Tyurin, a foreman at the labor camp, is tough and heroic. Shukhov notes that Tyurin does not even squint when the fierce icy Siberian wind blows straight into his face. At the beginning of the novel, Tyurin is a distant and terrifying authority figure, associated with the dread of punishment. But he transforms into a more sympathetic character when, at the Power Station, he narrates his life history. Tyurin’s shift from an imposing authoritarian to an accessible comrade shows the humanity hidden deep within even the fiercest Soviet law enforcers.
Tyurin’s character shows the camp’s lack of justice since, like everyone else in the camp, he has been thrown into prison without deserving this fate. Tyurin is a prisoner only because his father belonged to the kulak, or rich peasant, class that Stalin has vowed to exterminate. Like almost everyone else in the camp, Tyurin is an essentially good person unfairly condemned to a life of misery. Tyurin’s misery is compounded by the fact that he is not part of a social group in the camp. His experience shows us that the life of a camp officer may be even worse than that of a common prisoner. Without the community or camaraderie of the prisoners, Tyurin is treated as a representative of the state and feared as a Soviet authority, even though he is still a prison inmate like the others.