Days and Lives :: Propaganda

Prisoner: Anna Andreeva

“Lefortovo was a terrible prison… They didn’t let me sleep for three weeks. Their system was probably developed by doctors: you were allowed to sleep for one hour per 24 hours and one night a week. And people went mad, but not completely. Possibly, one could lose one’s mind completely, but they needed to keep the suspect in a half-mad condition. I was called in for questioning every night… When I returned to the cell, my sleep was not sleep, but delusion. I was falling somewhere… Afterwards the entire day went without sleep; all the time they watched through the spy hole, and I couldn’t even lean against the wall. Then another night of interrogation followed.”

Introduction

The atrocities of working and living conditions in the camps went unnoticed as Soviet authorities promoted the Gulag as a progressive educational prison system to the general populace and prisoners. Posters displayed at the camps reinforced labor—at whatever cost—as a heroic and honorable contribution to the state.

Listen to the sound or read transcript below.

Movie Transcription

Over many Gulag camp gates, a slogan declared: “Labor in the USSR is a matter of honor, glory, courage and heroism.”

In the barracks, posters screamed, “Glory to Stalin, the Greatest Genius of Mankind.”

At the work place, banners urged, “More Gold for Our Country, More Gold for Victory!”

These proclamations of the glories of socialism, the heroism of Soviet labor, and the possibilities of reeducation and reintegration into Soviet society sat uneasily in an environment saturated with death and deprivation.

Millions survived their Gulag, but they would have laughed at the notion that they were re-educated. Most would have used words such as “traumatized,” “brutalized,” or “disfigured”—terms not featured on the propaganda posters.