Producing, Consuming & Perceiving Prisons in the Former Soviet UnionIn The Gulag's Shadow
Cultures of Punishment

How do people consume punishment as part of their culture in the former Soviet Union? We know that prison music and prison dramas are part of the daily staple for people in the former Soviet Union. We also know many prison museums exist, but vary in the way they relate to sites of punishment. Moreover, there are few studies of the effects these cultural products have on people.

Examples of prisons in popular culture include, the controversial TV series Zona:

And this dancefloor filling tune named after the fearsome prison Vladimirsky Central, here sung by Mikhail Krug:

How are we studying this?

Our project spans six field sites:
The Gulag History Museum – Moscow (Russia) (to be confirmed)
Kresty Prison Museum – St. Petersburg (Russia)  (to be confirmed)
Tomsk prison museum – Tomsk (Russia)  (to be confirmed)
Syktykvar prison museumSyktyvkar (Russia)  (to be confirmed)
“ALZHIR” Museum and the memorial complex of victims of political repressions and totalitarianism, Astana (Kazakhstan)
Dolinka prison museum KarLag: Museum of Memory of the Victims of Repression, Karaganda (Kazakhstan)  (to be confirmed)

We will make observations and conduct discussions with visitors using visual sociology and ‘walking ethnography’ methodologies. We will also include focus groups with those living in the vicinity of the museums. Our activities are not limited only to traditional research methods. As part of our commitment to developing research that speaks to the community, we will create exhibitions, prison visits and discussion groups with local university students. We also intend to conduct a media and discourse analysis of prisons in music and film over time in Russia. These activities will be supported by a unique documentary film addressing the presence of prison in Russian and Kazakh culture.