Producing, Consuming & Perceiving Prisons in the Former Soviet Union

In the Gulag’s Shadow is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded project and collaboration between the University of Strathclyde, Nazarbayev University (Astana, Kazkahstan), and the Higher School of Economics (St Petersburg, Russia).

The Soviet Gulag was the largest penal system in world history. Debates on the size and extent of the Gulag population continue but scholars do agree that many millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR, passed through labour colonies, and exiled to work settlements. At its height in 1950 the Gulag held 2.5 million people.

Today, former Soviet Union (fSU) countries still hold around 10% of the world prison population – a total of almost one million people. Prisoners continue to be held in prisons and camps constructed during the Soviet Union.

Given the extraordinary historical backdrop of the Gulag, this project has three aims:

Prison Rates:

How are politicians and policy makers reducing the number of prisoners and changing the form of prisons in the fSU? What influences the strategies of these key actors?

Public Perceptions of Prisons:

What do ordinary people across the fSU believe the purpose of prison is and what the position of prisoners should be today?

Cultures of Punishment:

How do ordinary people experience punishment as part of their culture – in television, music, and dark tourism?

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