The View East

Central and Eastern Europe, Past and Present.

Saturday Night in the Gulag

Earlier this week, I came across this article on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty site. The article describes how the Museum of Political Oppression in Dolinka, Kazakhstan, formerly head of the KarLAG prison camp system through which hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens passed during the Stalinist-era terror, had recently begun conducting ‘night time tours’. To provide vistors with an ‘authentic’ Gulag experience, the article went on to describe how:

“… actors performed a mock interrogation scene in which a young woman is pressured to denounce her father. The group also witnessed performances that included an inmate who was hanging by his hands while being mistreated by a guard. To have a better taste of being a prisoner at KarLAG, the visitors were also offered gulag-type meals. The museum initially planned to offer visitors the chance to become “Stalin-era prisoners” for one night, but museum director Svetlana Bainova told RFE/RL the plan was scrapped following a request by local officials. She said the officials argued that such an experience could scare or even psychologically traumatize the participants”.

Museum employees at the Museum of Political Oppression in Kazakhstan demonstrate how prisoners were tortured to extract confessions. Photo by Elena Weber, RFE/RL. See the original article for the full photo gallery here:

Museum employees at the Museum of Political Oppression in Kazakhstan demonstrate how prisoners were tortured to extract confessions. Photo by Elena Weber, RFE/RL. See the original article for the full photo gallery here:

The photo gallery that accompanies the article shows that the museum’s exhibition hall contains a number of informative displays including prison files and information about the impact of the great Soviet famine of 1930-33, while the Hall of Remembrance pays tribute to those individuals who died in KarLAG. However the photos also depict real life ‘actors’ – museum employees – playing the roles of prisoners undergoing interrogation. torture and demonstrating hard labour, while others play the role of the uniformed prison guards.

I must confess to feeling somewhat uncomfortable at the thought of  this. I realise that dark tourism (or ‘thanotourism’, defined by the iDTR as ‘the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme’) will always be a subject that evokes controversy. Sites that commemorate and educate about the ‘darker’ aspects of human history play an important role – speaking as a ‘tourist’ who has actively visited numeorus such sites including Auschwitz Birkenau, The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, the former Stasi headquarters in Berlin and the controversial TerrorHaza (Museum of Terror) in Budapest, I do agree with the often cited argument that while visiting the sites of former attrocities can be a rather harrowing experience, the experience can help bring these historical events alive in a very different way from studying academic texts, or even reading the memoirs of those who experienced these terrible events first hand. As a historian, I recognise the importance of ackowledging, remembering and commemorating the darker aspects of human history, as well as celebrating our more glorious achievements. And – stepping down from the moral high ground and speaking as a realist – I also understand that ‘money talks’. Economic benefits must be taken into consideration, as popular demand for thanotourism is potentially lucrative, with high visitor turnover injecting much-needed cash into the local economy. But does the Museum of Political Oppression risk crossing the line between education and scandenfreude? Having actors playing the part of tortured and exploited GuLAG inmates and offering tourists the chance to experience ‘authentic Gulag conditions’ feels like unneccesary theatrics, designed to create an environment akin to a macabre theme park, which is particularly dangerous given that the horrors of the Stalinist-era remain within living memory for many today, including those who experienced the hardship and suffering of KarLAG first hand and survived to tell the tale and out of respect for the memories of the many who lost their lives.

An employee of the Museum of Political Oppression in Kazakhstan depicts a tortured KarLAG prisoner. Photo by Elena Weber, RFE/RL. See the original article for the full photo gallery here:

An employee of the Museum of Political Oppression in Kazakhstan depicts a tortured KarLAG prisoner. Photo by Elena Weber, RFE/RL. See the original article for the full photo gallery here:

However, the Museum of Political Oppression is not the only Gulag-related ‘attraction’ to blur the boundaries. Grutas Park sculpture park  (also known as ‘Stalin’s World’) in Lithuania, combines extensive exhibitions featuring Soviet sculptures, artwork and museum artefacts with a mini-zoo (‘fun for all the family!’). The park also features a recreated Gulag camp, complete with wooden paths, guard towers and barbed wire fences, among its exhibits, but original plans to transport vistors to the park packed into a ‘Gulag-style train’ were blocked. In 2006, Igor Shpektor, Mayor of Vorkuta – one of the most infamous outposts of Stalin’s Gulag where over two million deportees passing through the camp 1932-1954 – was criticised for plans to charge foreign tourists over £80 per day to ‘holiday’ in an ‘authentic’ Soviet-era prison camp. Shpektor’s plans to renovate an abandoned prison complex, complete with watchtowers, guards armed with paintball guns, snarling dogs, rolls of barbed wire, spartan living conditions and forced labour were condemned by camp survivors as ‘sacrelidge’. But Shpektor defended his plans, arguing this would provide a much-needed cash injection for the depressed Vorkuta region as: ‘The chance of living in the Gulag as a prisoner is attractive to many wealthy foreigners … A whole trainload of people turned up in autumn last year wanting to go to such a concentration camp, for money”.

In 2006, a re-created Stalinist-prison camp near Vilnius, Lithuania hosted 400 students from 19 EU countries in a role playing exercise designed as a ‘live history lesson to foster deep reflection of the common past of European nations and people’. During their stay in the camp:

“The students are “forced” to travel for one hour in an “authentic Soviet truck ZIL157K” to a forest bunker … Then, for the next two hours, they live through the experience of being “political prisoners”, which includes being interrogated by NKVD (security service) officers, shouted at and insulted by the guards. The roles are performed by professional actors. The “excursion” ends with the announcement of Stalin’s death and subsequent amnesty.”

Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that a couple of hours of role-playing equates to the ‘authentic’ reality experienced by Gulag inmates, many of whom endured lengthy sentences spanning several years or even decades, having been interred for imaginary or fabricated crimes, not knowing if they’d ever live to see release, or what the fate of their families had been. Some of the student participants seemed to agree, with one participant (rather worryingly!) commenting that:

“I think that everybody can do this. We really enjoyed the deportation day, but I would prefer something more difficult, with more blood and maybe lasting for one week and not just one day.”

