The Gulag Reclaimed as Sacred Space: The Negotiation of Memory at the Holy Spring of Iskitim

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Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby


Holy Spring, Vernacular Religion, Narrative Memory and Identity


This article examines narratives about the Holy Spring of Iskitim gathered from visitors to the spring and from two local priests as well as members of their congregation. The holy spring is located on the site of the former Gulag quarry in the town of Lozhok in the Iskitim region. According to the most common folk belief, the spring is holy as a result of the execution of forty religious martyrs on this site by prison guards. These vernacular beliefs about the spring serve to reframe regional memory about the Gulag as well as local identity in the postsocialist context. The analysis relies on psychological, historical,anthropological, and folklore research on the role of narrative in coping with thememory of traumatic events. In English, extended summary in Russian.

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