On guard at BAMlag: representations of guards in the 1930s Gulag Press

Thomas, A. ORCID: 0000-0001-9062-3874, 2014. On guard at BAMlag: representations of guards in the 1930s Gulag Press. The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, 41 (1), pp. 3-32. ISSN 1075-1262

PubSubs6788_6829_Thomas.pdf - Post-print

Download (340kB) | Preview


The 1930s saw a dramatic escalation in the size and scope of the Soviet Union's system of penal labour camps, the Gulag. Through analyses of memoir and other sources, the experiences of the Gulag's prisoners at this time have been the subject of a great deal of scholarly investigation. Yet the guards who watched over these prisoners have received considerably less attention.
Newspapers printed for the VOKhR guards in the mid-1930s offer some information on their readers' every day duties and their status, both inside the Gulag and as citizens of the USSR. Publications taken from one particularly large camp responsible for the construction of the Baikal-Amur railway (BAMlag) depict guards as self-disciplined, industrious soldiers engaged in a war for economic and social development. But the specific dynamics and changing circumstances of the Soviet penal system at this time created an unusual contrast between newspapers printed for the guards and those printed for the prisoners of BAMlag. While the criticism levelled at prisoners by their own newspaper was often mitigated by a rehabilitative discourse, the guards were judged as full members of Soviet society, often harshly. However, the precise implications of this were rendered ambiguous by the indeterminate position of the Gulag itself at this point in Soviet history.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
Creators: Thomas, A.
Publisher: Brill
Date: 31 January 2014
Volume: 41
Number: 1
ISSN: 1075-1262
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 05 Dec 2016 13:57
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2017 07:10
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/29255

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View


Views per month over past year


Downloads per month over past year