So, why does the idea of ‘experiencing’ the Gulag – an instrument of repression, fuelled by brutality, where millions of Soviet citizens lost their lives – hold such appeal for many people? Would you want to spend ‘Saturday night in the Gulag’? What limits – if any – should be applied to the ‘performative aspects’ of tourist attractions such as these?


June 11, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Rise and Fall of the Vory v Zakone.


Concluding the first week of the student showcase, Samuel Threlfall takes a look at criminal subculture in the Stalinist-era Gulag camps in this article about the Vory v Zakone – a small brotherhood of criminals with a distinct  code of conduct, rituals and method of communication. While the Vory gained notoriety for asserting a significant degree of authority within the camps during the 1930s and early 1940s, following the Second World War their numbers were decimated in a violent conflict between different criminal factions within the Gulag.


The Rise and Fall of the Vory v Zakone

By Samuel Threlfall.


The Vory-v-Zakone (‘thieves in law’) were a small brotherhood of criminals who consolidated their power in the Soviet Gulag camps in the years leading up to World War II. Many aspects of their criminal culture can be traced back to the Tsarist era but it was during the 1920s and 1930s that the Vory became firmly established as a distinct group.[1] The Vory were composed of many different kodlo, (crime groups or ‘families’), but all adhered to the same criminal subculture within the Gulag camps, demonstrated by their strict code of conduct, secret initiations, rituals, their own private language (fenia) and visual communication through coded tattoo art. Prior to World War II the Vory easily asserted their authority over the other muzhiki (working convicts), particularly members of the intelligentsia and political prisoners. Margaret Werner, an American woman held in the work camp in Burepolom, even stated that the camps were ‘unofficially run by the criminals’.[2] In the aftermath of World War II however, the influence of the Vory began to decline as they increasingly found themselves under attack.


The Vory-v-Zakone


Not just anyone could join the Vory. Many criminals served years of ‘apprenticeship’ before they were recommended for full inauguration into the criminal fraternity. New members had to be formally recommended by an existing Vor and then inaugurated at a special skhodka (meeting or ‘thieves court’) where they would swear an oath of loyalty to the brotherhood. Once inaugurated the novice had to change his name – a new criminal nickname was required to show that the thief was prepared to leave his old life behind and make the full transition to criminal life.[3]


Members of the Vory adhered to a strict set of rules. This Code bonded them together and established basic principles for them to live by, including the provision of moral and material support for other members of their criminal ‘family’. Conversely, the consequences for any thief who broke the code were brutally severe: they would be cast out as a traitor and labelled a Suka, a literal ‘bitch’, something which often resulted in their execution. Any conflict between members of the Vory would be resolved at a skhodka. The code also stated that a Vor must live off his criminal profits, prohibiting him from working. Gambling was allowed, although a Vor must honour his debts and have the resources to pay whatever he owed. It was customary that if a thief lost all his money playing cards and wanted to carry on playing, he would bet fingers or other limbs, mutilating himself during the game and then playing on.[4]


The criminal code also stated that a Vor had to be proficient in fenia, the language of the thieves. Shalamov stated that while in Kolyma he met a criminal called Williams who ‘answered with that peculiar accent characteristic of so many of the thieves’.[5] This was fenia – a criminal slang which resembled the nineteenth century dialect used by Russian peddlers but also incorporated colloquialisms from other languages including Yiddish and Romanian. Specialist criminals were known to have their own personal vocabulary, for example, pickpockets had roughly four hundred colloquialisms and gamblers had two hundred.[6]


The Vory communicated visually as well as verbally, using an intricate system of tattoo art. These tattoos provided a very visible sign of a Vor’s commitment to the fraternity. Particular tattoos denoted rank (generally speaking, the more tattoos a Vor had, the more respected he was) and highlighted individual criminal specialities, but the meanings of certain images could also change depending on where they were placed on the body. For example, pickpockets traditionally bore the image of a cat to denote their trade. However Kot (cat in Russian) was also an acronym for Korennoy Obitatel Turmi, meaning ‘I am a native to the prison camps’.[7] There was an urban legend within the camp that many thieves had tattooed Stalin and Lenin on their chests so that if they were executed in the camps, the firing squad would give them a painless death by shooting them directly in the head to avoid hitting the ‘sacred images’.[8]There were also strict regulations governing the wearing of tattoos, and criminals discovered wearing ‘unnacceptable’ or inappropriate tattoos were often punished by execution.


Example of A tattoo commonly used by the Vory – the image of a cat (kot) generally indicated that the wearer was a proficient pickpocket – image from Danzig Baldaev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Volume II, 141.


Hand and finger tattoos were common amongst the Vory – Danzig Baldaev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Volume II, 133.


While not religious, many criminals did believe in dukh, the idea of ‘personal spirituality’. Wearing homemade aluminium crucifixes were believed to improve their dukh and also illustrated their unity and loyalty to one other. One of their rituals was known as ‘earthing’. When a member had broken the Code, he would be rotated several times to remove his dukh before being backed into a wall where he would be stabbed multiple times.[9]


Life in the Gulag


As their code prohibited submission to any state authority or engaging in ‘legitimate’ labour, the Vory refused to work in the Gulag. According to Shalamov, thieves tried to avoid work by faking illnesses, bribing or threatening the camp doctor to send them to hospital. However, they would induce physical symptoms if this failed and this often involved some form of grievous self-injury, including eating shards of glass and metal or swallowing fish hooks to tear their insides. One Vor even blinded himself with styptic powder from a pencil.[10] For this reason, many Vory boasted of their high pain tolerance. Because the camp doctors had the ability to get them out of work unpunished, the thieves often applied a code of ‘morality’ to them. Doctors were often given presents and money in exchange for helping the thieves, and it was widely known that the thieves would not steal from medical personnel.[11]


However, their relationships with other prisoners in the camps tended to be far more antagonistic. Many political prisoners have recounted their experiences with the Vory in their memoirs, stressing their brutality and ‘inhuman’ nature. During her journey aboard the S.S Dzhurma, Evgenia Ginzburg, a political prisoner, came into contact with female criminals who were ‘covered in tattoos’. These women ‘openly stole what little provisions the politicals had, whilst most of the guards refused to intervene’.[12] Elinor Lipper also encountered some particularly violent criminals whilst on a transport ship, the Dalstroi, heading to Kolyma who ‘raped the women, starved the old, and murdered any men who tried to stop them’. Again, Lipper notes that many of the guards had been bribed to turn a blind eye, and on some occasions they even encouraged the Vory.[13]


