By Julie S. Draskoczy
Containing analyses of every little thing from prisoner poetry to album covers, Belomor: illegal activity and Creativity in Stalin's Gulag strikes past the simplistic good/evil paradigm that regularly accompanies Gulag scholarship. whereas acknowledging the normative energy of Stalinism--an ethos so hegemonic it desired to harness the very mechanisms of inspiration--the quantity additionally acknowledges a few of the loopholes provided through inventive expression. possibly the main notorious venture of Stalin's first Five-Year Plan, the Belomor building used to be riddled via paradox, in particular the truth that it created a tremendous waterway that was once too shallow for giant crafts. much more major, and sinister, is that the undertaking gained the backing of well-known inventive luminaries who enthusiastically professed the doctrine of self-fashioning. Belomor complicates our knowing of the Gulag via taking a look at either prisoner motivation and legit reaction from a number of angles, thereby providing a extra expansive imaginative and prescient of the hard work camp and its connection to Stalinism.
“Julie Draskoczy’s Belomor: illegal activity and Creativity in Stalin’s Gulag is a well-conceived and carefully researched research of unknown, but really very important, facets of the Belomor camp, a key website of Stalin’s Gulag. This learn sticks out via its cautious archival study into attention-grabbing prisoner writings produced within the camps―autobiographies in addition to literary makes an attempt submitted to the camp newspaper Perekovka. The physique of unpublished prisoner writings that Draskoczy has studied in Moscow data are ‘live’ debts of camp existence, but, as Draskoczy conscientiously indicates, they're hugely mediated representations of the writers and their camp studies, complicated texts which could percentage narrative thoughts with either futurist and socialist realist artwork. Given the numerous diverse literary and cultural layers that make up those writings, it takes a discerning and a professional reader to do justice to the complexity of the cloth. Draskoczy rose to this problem, and has produced a really apt, insightful, and readable study.” (Cristina Vatulescu, affiliate Professor of Comparative Literature, ny University)
. . . [T]he e-book bargains an in-depth learn of the giant number of narratives, voices, and performative acts attached to the Belomor undertaking understood as a enterprise to rework either nature and prisoners. so much apparently Draskoczy bargains a clean view on camp event within the early Thirties, leaving the traditional narrative of political prisoners apart in prefer of the viewpoint of criminals, who as a rule constituted the most staff inside Gulag society and at whom the concept that of perekovka used to be first and foremost aimed.” (Felicitas Fischer von Weikersthal The Russian assessment, October 2014 factor (Vol. seventy three, No. 4))
“The most eminent function of this ebook is one of the unpublished fabric it comprises and its research as offered through the writer. This, including the wide variety of cultural items analysed (art, theatre, poetry, autobiographies, songs, chastushki, tattoos, etc.), testifies to the super worthwhile paintings performed through the writer, who controlled to get over Russian country files and from secondary assets a truly attention-grabbing set of fabric for her paintings. . . . [T]here isn't any doubt in regards to the caliber of this learn, which the writer has conducted with devotion, enthusiasm, and―interestingly enough―creativity. . . . Draskoczy’s booklet is without doubt one of the few monographs dedicated to the research of creativity in the camp. It indicates how insightful, inspirational, staggering, and effective examine at the Gulag from inside of, utilizing the files written or created by means of prisoners through the time they spent there, can be.” (Andrea Gullotta (University of Glasgow) glossy Language overview, quantity a hundred and ten, half four, October 2015)
"Julie Draskoczy’s new learn. . . is the 1st to systematically learn a trove of Belomor prisoner narratives held in Russian kingdom files. through analyzing such narratives in dialog with better-known artwork produced by means of prisoners and nonprisoners, she explores the subjectivities of these who took half during this enormous, and lethal, building undertaking. As she discovers, there has been impressive range in how prisoners answered to camp officials’ common encouragement to take part in literary endeavors. the end result, Draskoczy argues, is that prisoner narratives can be utilized to achieve a greater realizing of the connection among creativity and criminal activity within the gulag, in addition to the artistic and damaging potentials of Stalinism." (Alan Barenberg, Texas Tech college Slavic assessment, vol. seventy four, no. four (Winter 2015))
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Extra info for Belomor: Criminality and Creativity in Stalin's Gulag
In contrast to the imperial interest in building a canal, the Soviet Union used Belomor for its own propaganda purposes, claiming that what had been impossible to complete in the Tsarist era was achievable only with the organization and determination of the socialist labor force. Although in a literal sense this was indeed true, it is necessary to once again take into account that the Soviet Union exploited the free — 38 — ————————————— Born Again: A New Model of Soviet Selfhood ————————————— manual labor of prisoners, thereby drastically cutting costs.
Perhaps the most well known image from the project is Aleksandr Rodchenko’s photograph of a full orchestra playing before convict laborers in one of the newly completed locks. The viewer is not only struck by the seeming — 32 — ————————————— Born Again: A New Model of Soviet Selfhood ————————————— absurdity of such an incongruent combination (high culture + prison) but must also recognize the photograph as a beautifully composed art object unto itself. Despite the penal context, art abounded at Belomor.
Perekovka reveals the essential role that autobiography plays in the cultural narratives about Belomor; in order to articulate one’s new life and devotion, it was necessary to recall where one came from and who one used to be. Just as the map could assess change in landscape and geography, the material text of the autobiography could document the change in a human being, a change that is itself understood spatially, in terms of a specified put’. ”173 The production of new people privileges autobiography as narrative form.