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Perm Memorial Expedition: Volunteers Gather Evidence about the GULAG

Source: (Author), 19/05/10
From 1 May to 8 May 2010 the Youth Section of Memorial organized an expedition, “Along the Rivers of Memory.” The volunteer historians gathered information about political repression in the town of Kizel and in the villages of the Gremyachinsky and Chusovsky districts.
The location of the expedition was not chosen by accident. According to Memorial’s information, the coal mining town of Kizel and the surrounding districts were among the largest “islands” of the Archipelago GULAG between the years 1929 and 1956. More than half of the population of these districts was comprised of the so-called “special contingent.”
This “special contingent” was made up of the families of peasants, exiled as victims of dekulakisation or for other reasons (at various times, between 4,000 and 25,000 persons), and those in forced-labour armies (more than 4,000 ethnic Germans deported from the Volga region, as well as Kirghiz people and Crimean Tatars), and prisoners from the Kizelov labour camp (up to 23,000 people).
The special contingent also included 3,500 prisoners of the filtration camps for former Soviet prisoners of war, and camps for German prisoners of war.
All of these people were forced to work in the coal mines, the logging industry, construction and other heavy forms of labour.
Thanks to their labour and sacrifice, by the end of the 1950s the Kizelovsky district had become one of the fastest developing industrial centres in the country. At the same time, a heavy price was paid: many hundreds and thousands of innocent people perished here and remained on this land forever.
Of course, many of these people have been posthumously rehabilitated. However, as those who witnessed those years die, the memory fades as well. This fact prompted the Youth Memorial to continue their search.
Fifteen people took part in the expedition: students from Perm and Nizhny Novgorod, and five foreigner volunteers from Germany and Finland.
The young people recorded 32 interviews with those who had been the victims of repression. Thanks to them, today we can find out the details of the lives and hardships of the deportees and prisoners of the Stalin era. This is particularly valuable because the archival documents that are accessible at the moment contain very scanty information about this.
The volunteers also restored the commemorative plaques that had been put up earlier in Kizel, in the village of Usva, and in the former GULAG settlements Brevno, Talitsa and Medvyazhka.
A new memorial to the victims of political terror was put up on the bank of the river Usva in the village of Mys. It is worth pointing out that local government officials, journalists and historians helped and supported the young Memorial volunteers in their work.
Currently, the interviews are being prepared for inclusion in the electronic oral history archive of Perm Memorial. Some of the texts will certainly be published in the next forthcoming volume of Years of Terror.
In the near future a film will be made about the work of the volunteers. Youth Memorial believes that this film will help attract new people who are not indifferent to the tragic pages of history to the work of research.
Youth Memorial will provide journalists with the following materials:
* Audio recordings and transcripts of interviews made during the expedition (note that the volunteers have only just begun to transcribe the recordings);
* Photographs taken during the expedition;
* Video footage taken by Aleksandr Romanov and Natalia Romanova (of the studio “A Film is being Shot”) during the expedition.
Contact telephone numbers: (7 - 342) 282-54-42, (7 – 342) 282-53-11, (7) 8-912-78-33-283.
Director of the project “Along the Rivers of Memory” and co-chair of Youth Memorial: Robert Latypov.


Rights in Russia,
31 May 2010, 16:05