Another prisoner, Janusz Bardach, described playing cards with a group of Vory who cheated him to rob him of all of his possessions. After he confronted them they beat him, and took what little he had left, making threats if he refused to hand over future rations. Later, during his incarceration at Kolyma, Bardach also came into contact with a pickpocket, Ruchka (‘Little Hand’), who did little to no work and constantly abused him for being a political prisoner. When Bardach attempted to strike back, he was taken to the guards who threw him straight into the isolator without even questioning Ruchka.[14] In his collection of drawings from the gulag, Danzig Baldaev has illustrated the torturous treatment many of the politicals faced at the hands of the Vory, illustrating prisoners having their clothing stolen from them, and depicting the frequent abuse and gang rape of women. If another prisoner insulted the Vory they would retaliate by ‘plugging the throat’ where a spike was forced into a prisoners mouth and hammered down:


‘Plugging the throat’ – a common punishment for any camp inmates deemed to have insulted one of the Vory – image from Danzig Baldaev, Drawings from the Gulag (London: Fuel, 2010), 136


However, relations were not always antagonistic. The Vory Ginzburg later encountered while working on a camp medical ward were more peaceful, demonstrating respect for her and asking her to tell them romantic tales.[15] Bardach also came across a prominent Vor known aspockmarked’. Again, in exchange for storytelling, ‘pockmarked’ made the other thieves return his stolen possessions, and made Bardach his personal guest at mealtimes, generally a privilege reserved for criminals only.[16] Almost all Vory were illiterate which would explain why storytelling was a valued commodity in the camps. For the most part though, memoirs tell of the contempt, animosity and brutality the Vory displayed towards other prisoners, unless they had something to offer them in return.


Such‘Ia Voina: The Bitches War 1948-1953


By the end of the 1940s, the situation had changed. The Second World War proved to be a turning point in the Vory’s influence over the Gulag camps. The thieves’ position in the camps was weakened by the large influx of prisoners in the immediate post war years. According to Varese between 1944-1947, over 600,000 were sentenced to the Gulag. Whereas the zeks of the 1930s were largely comprised of the intelligentsia and ‘politicals’, these new camp inmates were ex-soldiers and former prisoners of war, men who had combat experience. One camp inmate commented that these prisoners were ‘not the shy type’ and were ready to face the criminals who tried to rob them.[17] Many camp documents describe tensions between the Vory and the other inmates, as relations became so strained that riots frequently broke out.  In 1951, in the Obskii MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) labour camp, roughly 400 prisoners revolted against the thieves and their stranglehold over the camp and in 1953, in the Vanino transit camp, guards had to resort to using their firearms to quell a riot between convicts and thieves. These were by no means isolated phenomena; other reported incidents saw prisoners dismantling their beds and forging weapons out of the materials to fend off the thieves.[18]


The underworld was also riven by internal divisions following World War II as the criminal fraternity became divided between the traditional Vory and a growing number of Suki (bitches). Many Vory had been drafted into the Red Army, but after the war, many returned to the Gulag, either because the authorities refused to grant them their promised freedom, or because they had committed new crimes after release, so were re-arrested. On arrival back in the camps, they were shunned by the traditional Vory, who viewed them as traitors who had betrayed the criminal code by serving on the front line.


By 1948, a full scale civil war had broken out between the rival factions, the Such’Ia Voina (Bitches War). In the battles that were fought within the camps, the Suki were generally victorious, as the guards often supplied weapons to the Suki whilst the Vory remained unarmed. Some incidents occurred where 150 armed Suki fought 100 unarmed Vory massacring the majority of them.[19] The Suki were often encouraged by the guards to attack the Vory, and were ‘rewarded’ by being offered supervisory roles.[20] As a result, the Suki adopted a revised criminal code, one with fewer constraints which allowed for collaboration with the camp guards. The Suki then became the ‘storm troopers of the Gulag’ as they ruled over the other camp inmates under direct orders from the guards.[21]




World War Two marked a clear turning point in the Vory-v-Zakone’s influence over the Gulag camps. Prior to the outbreak of war the Vory enjoyed a privileged position at the top of the camp hierarchy. However, after the war, the influence of the Suki was on the rise. After Stalin’s death in 1953 over four million prisoners were released within the first five years, and by 1960, the Gulag had been reduced to a fifth of its former size.[22] Many of those released during the post-Stalinist amnesties were veteran thieves and during the 1950s the Suki moved outside the walls of the Gulag. The traditional Vory had been replaced by a new breed of criminal, one willing to work with the state authorities. Their revised criminal code allowed the Suki retain many of their old criminal traditions while also forging lucrative links in the corrupt shadow economy, creating a new breed of organised crime.[23]  By 1975 Vladimir Bukovskii estimated that only a few dozen traditional Vory were left throughout the entire Soviet Union.[24]


About the Author:


Samuel Threlfall has just completed his BA in History and American Studies at Swansea University. In his final year of study, Samuel researched and wrote a History Dissertation entitled ‘Unity and Divide, The Rise and Fall of the Vory v Zakone and Underworld Crime in the Russian Gulag’.


[1] Vyacheslav Razinkin, “Thieves in Law” and Criminal Clans (Moscow, 1995), 3; Federico Varese, ‘The Society of the Vory-v-Zakone, 1930s-1950s’, in Galeotti M (ed) Russian and Post-Soviet Organized Crime (Dartmouth, 2002), 516.

[2] Karl Tobien, Dancing Under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, The Only American Woman to Survive Stalin’s Gulag (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2006), 189.

[3] Federico Varese, ‘The Society of the Vory-v-Zakone, 1930s-1950s’, 517.

[4] Yuri Glazov, ‘”Thieves” in the USSR – A Social Phenomenon’, in Galeotti M (ed) Russian and Post-Soviet Organised Crime (Dartmouth, 2002), 149.

