A member of the intelligentsia, Genia is a Communist Party member, university professor, and journalist when she is arrested for crimes under Article 58. Her "criminal activity" is in fact her failure to disagree publicly with a colleague's editing of an article about revolutionary theory. Convicted by a military tribunal of counterrevolutionary activity and terrorism, Genia is sentenced to 10 years of solitary confinement. Her sentence is later doubled, and she spends years in a labor camp called Kolyma, in Siberia.
A member of the Communist Party and leading member of the Tartar Province Committee, Aksyonov is arrested sometime after Genia. Genia learns of his arrest while she is imprisoned.
Avdotya Vasilyevna Aksyonova
A simple peasant woman, Avdotya unsuccessfully urges Genia to flee rather than face charges. Avdotya manages to escape arrest and corresponds with Genia during her imprisonment.
A biologist and university acquaintance of Genia's, Julia Karepova shares Genia's love of literature. The two become close friends and keep each other's spirits up as they read and recite together and hope for better things to come.