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Gulag Voices

Gulag Voices: An Anthology

Edited by Anne Applebaum
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Gulag Voices
    Book Description:

    Anne Applebaum wields her considerable knowledge of a dark chapter in human history and presents a collection of the writings of survivors of the Gulag, the Soviet concentration camps. Although the opening of the Soviet archives to scholars has made it possible to write the history of this notorious concentration camp system, documents tell only one side of the story.Gulag Voicesnow fills in the other half.

    The backgrounds of the writers reflect the extraordinary diversity of the Gulag itself. Here are the personal stories of such figures as Dmitri Likhachev, a renowned literary scholar; Anatoly Marchenko, the son of illiterate laborers; and Alexander Dolgun, an American citizen. These remembrances-many of them appearing in English for the first time, each chosen for both literary and historical value-collectively spotlight the strange moral universe of the camps, as well as the relationships that prisoners had with one another, with their guards, and with professional criminals who lived beside them.

    A vital addition to the literature of this era,annotated for a generation that no longer remembers the Soviet Union,Gulag Voiceswill inform, interest, and inspire, offering a source for reflection on human nature itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16012-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xviii)

    The writers in this volume have one thing in common: all of them were arrested for political crimes in the Soviet Union, and all of them spent years—sometimes many years—in the concentration camp system now known as the Gulag. There, however, their similarities end.

    Certainly their backgrounds were very different. Some of them, such as the literary historian Dmitry Likhachev and the ethnographer Nina Gagen-Torn, held prominent positions among the Saint Petersburg intelligentsia. Others, among them Lev Razgon, were ambitious young members of the Bolshevik elite. Still others, including Hava Volovich and Elena Glinka, came from ordinary provincial...

    (pp. 1-12)

    To describe Dmitry Likhachev as a former Gulag prisoner is a little bit like describing Albert Einstein as a talented amateur violinist: he was that, but also so much more. Likhachev was born in 1906 and belonged to the extraordinarily cultured world of prerevolutionary Saint Petersburg. Like many of his contemporaries, he was arrested in 1928 for taking part in an academic discussion circle and was thus one of the early victims of the Bolsheviks’ systematic destruction of Russian civil society. In the view of the Soviet secret police, any organized group, even one devoted to the discussion of literature...

    (pp. 13-38)

    Alexander Dolgun’s story will shock many modern American readers, not least because of what it reveals about the past practices of their own government. Dolgun was an American, born in the Bronx in 1926. In 1933, in the depths of the Depression, his unemployed father, Michael Dolgun, moved to the Soviet Union to take a job as a technician at the Moscow Automotive Works. After a year he brought over his American wife and children. It was a disastrous decision: when they tried to return home, Soviet bureaucrats prevented the family from leaving the country. Both Michael and his wife...

    (pp. 39-48)

    Elena Glinka was a twenty-nine-year-old engineer when she was arrested in 1950. Imprisoned for six years, she returned to Moscow in 1956 and re-enrolled at the shipbuilding institute where she had been studying when she was taken away. From then on, in the words of one of her fellow students, she “said nothing at all about her life ‘over there.’ ” Occasionally, she would reminisce about some of the good people she had met, or about those who helped her, but she did not describe in detail the horrors she had experienced.

    Perhaps her earlier reticence helps explain why the...

    (pp. 49-56)

    In the photograph which precedes the introduction to his memoir,Inside Stalin’s Prisons,Kazimierz Zarod is walking down a prosperous Warsaw boulevard dressed in a wool coat, wool scarf, and hat. Young and handsome, he strides beside an equally young and handsome woman, also wearing a wool coat, hers with a fur collar. Twenty-six years old when the war broke out, Zarod was a Polish civil servant and an army reservist. Along with many others, he fled from Warsaw to eastern Poland after the Germans invaded the country on September 1, 1939. He was then trapped there on September 17,...

    (pp. 57-68)

    Though his childhood was marked by war and his adolescence by arrest and incarceration, Anatoly Zhigulin retained a powerful nostalgia for an older, simpler, holier Russia throughout his life. He was born in 1930 in a small Russian village, and an idyllic image of what Russia had been—and should be—permeated the poetry for which he became famous after his return from the camps in 1954. At times that nostalgia also seeps intoBlack Stones,the memoir he wrote of the five years he spent in the Gulag.

    Though Zhigulin’s poetry was officially published during the Soviet period,Black...