[5] Vladimir Shalamov, Kolyma Tales (Penguin, 1994), 41

[6] Sergei Cheloukhine. ‘The roots of Russian Organized Crime: from Old-Fashioned Professionals to the Organized Criminal Groups of Today’ Crime, Law and Social Change, Vol. 50, No. 4-5  (June 2008), 353-374,  357.

[7] Danzig Baldaev, Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume Three (Steidl, 2008), 141

[8] Alix Lambert, Russian Prison Tattoos: Codes of Authority, Domination and Struggle, (Atglen P.A Schiffer, 2003).48.

[9] Yuri Glazov, “Thieves” in the USSR, p. 145.

[10] Vladimir Shalamov, Kolyma Tales,  408-410.; Yuri Glazov, ‘“Thieves” in the USSR’, 149.

[11] Vladimir Shalamov, Kolyma Tales, p. 408.

[12] Evgenia Ginzburg, Into The Whirlwind, (London: Collins/Harvill, 1967), 268.

[13] Elinor Lipper, ‘The God That Failed in Siberia: A Tale of a Disillusioned Woman’, in Critchlow. Donald and Critchlow Agnieszka (ed), Enemies of the State, Personal Stories From Within the Gulag, (Chicago: Ivan. R. Dee, 2002)., 26.

[14] Janusz Bardach, Man is Wolf to Man, Surviving Stalin’s Gulag (London: Scribner, 2003), 149, 211-212.

[15] Evgenia Ginzburg, Into The Whirlwind, 277.

[16] Janusz Bardach, Man is Wolf To Man, 154.

[17] Federico Varese, ‘The Society of the Vory-v-Zakone, 1930s-1950s’, 528.

[18] Federico Varese, ‘The Society of the Vory-v-Zakone, 1930s-1950s’, 528.

[19] Yuri Glazov, “Thieves” in the USSR’, 153.

[20] Alexander Dolgun. Alexander Dolgun’s Story: An American in the Gulag (New York: Random House, 1975), 147.

[21] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The Gulag Archipelago, 126; Serio,‘Thieves Professing the Code’, 74.

[22] Miriam Dobson, Gulag Returnees, Crime and the State of Reform After Stalin (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 109.

[23] Patricia Rawlinson, From Fear to Fraternity, (London: Pluto Press, 2010),  160.

[24] Federico Varese, ‘The Society of the Vory-v-Zakone, 1930s-1950s’, 527.

June 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘The Littlest Enemies’: Children of the Stalinist Era


The next post in the 2012 student showcase explores how the terror and repression of the Stalinist era had an impact which extended far beyond those directly targeted by the regime. Stalinist propaganda claimed that the USSR was the best place in the world to raise a child, presenting childhood as an innocent, happy and fulfiling time. However this was not the case for the millions of children whose parents were caught up in Stalin’s terror. Some of these children were raised in the Gulag camps, some in state orphanages. Some were sent into exile with their families and others were left to fend for themselves on the city streets. All found themselves dispossesed, displaced, marginalised and rejected. In this article Victoria Bird discusses the experiences of these children, Stalin’s ‘Littlest Enemies’.


‘The Littlest Enemies’: Children of the Stalinist Era

By Victoria Bird.

The Stalinist era was characterized by extensive terror and repression, with large numbers of the Soviet population living in fear of the ‘knock on the door’ that could signify arrest, exile, imprisonment or execution. This climate of fear even extended to young children, many of whom were terrified of the day when their parents would ‘disappear’. Children who lost their parents as a result of Stalin’s Terror were affected in a number of different ways. Some were interned in Gulag camps along with their parents; some were deported to live in exile in remote regions with their families and some were forced into Soviet orphanages. Those who were left behind were stigmatised and ostracised, often even by other family members who feared punishment if they were seen to be helping the child of an ‘enemy of the people’, so were left to fend for themselves on the city streets. Whatever their ultimate fate, these children all found themselves marginalised, persecuted, rejected and forgotten by mainstream society. Instead their lives became dominated by a daily battle for survival, a battle that sadly many did not win.


‘Thank You, Dear Comrade Stalin for a Happy Childhood!’


Stalinist propaganda worked very hard to present childhood as a happy and positive time. Children were presented as the loyal socialists of the future, and Stalin was portrayed as the ‘little father’ raising the next generation of new Soviet men and women. Posters showing children praising Stalin were put up everywhere, often including the caption ‘Thank You, Dear Comrade Stalin, for a Happy Childhood’, while communist youth groups such as the Young Pioneers (for children aged 9-14) and the Komsomol (ages 14-18) were set up to provide children with a range of extra-curricular activities including parades, theatre outings, sporting events and summer camps which many would otherwise not have had access to.


“Thank you, Comrade Stalin for our Happy Childhood!” (1936) available online at:


Catriona Kelly argues that the state was attempting to back up the claims of the ‘fairy tale reality’ that supposedly characterized life in the Soviet Union, with sentimental visions of childhood pervading throughout all propaganda and claims that the Soviet Union was the best place in the world for children to grow up.[1] But, this fairy tale concealed the dark reality of many children’s lives during the Stalinist era, something which is illustrated by the image below. This famous photograph, entitled “Friend of the Little Children” was published on the front page of Izvestia in 1936, showing a happy, smiling young girl being lovingly held up by Stalin. However, the young girl’s smiles hide her dark background. Her name is Gelya Markizova, and her mother was mysteriously murdered after her father, Ardan, was shot for allegedly plotting against Stalin during the Terror years. Her real story was, of course, hidden by the state’s propaganda machine to perpetuate the vision of happy childhoods that Soviet propaganda was desperate to portray.


“Friend of the Little Children” (1936)


Gelya’s tale illustrates a much wider issue: that while some children do recall their Stalinist-era childhoods with fond memories today, their experiences were far from universal.  Many other children were marginalised, rejected and persecuted. Far from having the happy childhoods that they were supposedly entitled to, they were instead faced with great hardships and a struggle for survival.


