- After the Gulag
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After the Gulag
A History of Memory in Russia's Far North
Published by: Indiana University Press
From 1929 to 1958, hundreds of thousands of prisoners and exiles from across the Soviet Union were sent to the harsh yet resource-rich Komi Republic in Russia's Far North. When the Soviet Union collapsed, former prisoners sent their autobiographies to Komi's local branches of the anti-Stalinist Memorial Society and history museums.
Using these previously unavailable personal records, alongside newspapers, photographs, interviews, and other non-state archival sources, After the Gulag sheds new light not only on how former prisoners experienced life after release but also how they laid the foundations for the future commemoration of Komi's dark past. Bound by a "camp brotherhood," they used informal social networks to provide mutual support amid state and societal oppression. Decades later, they sought rehabilitation with the help of the newly formed Memorial Society—the civic organization largely responsible for the de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union. In sharing their life stories and family archives with Memorial, they sustained an alternate history of the Soviet Union.
Offering an unprecedented look at the legacies of mass repression under Stalin, After the Gulag explores how ordinary political prisoners from across the Soviet Union navigated life after release, using memoirs, letters, and art to translate their experiences and shape the politics of memory in post-Soviet Russia.
1. Letters to Syktyvkar Memorial: "Who will remember if I forget?"
2. The "Brotherhood of Zeks": Constructing Community and Identity Through Memoirs
3. Alternative Forms of Autobiography: Konstantin Ivanov's Letters and Art
4. "How I remained a human being": Elena Markova's Spiritual Resistance Inside and Out of the Gulag
5. Local Newspapers and the Production of Cultural Memory in Komi, 1987-2021
Tyler C. Kirk is Assistant Professor of History and Arctic and Northern Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
"In After the Gulag, Kirk uncovers the process of remembering that took place in the Komi Republic from the late-1980s up to 2021. He mines an innovative source base, in that he has explicitly (for the most part) rejected state archives and gone to the words of the prisoners. Kirk presents a region that understands its past, finds unity in that past (even the repressive elements), and where individuals can find ways to deal with their traumatic experiences."~Wilson T. Bell, author of Stalin's Gulag at War: Forced Labour, Mass Death, and Soviet Victory in the Second World War
"The book takes us to a lost era, when civil society organizations like Memorial existed and served citizens, and when Russians were grappling with the painful chapters of their recent history. The stories are vivid and gripping, and the characters are memorable, sympathetic, and complex."~Golfo Alexopoulos, author of Illness and Inhumanity in Stalin's Gulag