Letters from the Gulag as a Survival Technique: A Case of the Artist Grigorii Filippovskii

Andrei Zavadski


This essay examines how writing letters to his wife helped the Soviet illustrator Grigorii Filippovskii, who in 1938 was sentenced to five years of camp labor, to survive the Gulag. Using methods of narrative analysis, the author identifies in Filippovskii’s letters (retyped by his wife Liia Nel’son for her unpublished memoir) three narratives, or stories, that allow the artist to maintain a connection with his pre-Gulag life: a limited circle of social contacts in the camp, Filippovskii’s reflections on art and his career as an artist, and his love for his wife. Filippovskii thus (re)constructs in these letters a “normal,” precamp everyday life (Alltagsgeschichte), while simultaneously distancing himself from the realities of the camp. In Russian.


Alltagsgeschichte; Commemoration; Gulag; Grigorii Filippovskii; Letters; Memoir; Repressed Artists

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