Children of the Gulag


As a result of Stalinist terror and mass repression, hundreds of thousands of parents were arrested and placed in the infamous Gulag camps.  Resolution No 2213 stated that children up to the age of two must be kept in confinement along with their mothers, so many young children were taken to the Gulag and placed in camp nurseries.[2] Other children were actually born in the Gulag, because some prisoners were pregnant on arrival while others became pregnant in the camps (for more on pregnancy and childbirth in the Gulag see the previous blog post HERE). Life for children who found themselves in the camp nurseries was horrendous. They were often forced to live in extremely unhygienic conditions, in the coldest, oldest barracks, with a shortage of blankets, while the meagre food rations provided lacked essential nutrients and vitamins. The quality of care provided was terrible; children were neglected and given minimal attention with reports that nurses would feed the children scalding hot food and often left them sitting for hours on their potties causing many to suffer from prolapsed rectum.[3] As a result, the rate of infant mortality in the Gulags was extraordinarily high and those children who survived suffered extensive physical and psychological damage. In her memoir, Evgenia Ginzburg commented on how shocked she was on discovering that many older children in one camp nursery would not even speak, communicating instead via inarticulate howls.[4]


Children in a Gulag camp nursery being fed – image from Cathy Frierson, and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag (Yale University Press, 2010), 311


In 1935 the introduction of Article 12 of the Criminal Code also permitted children from the age of twelve to be sentenced as adults and interned in the Gulags. This law was used to round up the children of those who had earlier been arrested for political crimes based on the belief that ‘an apple never falls far from the tree’.[5] Many street children, the waifs and strays, commonly known as Bezprizorni also committed crimes (most commonly theft) and many were sent to the camps as punishment, where they found themselves living in bare, dirty cells in a brutal world where they mixed with older, more dangerous criminals. Oleg Khlevniuk described how many older criminals treated these youngsters brutally, often using them for sexual favours or forcing them into prostitution.[6]


Identity photographs of arrested children – image taken from Catriona Kelly, Children’s World: Growing Up in Russia 1890-1991 (Yale University Press, 2007), 235


Banished: Childhood in Exile


Many children also had to face the terrifying prospect of exile. Those commonly targeted included devout religious followers, ethnic minorities and ‘kulak’s’ (peasants who resisted collectivisation). Numerous families were rounded up and forcibly relocated to remote and uninhabited regions in Russia’s far north, such as the Urals, Northern Siberia or the open steppe of Kazakhstan. Many families were given little more than an hour to gather together sufficient food and provisions for their ‘new lives’. Antonina Golovin recalls her mother quickly wrapping her in a warm woollen shawl when the order came to leave, but this was removed and she was not allowed to take it, even though they were heading for Arctic conditions.[7] The journey into exile was arduous and exhausting, with families packed into overcrowded, under-heated and filthy cattle trucks for days or weeks on end. One letter to the Chairman of the VTsIK told how thousands of children died of starvation or disease during the journey into exile, to be buried in mass unmarked graves.[8]


Unmarked graves of ‘special settlers’ who perished – some are only 4ft long. Image taken from Cathy Frierson and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag (Yale University Press, 2010), 103


On arrival, the surviving settlers had to make do with living in primitive zemlianki, mud holes that had been dug out of the ground and covered in branches and mud to keep in as much heat as possible.[9] Whilst digging out these cold, damp shelters, the exiles also had to struggle to find food for their families: they arrived with few tools or other provisions to aid them and many settlements were completely cut off by the snow. This meant thousands more children died from starvation. Exiled children also faced a variety of other life-threatening diseases. The lack of vitamins caused scurvy and malnutrition, while many fell sick with typhus, malaria, tuberculosis and pneumonia with no prospect of medical aid. As Werth explains, the situation in exile was critical for children, who were the chief victims of disease and death. For example, in one settlement consisting of 350 families, 180 children died during the first few months due to an epidemic of scarlet fever. On another island settlement, of the 14,000 deportees who died there between June and August of 1931, 76% of them were under 12 years old and one report in January 1932 recognized that in the Narym region, mortality for children under three years old was as high as 12% per month, with Siberia becoming the setting for a huge amount of child deaths.[10]


Stalin’s Orphans


Homeless children along ‘children of the enemies of the people’ increasingly found themselves being placed in state-run orphanages, where their fates were far from happy. Alan Ball argues that conditions in some Soviet orphanages were just as bad, if not worse, than life on the streets, and Deborah Hoffman agrees that during the Stalinist era the high influx of children into state-run orphanages (absorbing 5,000-10,000 children each year during the 1930s; while in Moscow alone, by June 1st 1938, 15,347 children of repressed parents had been sent to orphanages) meant conditions became increasingly dire, leading to overcrowding and severe shortages.[11]


Starvation and malnutrition were a routine occurrence in the orphanages with many children forced to raid nearby rubbish bins to find sustenance and there were reports of children lapping thin soup directly from cupped hands due to the shortage of bowls.[12] Shortages of clothes and shoes meant that children often had to go around barefoot in the snow and in one orphanage an inspector recorded 46 children who were suffering from frost-bitten feet.[13] Three to four children would often be required to share a filthy mattress lacking any blankets, while others slept in stoves or huddled on the bare floor, covering themselves with whatever came to hand, such as old curtains. One orphanage in Viatka even issued sacks for the children to sleep in.[14]


The institutions themselves had crumbling walls, no heating and a total lack of washing facilities which resulted in orphanages being increasingly referred to as ‘cesspools’. Children only received baths at intervals of several weeks; one group of children even wrote of how they were only allowed to visit the bathhouse every other month, and were given clean underwear even more rarely. Many orphanages had no lavatory so children would relieve themselves in yards, hallways and even their own beds.[15] Orphans commonly suffered from diseases such as typhus, malaria, dysentery, scurvy, rickets, ringworm and lice as a result of their dire surroundings and poor hygiene. Former inmates described how the bodies of those who had died being stacked in piles, where they were kept until there were enough to be taken away and cremated, while one inspector’s report described how he had witnessed children having to live and sleep for several days in the same bed as the corpses of other children. Mortality rates among children in some Ukrainian orphanages actually stood at one hundred per cent.[16]


Those who managed to survive disease and death in the orphanages were also faced with the threat of beatings, abuse and bullying from the older inhabitants, while there are also countless stories of the warders in charge violently assaulting the children or even raping the young orphans in their care. Many children received brutal beatings from their directors, while others remember being thrown into ‘punishment cells’ for the slightest offence. One child told of how the director would frequently drag children out of their beds by their hair, bang their heads against the wall and then threaten them with his revolver.[17]


