Culture & History Digital Journal, Vol 3, No 2 (2014)

Communism’s “Bright Past”: Loyalty to the Party despite the Gulag


https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2014.015

Nanci Adler
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Netherlands

Abstract


The Soviet Gulag has joined the tragic annals of what has been described as “man’s inhumanity to man”. Yet some prisoners, many of whom were falsely convicted, emerged from the experience maintaining their loyalty to the system of government that was responsible for their imprisonment. The hardship of the camp experience, and the hardship of return, stamped ex-prisoners for life. In camp, they struggled to survive. After camp they struggled to reintegrate, to re-unite, and for Party members, to renew their vows with the Party. This article focusses on Gulag prisoner and returnee accounts that profess enduring faith in the Party and the Communist project. With the materials that have become available, we can now begin to understand this phenomenon. Explanations include: Communism as secular religion, cognitive dissonance, functionalism, and the traumatic bond. As we witness a persistent trend to manage national and public memory by repressing the memory of repression in today’s Russia, the issue of enduring loyalty among Gulag returnees may offer some insight into questions related to national memory and the dynamics of repressive regimes.

Keywords


Soviet repression; victims; survivors; belief; labor camps; trauma; Stalinism

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