Act I

Barrack. Political prison camp.
Early morning. A warder named The Tartar is about to penalize Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, who didn’t get up at the signal, by putting him in a punishment cell for three days. However, then he pities Shukhov and forces him to clean the floor in the guardhouse. In the Commandant’s Office warders mock Shukhov. When Shukhov is finally able to leave the guardhouse, he goes to a dispensary to report his illness. In a dispensary an orderly Kolya refuses to send him to hospital and forces him to go back to work. The search is carried out in the barrack. The lieutenant Volkovoy threatens to send Captain who disagrees with the camp orders to the punishment cell for ten days.
Zeks read out a Camp Glossary.
The prisoners set off for work. On the way Shukhov recalls his previous peaceful and carefree life, his beloved wife; he dreams of his home village.

Act II

A sotsgorodok. Morning work.
The prisoners are talking about their foreman Tyurin.
When working, Shukhov and Kildigs hide a roll of tarred paper.
At lunchtime the prisoners are reminiscing about their lives.
Shukhov talks about how he got to the camp. Tsezar and KH-123 are discussing Eisenstein’s new film.
Tyurin tells the prisoners a story of his dismissal from the army and the girls who rescued him at the station.
Der finds the hidden roll of tarred paper. There is a skirmish between him and the foreman.
The forming-up reveals a loss of a prisoner. On the way back to the camp the prisoners lead a casual conversation.
Volkovoy enters and requires an explanatory statement from Tyurin. Then he remembers a morning incident with Captain. He takes Captain to the hole. Shukhov argues with Alyoshka about God.
In his final monologue Ivan Denisovich reflects on the events of the past day and concludes that it was almost a happy day.
There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his stretch