Bezprizorni: Life on the Streets


Some children avoided life in the orphanage by running away. These gangs of homeless children or Bezprizorni became a common sight in Soviet cities during the Stalinist era. Most scraped a living through scavenging, begging, pickpocketing, petty theft and prostitution. Many quickly became addicted to cigarettes, alcohol and even cocaine in an attempt to escape from the terror and hardships of their everyday lives. They lived in appalling conditions, particularly during the freezing winter months, dressed in ‘lice-ridden, grimy garments’ with ‘bare feet wrapped in newspapers’. To keep warm at night, the Bezprizorni would sleep in dirty cauldrons, rubbish bins, public toilets and some even buried into the earth into shallow dugouts.[18]


Gang of street children sheltering in a dirty cauldron – image from Alan Ball, And Now My Soul is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia (University of California Press, 19914), 118


Initially, the state made some attempts to ‘rehabilitate’ Bezprizorni, through the establishment of special children’s homes, communes and colonies which aimed to re-educate and reintegrate homeless children into respectable society.[19] However, most Bezprizorni stubbornly refused to enter these institutions and those who were forcibly rounded up fled by the thousands, returning to life on the streets. From 1935, a special Soviet decree extended full adult penalties to juvenile criminals, which meant any Bezprizorni who were apprehended could simply be imprisoned.




While Stalinist propaganda may have presented an idealised ‘fairy tale’ image of Soviet childhood characterised by happy innocence, for some the reality was very different. Many children were ripped away from their families, condemned to the Gulags, forced into exile, sent to orphanages or left to fend for themselves on the streets. Most of these children endured severe physical and psychological trauma and those who survived often carried this stigma with them into adulthood.


For more information see:  Film: Children of the Gulag (Java Films)

About the Author:

Victoria Bird has just completed her BA in History at Swansea University, UK. In her final year of study Victoria specialised in the history of communist Eastern Europe and she also researched and wrote her History Dissertation about “Bezprizorni: The Result of Mass Arrests and the Labour Camp System”.


[1] Catriona Kelly, Children’s World: Growing up in Russia, 1890 – 1991 (Yale University Press, 2007)

[2] Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History (Penguin Books, 2004), 292; Cathy A Frierson and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag (Yale University Press, 2010), 310 – 313

[3] Evgenia Ginzburg, Within the Whirlwind (Collins Harvill, 1989) 4; Catriona Kelly, Children’s World, 241

[4] Evgenia Ginzberg, Within the Whirlwind, 4

[5] Catriona Kelly, Children’s World, 237

[6] Oleg Khlevniuk, The History of the Gulag: From Collectivization to the Great Terror (Yale University Press, 2004) 124

[7] Orlando Figes, The Whisperers, 95

[8] Cathy Frierson, and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag, 100 – 103

[9] Deborah Hoffman, The Littlest Enemies: Children in the Shadow of the Gulag, (Slavica Publishers, 2008), 41

[10] Nicholas Werth, Cannibal Island: Death in a Siberian Gulag (Princeton University Press, 2007), 44-56

[11] Alan Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia 1918-1930 (University of California Press, 1994) 98; Deborah Hoffman, The Littlest Enemies,81; Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary life in extraordinary times; Soviet Russia in the 1930’s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 150

[12] Alan Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened, 115

[13] Cathy Frierson, and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag, 254

[14] Jehanne Gheith, and Katherine Jolluck, Gulag Voices, Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 125; Alan Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened, 115

[15] Alan Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened, 116; Deborah Hoffman, The Littlest Enemies, 98

[16] Cathy Frierson, and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag, 58, 117; Alan Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened, 115; Catriona Kelly, Children’s World, 201

[17] Cathy Frierson, and Semyon Vilensky, Children of the Gulag, 56

[18] Alan Ball, And Now My Soul Is Hardened, 30 – 32 , 72

[19] Lucy Wilson, The New Schools of New Russia, (Vanguard Press, 1928), 100

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Day in the Life Of…”: Women of the Soviet Gulag


The second in this year’s series of student authored articles considers some key aspects of women’s experiences in the Stalinist Gulag camps. Proportionally, women made up a small but significant percentage of the Gulag population and a rich body of written memoirs and personal testimony from surviving female inmates is available  today. In this article Katryna Coak draws on some of these accounts to argue that while women may have been subjected to broadly similar conditions as those experienced by male inmates, there were distinctly gendered aspects to the female Gulag experience, particularly relating to women’s experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood in the camps, which could be both uplifting and traumatic in equal measure.


“A Day in the Life Of…”: Women of the Soviet Gulag.

By Katryna Coak.


During the 1930s, the escalation of Stalinist terror and repression (particularly during the Great Terror of 1936-1939) meant that the population of the Gulag labour camps continued to grow. Anne Applebaum estimates that over 18 million people passed through the Gulag in total, and many women were sent to these labour camps, including large numbers of political prisoners, many of whom were sentenced under Article 58, their only crime being their association as ‘wives of enemies of the people’. However, proportionally their numbers remained relatively small in relation to the male population: for example, Mason estimates that in 1939 women only comprised 8.4 per cent of the total Gulag population, while Anne Applebaum has estimated that in 1942 only around 13% of Gulag inmates were female.[1] Initially many camp commanders were reluctant to accept women, as they believed they were weaker than men, so would take longer to fulfil the work norms set by the Gulag administration. In February 1941 the central camp administration even sent a letter to the NKVD and camp commanders ordering them to accept convoys of women and listing jobs that women could be particularly useful for, such as textiles, wood and metal work and light industry.[2]


However, despite their relatively small numbers and despite the fact that men and women had to endure broadly similar living and working conditions within the camps, women’s experiences of the Gulag were also distinctively different to those of their male counterparts in a number of ways, as depicted by the accounts in numerous female memoirs and personal testimonies.


