The Gulag in Vorkuta: Beyond Space and Time

Alan Barenberg


This essay argues that the Gulag was fixed neither in space nor in time. Following recent trends in historiography, it describes the close connections between the Gulag and Soviet society as a whole, using the example of Vorkuta, an Arctic camp complex that was initially constructed in the 1930s. This camp complex would later become one of the largest prison camp complexes in the Soviet Union and later a Soviet company town. Looking at the twin processes of “zonification” and “dezonification,” the essay shows that the spatial relationships between Gulag camps and their surrounding communities were complex and fluid. Turning to the question of what happened to Vorkuta as it was transformed from a Gulag town into a company town, it demonstrates that people, social networks, and labor practices from the Gulag had a profound influence on the development of the city long after the mass releases of the 1950s. The essay concludes by suggesting ways in which scholars might reexamine the Gulag as a phenomenon embedded in Soviet society. In English.


Gulag; Vorkuta; Space; Borders; Legacy; Social Networks; Ex-Prisoners

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