Faithful Ruslan

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Faithful Ruslan, subtitled The Story of a Guard Dog (Russian: Верный Руслан. История караульной собаки), is a novel by Soviet dissident writer Georgi Vladimov.[1] It is a story of a guard dog from a Gulag labor camp, told from the point of view of the dog itself. The story begins from the moment the labor camp is closed and demolished, includes the dog's best reminiscences of its past, and ends with the dog's violent death.

According to the author, the purpose of the novel was "to see the hell through the eyes of a dog who assumes it is a paradise".[2]

"Ruslan" is a Russian given name, acquired the gist of high style after the poem Ruslan and Ludmila by Alexander Pushkin.

In 1991 a film (ru:Верный Руслан (История караульной собаки)) was shot based on the novel.[3]

Plot summary

After the labor camp is dismantled, Ruslan's handler chases the dog away, unable to shoot him. Many other guard dogs of the camp had the same luck. Over time most of them somehow found their ways in "civil" life, but Ruslan cannot forget his duty; he perceives the empty camp as one huge prisoners' escape and prefers to starve than to take food from stranger's hands. After some time Ruslan accidentally meets his master chatting with a former Gulag inmate nicknamed Potyorty (Потёртый, "Shabby"), but the master chases him away again, and Ruslan unexpectedly associates himself with Potyorty. The latter thinks he tamed the formerly vicious dog, but Ruslan sees Potyorty as a runaway inmate who returned voluntarily (he saw this happen many times) and decides to guard him until the "normal order of things" is restored.

Initially all dogs used to come to the railway station, waiting in vain for a train with a fresh party of inmates. Eventually all but Ruslan cease doing so. At last a train arrives, bringing a party of enthusiastic workers for a "great construction site of communism" to be launched at the site of the camp. Workers form a column and march forward with songs. Suddenly from all corners of the settlement the former guard dogs come out and take their usual posts around the column. The newcomers are puzzled, but the locals know what's going on and watch with morose expectation. Finally the inevitable happens; a couple of persons see a shop and step out of the ranks "guarded" by the dogs...

Literary opinions

As Andrey Gavrilov of Radio Liberty put it, it is a "portrayal of an inhuman system which destroys in an animal something we would want to humanize".[1]

Andrey Sinyavsky says that Ruslan is the picture of an ideal communist hero: his honesty, loyalty, heroism, discipline make him a true bearer of the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism. And at the same time it is a picture of how these ideal qualities become perverted in the communist society.[1]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Алфавит инакомыслия. Верный Руслан, a Radio Liberty transcript (retrieved December 16, 2014)
  2. Владимов Г., Ржевская Е. "Трагедия верного Руслана", Moscow News, 1989, no 4.
  3. Faithful Ruslan on IMDb
  4. "Faithful Ruslan", an annotation at the Melville House website

Further reading

  • Пронин А. А., Права человека: аспекты проблемы, pp. 143-151