Camp Life


Many women’s first memories of the Gulag tell of their fear, embarrassment and degradation. On arrival at their assigned camp, women were generally led to the bathhouse where they had a rare opportunity to wash. This was often an embarrassing and shocking experience. One former zek recalled how: ‘The personnel were all male. You had to overcome the shame and humiliation, clench your teeth and control yourself, to endure the dirty jokes calmly and not spit at those hideous faces, or punch them between the eyes’.[3] Another former prisoner drew the scene of humiliation, revealing that women were made to wait for their turn naked in the snow:


A drawing by Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia, a former Gulag prisoner, available via Gulag: Soviet Forced Labour and the Struggle for Freedom:


The humiliation did not stop there: guards often exploited the situation to ‘inspect’ the new arrivals, as women were a rarity within the Gulag: ‘After the bath, we had to wait a while for our clothes, which had been taken to be disinfected. This period of waiting was the worst…our guards came in under the pretext that one of us might attempt to escape’ recalled Anna Cieślikowska.[4] The disinfection of prisoner’s clothing was generally ineffective anyway as the water used to wash the clothes was often not hot enough to kill the parasites and merely served to excite them further. In order to reduce the incidence of lice, women therefore endured further embarrassment as their heads and pubis were shaved. This procedure was supposed to be carried out by a female doctor, but they were rarely available, so male guards and doctors gleefully stepped in.


Some women resisted: ‘I was so shocked about it that at first I refused…soldiers kept my hands behind my back, while another forced my legs apart’.[5] But women also had to submit to regular physical searches: ‘They searched our hair, our mouths and even our…[they] were carried out solely to frighten and humiliate us’.[6] This sense of humiliation is also depicted in another drawing by Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia, illustrating a physical search party, where it is evident that the women are hanging their heads due to the shame and awkwardness of this situation:


A drawing by Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia, a former Gulag prisoner, depicting a late night search of women, available online via Gulag: Soviet Forced Labour and the Struggle for Freedom:


Yet, other women quickly adopted a more pragmatic approach to their new situation. Speaking about the regular physical searches, Elinor Lipper argued that, ‘What we hated worse than the confiscation of the little things we needed, worse than the humiliation of the whole procedure, was the fact that we were robbed of our all-too-brief night’s sleep’ – something which was essential due to the toll taken by the physical labour that all Gulag inmates were subjected to in one form or another.[7] Some women appear to have adjusted to camp life more quickly than others as practical concerns took precedence. Furthermore, other women spoke about how they quickly became more adept at concealing the few personal possessions that they had, utilising fish bones from their daily soup to create needles in order to repair clothing and fashioning knives from bits of metal. Eleanor Lipper, a former Gulag inmate, claimed that ‘women are far more enduring than men…and also more adaptable to unaccustomed physical labour’, while Anne Applebaum has argued that camp women formed more powerful relationships with one another and helped each other in ways male prisoners did not such as by sharing food rations.[8] Kseniia Dmitrievna Medvedskaia also spoke of how she feared ostracism after a stint in the punishment cell, however her apprehensions were quickly dispelled as on her return to the barracks the other women greeted her warmly and shared the food they had saved for her.[9]


Despite this camaraderie however, many women found life in the Gulag to be a demoralising and defeminising experience. Solzhenitsyn commented that due to the toll of regular manual labour in the Gulag, women’s bodies became worn and ‘everything feminine about them ceased to be, both biologically and physically’.[10] Many women also described the shock they felt when they caught a rare glance of their reflections in a broken piece of glass or a mirror.  With shaved heads, lose fitting men’s clothing and skeletal bodies, they appeared genderless. Ginzberg described how, while watching another female work brigade: ‘As we continued to watch the files of workers passing by, an inclination of a joke left us. They were indeed sexless…this sight appalled us and took away the last remnants of or courage’.[11] Serving time in the Gulag proved to be a dehumanising experience for many women, many of whom felt they were forcibly stripped of their femininity.


Camp Relationships, Pregnancy and Motherhood


Life in the camps, Anatoly Zhigulin argues, was not all bad: ‘Sometimes people ask me whether there were ever any good times in the camps…of course there were…there were good, even joyful moments that had nothing to do with material comforts’.[12] This comfort could come in the form of a friend or a lover. Sadly, many women were physically abused by male inmates and camp guards, with horrific accounts of rape and abuse a frequent issue in Gulag memoirs. Some women therefore took ‘camp husbands’ to offer them protection, while others deliberately sought out sexual encounters with guards in order to receive physical protection, higher rations and time off work. Elinor Lipper described how ‘women who once dreamed of hearing the phrase “I love you” know found the words “butter, sugar and white bread” a proper substitute’, while another former Gulag inmate explained ‘(‘[I] don’t think that this is the place for love and commitment…I wasn’t in love with Victor. I stayed with him because it isn’t safe for a women to be alone’.[13] However, genuine relationships also formed within the Gulag: In Minlag camp, male and female prisoners sent notes to each other via their friends in the camp hospital. In other camps coded letters were thrown over the fence dividing the two sexes. Some lovers were even ‘married’ across the barbed wire.[14] These relationships could give a prisoner hope in what often seemed to be a hopeless situation.


Pregnancy was therefore a relatively common occurrence in the camps and stories of children and motherhood are a common theme within female memoir literature. Shapalov argues that for many, children symbolised ‘normal’ life and made prisoners feel as though they were on an equal footing with ‘free’ women, something which could have helped some women to regain a sense of femininity and purpose in a hostile environment, [15] while Hava Volovitch spoke of how: ‘our need for love was so desperate that it reached the point of insanity, of banging one’s head against the wall, of suicide. And we wanted a child – the dearest and closest of all people, someone for whom we could give our own life’.[16]


Potentially, there were practical benefits to pregnancy too. A decree of January 10, 1939, stated that female zeks were allowed thirty-five days off work before the birth of their child and twenty-eight after their child was born.[17] Pregnancy could save a woman from beatings and even from execution. Rumours circulated that pregnancy could ensure an early release, as amnesties for pregnant women were implemented at various points. However, pregnancy was seen as a camp offence and many inmates were forced to have abortions, even though the practice was made illegal in the Soviet Union in 1936.[18] Camp officials often took the decision to forcibly terminate a women’s pregnancy so that she could continue to work, in the interests of reaching production targets. There were also some women who attempted to end unwanted pregnancies themselves: Anna Andreevna talks of how she witnessed one woman stabbing herself with needles until she began bleeding heavily, signifying the end of her pregnancy. Even those terminations performed by camp doctors were often unskilled and dangerous.[19] Therefore, pregnancy could be a scary time for expectant mothers.


