Nature as a “Memory Place” in Russian Prose of the Gulag

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2018, Vol. 4. №4

Nature as a “Memory Place” in Russian Prose of the Gulag

For citation: Gerber J., Ertner E. N. 2018. “Nature as a “Memory Place” in Russian Prose of the Gulag”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 4, no 4, pp. 120-133. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2018-4-4-120-133

About the authors:

Julie Gerber, Postgraduate Student, Assistant, Department of Russian and Foreign Literature, University of Tyumen;

Elena N. Ertner, Dr. Sci. (Philol.), Professor, The Russian and Foreign Literature Department, University of Tyumen;; ORCID: 0000-0003-1523-6561


This article considers the image of nature and the ways of its literary representation in the Russian prose dedicated to the Gulag. The object of the study is the “Kolyma Tales” (1967) by V. T. Shalamov which became classics, and the novel “Oblivion” (2010) by the famous writer S. S. Lebedev. Comparative analysis of these works allows updating the formulation of the problem of the camp prose traditions and innovations. The novel by Sergey Lebedev is a nominee of the “Big Book” and “National Bestseller” awards of 2010, it has been translated into ten languages of the world but so far has not been studied, which determines the novelty of the work. The results show that in these works, nature is revealed as a conflict and dual image, the space of “topophobia” and “topophilia”. Ambivalent features can be found in the images of various natural phenomena (Kolyma’s land, oppressed forest, permafrost, mountain, pine trees, stone, mushroom, grass, etc.). The ways of subjectivation and experience of nature, its functionality are revealed. It is shown how the biographical experience of writers of different generations is transformed into events of the collective historical memory of the Gulag.


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