Producing, Consuming & Perceiving Prisons in the Former Soviet UnionIn The Gulag's Shadow
Kazakhstan Marks Annual Memorial Day for the Victims of Political Repression (31/05/2020)

The 31st of May in Kazakhstan is the day of memory for victims of political repression where the country remembers those who died during the mass famines of the 1930s and those who suffered in the many Gulag sites that exist throughout the country.

To mark the occasion this year, President Tokaev has set in motion the creation of a governmental commission that will work on the rehabilitation of those who were persecuted during periods of mass political repression. The commission is tasked with creating new legislation on the rehabilitation of victims of political repression, the categorization of victims of repressions who are due political rehabilitation, development of recommendations for perpetuating the memory of the rehabilitated, the search for their whereabouts and the maintenance of their burial places, as well as consideration of complaints concerning the protection of the rights of rehabilitated persons.

For the last year, the In the Gulag’s Shadow project team has been collecting survey data on the perceptions of the Gulag among Kazakhs and Russians. One finding that is becoming clear from the survey is that people living in areas in Kazakhstan that held large numbers of prisoners during the Stalinist era believe that the economic work of people in the Gulag and their contribution to society deserves more recognition. Our survey looked in particular at Karaganda and the area of Karlag, the huge camp system that existed in Central Kazakhstan.

In the Karaganda region, 57% of people agreed or strongly agreed that the economic contribution of Gulag prisoners to local development deserved more recognition and 59% agreed or strongly agreed that Gulag prisoners’ impact on social development deserved to be recognised more. These results were similar or even higher for areas that had Gulag camps in Russia (places such as Magadan and Kirov Oblast). The graph below shows these results for Kazakhstan in both areas that had Gulag camps and areas that did not. The desire for more recognition of prisoners’ contributions is stronger in the camp areas than among the general population. Perhaps initiatives such as the one taken by President Tokaev this week will help to memorialize those who were repressed and recognise the great contributions those people often made through their suffering and hard work in making Kazakhstan the country it is today.




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