The survival rate of babies born in the Gulag was extremely low and children were often born in terrible, unhygienic conditions.  Hava Volovich retcalled her experience of giving birth to a daughter in the Gulag:


‘She was born in a remote camp barracks, not in the medical block. There were three mothers there, and we were given a tiny room to ourselves…bedbugs poured from the ceiling and walls; we spent the whole night brushing them off the child. During the day we had to go to work and leave the infants with any old woman…these women would calmly help themselves to the food we left for the children’.[20]


Children were not allowed to stay with their mother for long: after the birth they were quickly transferred to a camp nursery and the mothers were sent to a camp for mamki (nursing mothers). Despite ‘official’ camp regulations Mamki were often forced to return to work almost immediately after giving birth, and were only allowed to breast feed their babies at specific times. Mothers were only permitted to visit their children regularly if they were breast-feeding so sometimes camp commanders would claim that a mother had stopped lactating in order to get them back to work earlier. If a woman missed their feeding ‘appointment’, their child would generally go hungry.


The high infant mortality rate in the camps is therefore understandable. Giuli Fedorovna Tsivirko recalls her experience of being a mother in the Gulag: ‘my son died after eight months. He died. He was born weighing one and a half kilograms, blue. He looked at me with the eyes of a grown person. I felt that he was doomed’ And Hava Volovich watched her child slowly turn into ‘a pale ghost with blue shadows under her eyes and sores all over her lips’.[21]


If a child did survive, they would be removed from the camps within two years. This operation was usually carried out at night to take the mothers by surprise and to avoid emotional displays: ‘Then came the order to take the children away from their mothers and send them to a nursery away from Solovki. We were heartbroken! There were so many tears!’ recalls Anna Petrovna Zborovskaia.[22] On discovering that their children had been taken, many women would fling themselves against the barbed wire in an attempt to take their own lives. Once removed from the camp, the address of a child’s whereabouts was usually omitted from the mother’s records making it almost impossible for a mother to trace her child even after she was released.


Not all women in the Gulag camps embraced motherhood: Solzhenitsyn has claimed that some women used pregnancy to ensure early liberation from the Gulag and once freed, they would leave their children on the nearest porch or train station bench, as they no longer had any need for them.[23] However in their memoirs, many female zeks appear to have viewed their children as a humanising force in a dehumanising situation and a way of reclaiming their identity. The birth of a child could will a woman to survive for the child’s sake. However, these children were unlikely to survive, and if they did, ultimately they would be forcibly taken from their mothers. So pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood within the camps could also be an extremely traumatic experience that had the potential to leave both physical and psychological scars.


About the Author:


Katryna Coak has just completed her BA in History at Swansea University. During her final year of study, Katryna specialised in the study of communist Eastern Europe and also researched and wrote her History dissertation about the experiences of Women in the Stalinist-era Gulag camps. Katryna will commence postgraduate study at the University of East Anglia in September 2012.


[1] Emma Mason, ‘Women in the Gulag in the 1930s,’ in Illič, Melanie, ed., Women in the Stalin Era, (Palgrave: 2001); Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History, (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 287

[2] Anne Applebaum, Ibid, 287

[3] Anna Cieślikowska, ‘Fragments,’ reproduced in Jehanne Gheith and Katherine Jolluck, Gulag Voices: Oral Histories of Soviet Incarceration and Exile, Palgrave Macmilian: 2011).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Michael Solomon, Magadan, (Vertex Books: 1971)

[6] Olga Adamova-Sliozberg, ‘My Journey,’ reproduced in Simeon Vilensky, Till my Tale is Told: Women’s Memoirs of the Gulag, (Virago Press: 1999)

[7] Elinor Lipper, Eleven Years in Soviet Prison Camps (London: Photolith-Merchana, 1950) 206

[8] Elinor Lipper, quoted in Robert Conquest, Kolyma: The Artic Death Camps, 177; Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History (London: Penguin Books, 2003) 284.

[9] Dmitrievna Medvedskaia, ‘Life is Everywhere,’ reproduced in Veronica Shapovalov, ed., Remembering the Darkness: Women in Soviet Prisons (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2001) 232

[10] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 235-236

[11] Evgenia Ginzburg, Into the Whirlwind, 300

[12] Anatoly Zhigulin, ‘On Work,’ reproduced in Anne Applebaum, Gulag Voices: An Anthology, (Yale University Press, 2011)

[13] Elinor Lipper, Eleven Years in Soviet Prison Camps (London: Photolith-Merchana, 1950) 119; Janusz Bardach and Kathleen Gleeson, Man is Wolf to Man: Surviving Stalin’s Gulag (London: Simon and Schuster, 1998) 296 and 298

[14] Anne Applebaum, Gulag, 291; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 248; Emma Mason, ‘Women in the Gulag in the 1930s,’ in Illič, ed., Women in the Stalin Era, 141

[15] Veronica Shapovalov,  Remembering the Darkness: Women in Soviet Prisons (Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2001)

[16] Hava Volovich, ‘My Past,’ reproduced in Vilensky, Simeon, Till my Tale is Told: Women’s Memoirs of the Gulag (Indiana: Virago Press, 1999) 260

[17] Emma Mason, ‘Women in the Gulag in the 1930s,’ in Illič, ed., Women in the Stalin Era, (Palgrave: 2001)

[18] Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History, (Penguin Books: 2003)

[19] Ibid, 294

[20] Hava Volovich, ‘My Past,’ reproduced in Simeon Vilensky, Till my Tale is Told: Women’s Memoirs of the Gulag (Virago Press: 1999)

[21] Interview with Giuli Fedorovna Tsivirko, ‘Surrounded by Death,’ May 1988, reproduced in Gheith, and Jolluck, Gulag Voices, 95; Volovich, ‘My Past,’ reproduced in Vilensky, Till my Tale is Told: Women’s Memoirs of the Gulag.

[22] Anna Petrovna Zborovskaia, 291; Mason, ‘Women in the Gulag in the 1930s,’ in Illič, ed., Women in the Stalin Era, 144

[23] Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, (Harper Collins: 1973)


June 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments