep warm. He works hard and well building the wall.

Gopchik

A Ukrainian boy who was given a man's prison sentence for bringing food to Bendera's men in the forest. Shukhov thinks fondly of him because he reminds him of his dead son. Gopchik is very clever and knows how to look out for himself, and Shukhov knows that in few years, he will do fine and even become a bread dispenser.

Tsezar

A young man with a mustache who is a mixture of many nationalities. He has an assistant job indoors and is sent frequent food packages by his family. He is generous and offers a smoke to Shukhov in the morning and gives him food for protecting his package in the evening. He doesn't completely understand the ways of the camp and almost loses his package because of his desire to eat it immediately rather than save it for later.

Captain Buinovsky

A former navy commander who has only been in the camp for two months and has been having a hard time adjusting. He served a month as a liaison officer on a British ship and was sent a gift by a British admiral after the war, which got him stuck in prison. He hasn't accepted that the camp guards don't follow the laws or Communist ideals and this lands him in the guardhouse for ten days. Still, he tries his hardest working, even when it is incredibly hard for him.

The Lett

A man in Barracks Seven from whom Shukhov has bought tobacco in the past and from whom he buys it this day. He has the tendency to drop rather than stuff his tobacco, so Shukhov must pay attention to make sure he gets enough, but it is good tobacco.

The Limper

The mess hall orderly. An enormous man who is classified as disabled because of an injured leg. He controls the entrance of squads into the mess hall and is eager to hit people with the big birch club he carries.

Lieutenant Volkovoi

The security officer at the camp. He is a cruel man, and it is fitting that "volk," the root of his name, means wolf. It is his idea to have the guards make the prisoners open their coats in the cold morning air and search them for extra under things. He is also the one who sentences Buinovsky to ten days in the cells for arguing about legality and the true ideas of Communism.

Der

The building foreman, a prisoner with a position of power. He confronts Tiurin about the stolen roofing felt used to cover the windows and has the bad sense to threaten to get Tiurin a third sentence for stealing. He is basically a coward and steps down when Kilgas and Senka back up Tiurin and look ready for a fight.

Priakhov

Volkovoi's lieutenant. He is also a cruel officer enamored of his own power. He charges the Moldavian with trying to escape, when he really fell asleep while working, and sends him to the guardhouses.

Kolya Vdovushkin

The young medical assistant at the dispensary. He was really a student of literature but the doctor at the camp counseled him to say he was a medical assistant to give him an indoor office job and the chance to do the writing he couldn't do outside prison. He is kind but can do nothing for Shukhov, whose temperature is too low to ensure that he can stay behind.

Stepan Grigorych

The new doctor at the dispensary. Shukhov decides not to count on him letting him stay behind from work and rest since he believes that any man who can stay on his feet should be doing some kind of work in the dispensary.

The Moldavian

A dark-complexioned little man who is missing at evening roll call. He is in the prison camp for being a real spy. He is found, having fallen asleep after crawling up to do some plastering, and the other prisoners are angry at him for making them wait. Priakhov charges him with attempting to escape and sends him to the cells.

"One and Half" Ivan

A guard. He looks big and menacing but is actually the kindest. Shukhov thinks he is on duty that morning but is wrong.

Kuziomin

An old man with whom Shukhov served at Ust-Izhma. He had already been in for 12 years by 1943. He taught Shukhov to make his spoon, and taught the young men how to survive by the "law of the taiga," telling them that squealers, men who count on doctors to pull them through, and men who eat other men's leftovers don't survive.

The Tartar

A guard on duty on that morning. He catches Shukhov still in his bunk after reveille and sentences him to three days with work. He changes his mind, however, and only makes Shukhov wash the floor of the guardhouse.