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Women of the Gulag

By Marianna Yarovskaya, Paul Gregory


This is the first part of a large-scale project devoted to a history of Gulag which in Russian is an acronym for "Main Camp Administration," has come to mean something much larger than the corrective labor camps under the Gulag administration. Rather it signifies the system of repression of the Soviet period, which peaked under Stalin. We use "gulag" broadly to mean the whole mentality of the Soviet repression system, the end point of which was execution or the camps, special settlements, remote places of exile where the victims of repression "sat." The film is produced by Paul Gregory, a Research Fellow, Hoover Institution Cullen Professor of Economics, University of Houston and Marianna Yarovskaya, russian-american film-director and a founder of her own company MayFilm,  Our subject is Women of the Gulag. The term Gulag, which in Russian is an acronym for "Main Camp Administration," has come to mean something much larger than the corrective labor camps under the Gulag administration. Rather it signifies the system of repression of the Soviet period, which peaked under Stalin. We use "gulag" broadly to mean the whole mentality of the Soviet repression system, the end point of which was execution or the camps, special settlements, remote places of exile where the victims of repression "sat."


Their documentary tells the human stories of the last women survivors of the Gulag. Paul and Marianna interviewed women survivors of the Gulag, who are in their late 90s.


The initiative was largely supported by the Washington Post's columnist Anne Applebaum, who has actually received the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for "Gulag: A History". "I wish to express my support for Dr. Paul Gregory’s and Marianna Yarovskaya’s documentary project, Women of the Gulag. <> Although there have been a number of excellent Gulag documentaries, this film is intended to tell the personal stories of just a few former prisoners in greater detail. It will also focus on the stories of women, which differed in a number of ways from that of their male counterparts. Rape, pregnancy and motherhood were a part of the Gulag experience too. <> Aside from its historic value, a project like this one has special significance in the light of contemporary Russian politics. In recent years, under President Putin, Soviet and Russian history have been re-politicized, and the Stalin period has come to be viewed with ambiguity by politicians, writers, film makers, and regrettably the public. The stories of the victims of the Gulag, told by simple people who had little or no understanding of why this was happening to them, make an excellent antidote to creeping historical amnesia. This project is also urgent, of course, because most of their subjects are in their advanced years, and their stories have to be recorded now."


Recently, Paul and Marianna have successfully gathered funding for the first stage of filming and today they are looking for the sponsorship to continue this project. Clearly the timing is urgent as the survivors and the heroines of the original Stalin Gulag are getting very old.


If you mind helping this meaningful project, visit the site of the funding campaign.

August 26, 2012
Tags: women, ussr, history, prisons, gulag

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