GULAG Returnees: Memory, History, Identity

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2017, Vol. 3. №4

GULAG Returnees: Memory, History, Identity

For citation: Kirk Т. C., Maksimova L. A. 2017. “GULAG Returnees: Memory, History, Identity”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 3, no 4, pp. 173-183. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2017-3-4-173-183

About the authors:

Tyler C. Kirk, Doctoral Candidate in History, Arizona State University, USA;

Liubov A. Maksimova, Cand. Sci. (Hist.), Associate Professor, Director of Institute of History and Law, Pitirim Sorokin Syktyvkar State University;


On the example of the Komi ASSR — the territory, where the forced labor camps were concentrated during Stalin’s period — the authors analyze memoirs (records), letters, and diaries of former GULAG prisoners; they examine questions of memory and identity; and they show how former prisoners described their life in the GULAG camps. According to the authors, working with the sources of personal origin is an important trend in historical research, since they give an opportunity to draw attention to the feelings and experiences of the ordinary participants of the events, allowing to learn about the specifics of the adaptation to the civil society of returnees from the Gulag. The question of self-identification of former prisoners was raised: did they consider themselves to be Soviet people? How did they perceive the society after their liberation? How did the society see them?

The analysis of personal documents makes it possible to identify the long-term consequences of the GULAG in the lives of those who have experienced all the hardships of the Stalin's regime. The authors emphasize that each individual’s records can become a source of history and it can influence the shaping of historical memory. This article notes that the analysis of documents of personal origin allows to conclude that regardless the place of prior residence, after the liberation from the camps in the Komi territory, all returnees, whose documents were observed in this research, participated in establishing a community of former prisoners that was formed through literature, poetry, art, and memoirs.


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