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Death and RedemptionThe Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society$
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Steven A. Barnes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151120

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151120.001.0001

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The Origins, Functions, and Institutions of the Gulag

The Origins, Functions, and Institutions of the Gulag

(p.7) Chapter 1 The Origins, Functions, and Institutions of the Gulag
Death and Redemption

Steven A. Barnes

Princeton University Press

This chapter offers a general reconsideration of the Gulag's origins and the role it played in Stalin's Soviet Union, and an extended look at the variety of institutions that made up this penal universe. The Gulag was simultaneously, and for Soviet authorities unproblematically, a site of both violence and reform—death and redemption. From a prisoner's first day in the Gulag, they were confronted by a social space permeated by Soviet-style socialism. Bands played; posters announced the duty to remake oneself; collective life dominated both barracks and labor; and people died in unspeakably brutal conditions—all in the name of engineering a total human transformation. In some measure, the authorities succeeded. Prisoners learned to negotiate that social space, and in so doing learned to live on Soviet terms.

Keywords:   Gulag, Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, prisoners, forced labor, violence, reform, socialism

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