Russia’s current conflicts reopen battles over past



Secrets were forbidden in camp Perm-36. Guards searched everywhere for them, even in prisoners’ eyes, ears and teeth, notes analyst Francesca Ebel. Ukrainian poet Vasyl Stus, imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag system for almost half his life, managed to keep his scribbled on pieces of paper and hidden in the crevices of his cell, she writes for Politico Europe:

Around the world, the horrors described in Stus’ notebook are considered to be among the 20th century’s worst crimes against humanity. The Gulag system hit its peak from the 1930s to the 1950s, killing more than a million, with labor camps continuing to exist into the late 1980s. But in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Perm-36, the place of Stus’ death, is the subject of a fierce battle over the country’s past, its present and future.

Sergei Kovalyev (right) spent a decade in Stalin’s gulag. Has Russian democracy entrenched itself deeply enough to prevent the reestablishment of gulags under Putin or the others who seek power by grinding Grozny to dust? The Washington Post asked him.

“Democracy is not strong at all in Russia,” Kovalyev said at a meeting in 2000 sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy. “But the government is weak. It fortunately does not have the power now to make the people go back to those days.”



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