Gulag Memory Map: Problems and Gaps

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Irina Shcherbakova


Documents depicting personal experiences of Gulag prisoners (diaries, correspondence, and memoirs) played an important role in disseminating information about the Soviet labor camps from the very beginning of their existence. In Soviet public space voices of the people who spent years in prisons, camps, and exile appeared only after Joseph Stalin’s death and during the Thaw. The stream of autobiographical literature got especially strong during perestroika and immediately after the collapse of the USSR. In the 1990s personal documents were supplemented by archival materials. The genre of oral history became popular at that time as well. All these documents are unquestionably valuable for historical research. Nevertheless, there are a number of difficulties related to the study of personal documents. First, there is the problem of dating the memoirs. Secondly, the analysis should also be sensitive to generational, social, and gender specificities of the memoirs’ authors. Up until now work with these sources has been mostly of a factual character. There is still a serious lack of in-depth analysis of the existing personal documents of that period, of what and how people remembered. In Russian.


Autobiographical Prose, Gulag, Memory Research, Personal Documents, Methodology of Historical Research, Soviet Union, Totalitarianism, Oral History

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