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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29921

Title: The Gulag and Soviet Society in Western Siberia, 1929-1953
Authors: Bell, Wilson Tharpa
Advisor: Viola, Lynne
Department: History
Keywords: Gulag
forced labour
Stalin era
Issue Date: 31-Aug-2011
Abstract: “The Gulag and Soviet Society in Western Siberia, 1929-1953” examines the history of forced labour during the Stalin era in Western Siberia, or present-day Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Kemerovo Provinces. The region was a key site of Stalin-era repression, as it was home to numerous Gulag camps including Siblag, one of the longest lasting and most economically diversified of the many prison-labour camps scattered throughout the former Soviet Union. Western Siberia was also one of the main areas of exile for peasants and, later, displaced ethnic groups. The dissertation traces the seeming contradictions in the development of the Gulag by juxtaposing the very modern, bureaucratic “Gulag” as it appeared on paper, with the “Gulag” on the ground that relied heavily on informal practices, data falsification, and personal connections. The Gulag is thus emblematic of the “neo-traditional” modernization of the Soviet Union under Stalin. The dissertation also examines points of illicit and condoned interaction between the Gulag and surrounding population centres, thus challenging Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s seminal and enduring depiction of the Gulag as an isolated archipelago of concentration camps. Illicit interaction included widespread black-market activity, the smuggling of correspondence, sexual affairs, and, surprisingly, even instances of locals sneaking into the camps to use camp facilities. Condoned interaction took place at the level of local economic planning (the transfer of prisoners for help with specific projects), a striking overlap in cultural and propaganda campaigns, the contracting out of prisoners to local enterprises, and the granting of unescorted status to large numbers of prisoners, who thus had the right to move outside of the camp zones without guard. Because many of Western Siberia’s camps were located in and around major urban centres, including Novosibirsk and Tomsk, the region is important for examining issues of interaction. The dissertation draws extensively on sources from four archives in Moscow and four archives in Siberia, as well as Gulag newspapers, published and unpublished memoirs, document collections, and archival collections available in the United States. Many of these sources are under-utilized, including Communist Party documents from the local camp administrations, personal files of prisoners, and NKVD operational orders.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29921
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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