Days and Lives :: Fates

Prisoner: Alla Tumanova

“Two months after that evening Stalin died. Very soon after that the alleged doctor-poisoners were rehabilitated and Beria was shot, along with Abakumov and Riumin – all those who were connected with our indictment. Events piled up one after another, so quickly you couldn’t get used to one before a new one came rolling along. It was truly a joyful time! We were all full of hope. Soon they started letting people go, not waiting for the end of their terms. We all waited impatiently for the changes in our lives. My mother and the parents of the others who were convicted with me were petitioning for a review of our case. Illegally convicted persons could only be released on legal grounds so we rebels had to wait longer than most. It was only on the 25th of April 1956 that all of us were released into freedom.”


Survivors of the Gulag often found their former lives torn apart and irrecoverable after leaving the camps. Released prisoners experienced discrimination and alienation making living and working difficult. Those who did survive have contributed immensely to the documentation of the Gulag's history.

Listen to the sound or read the transcript below.

Movie Transcription

Across the former Soviet Union, millions lie in anonymous graves. Whether shot in a prison basement, or killed in Gulag camps by exhaustion, starvation, malnutrition-related illness, labor accident, or the violence of fellow prisoners and guards, millions died at the hands of Soviet terror.

Telling the story of the Gulag through the eyes of its prisoners inevitably excludes the stories of those millions who died. These victims did not make it out of the camps to publish memoirs. Their stories are buried beneath the grounds of Siberia, Kazakhstan and the whole of the former Soviet Union.

Even those who survived the camps emerged traumatized and brutalized. Readjusting to life outside the camps would be a struggle. Many former inmates maintained life-long bonds with their fellow inmates after leaving the camps, and many continue to struggle to keep the Gulag’s memory alive to prevent new human rights abuses in the countries of the former Soviet Union today.