cover image Never Remember: Searching for Stalin’s Gulags in Putin’s Russia

Never Remember: Searching for Stalin’s Gulags in Putin’s Russia

Masha Gessen and Misha Friedman. Columbia Global Reports, $27.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-9977229-6-3

Drawing on years of interviews, research, and travel, Gessen (The Future Is History) and photographer Friedman reflect on complex Russian attitudes to the legacy of the gulag in this vital collection of essays and photographs. Established in 1930, the gulag was a vast, brutal network of prison camps kept secret from the general population, in which millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned or killed. Touching on the various populations of the camps, from the victims of Stalin’s terror to later anti-Soviet dissidents, Gessen’s brief essays focus on contemporary physical markers of the gulag—the symbolic manifestations of how people choose to remember, or not remember, what happened. Many of the people she writes about are those who are invested in maintaining the known sites of camps: for example, Veniamin Iofe and Irina Flige, two members of the human rights organization Memorial, who discovered a mass grave in Sandormokh and worked with government agencies and other activists to eventually erect a series of monuments. Friedman’s moody, panoramic black-and-white photos of the memorial sites convey a narrative that’s fragmented, blurry, and ultimately incomplete, perfectly underscoring Gessen’s text. The combination is a powerful meditation on contemporary Russia as seen through its relationship to the past. [em](Mar.) [/em]