    (pp. 69-82)

    Perhaps because she was an ethnographer by profession, Nina Gagen-Torn’s descriptions of her fellow Gulag inmates have an unusual sharpness. Born in Saint Petersburg in 1900, Gagen-Torn was the daughter of a respected physician, a Russified Swede. This fact may have saved her life: upon her arrival at one camp, a doctor inspecting the prisoners asked her whether her father was Ivan Gagen-Torn, his former professor. When she said yes, he immediately declared that she was “ill,” plucked her out of the brigade of women being marched off to work, and sent her to rest in the camp hospital.


    (pp. 83-94)

    Before he published his 1994 Gulag memoirWe March Under Guard,Isaak Filshtinsky was better known for a different sort of writing. Born in 1918, Filshtinsky was an expert on Arab culture and literature. The author of dozens of books and articles, he was also a popular teacher at Moscow State University. Yet as a young academic he had been arrested along with many other experts in Arab and Middle Eastern cultures as a “counter-revolutionary” and potential spy. He spent six years in Kargopollag, in northern Russia, from 1949 to 1955. After his return home he developed links to the...

    (pp. 95-104)

    Hava Volovich was born in 1916. She worked as a typesetter, then as a newspaper subeditor, in a small Ukrainian town, where she watched friends and family die all around her during the famine of 1932–33. She stayed alive herself only because of the ration card she received at work. She began speaking openly and critically about the damage being done to Ukrainian peasants by the new collective farms and confiscation policies, and as a result she was arrested in 1937. She remained in the camps for sixteen years, until 1953.

    After she came home, Volovich held a series...

    (pp. 105-124)

    When he was arrested in 1940, Gustav Herling was, at age twenty-one, already a published journalist and critic. Like Kazimierz Zarod, he was arrested in Soviet-occupied eastern Poland while trying to escape over the border. The NKVD jailed him, interrogated him, and deported him to a camp near Arkhangelsk, in the Russian far North. Finally discharged in 1942 along with other Poles, he left the country with “Anders’s Army,” following it through Persia and Palestine. After the war, Herling remained in Italy, not wanting to return to Soviet-dominated Poland. He made his living as an émigré writer and novelist in...

  13. 10. LEV KOPELEV
    (pp. 125-142)

    Born in 1912, Lev Kopelev came of age as an idealistic Communist. As a working journalist, he witnessed the confiscation of grain from the Ukrainian peasants in 1931, the policy which led to the onset of a mass famine. Nevertheless, he retained his faith in the ultimate goodness of the system, even rising to become a major in the Red Army’s notorious Political Department, the institution that maintained ideological control over the soldiers. Only at the end of the war, horrified by the wanton rapes and murders he had witnessed during the Soviet invasion of East Prussia, did Kopelev begin...

  14. 11. LEV RAZGON
    (pp. 143-168)

    Although of humble background—he was born in a small town in Belarus in 1908—Lev Razgon had the good fortune, or perhaps the misfortune, to have worked his way into the heart of the Soviet elite by the 1930s. A successful journalist, he married the daughter of Gleb Boky, one of the founders of the Cheka, the earliest incarnation of the Soviet secret police. As a result he was on intimate terms with many of the first generation of Bolshevik leaders. In 1937, when Stalin’s great purge began and the Revolution turned on its own creators, he watched these...

    (pp. 169-180)

    Today’s camps for political prisoners are just as horrific as in Stalin’s time. A few things are better, a few things are worse . . .” So began Anatoly Marchenko’sMy Testimony. When it first began to circulate in Moscow in the late 1960s this memoir deeply shocked the city’s intelligentsia, most of whom had believed that the Soviet Union’s labor camps had closed for good.

    Born in 1938, the working-class son of illiterate parents, Marchenko received his first prison conviction for hooliganism. He received his second conviction in 1961 for treason: he had tried to escape the Soviet Union...

  16. 13. K. PETRUS
    (pp. 181-192)

    K. Petrus is a pseudonym for the author of a short but unusual Gulag memoir.Prisoners of Communismappeared in 1996 under the auspices of a publishing house linked to the Russian Orthodox Church. The memoir is valuable both because it is a relatively early account of the camps—Petrus was in Siblag, near Novosibirsk, in the mid-1930s—and also because it tells the story of a long imprisonment from the point of view of a deeply religious person. Petrus does not remember his years in the Gulag as a long torment but rather tells of conversions he effected, the...

  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 193-196)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-198)