Days and Lives :: Propaganda

Prisoner: Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia

“Bread crust is a dream for all prisoners because they are constantly tortured by hunger, and a bread crust is more nutritious than a crumb. A crust has more substance, whereas a crumb has more water. We got bread in the morning. A loaf of rye bread, undercooked and with various additives, was cut into eight portions: first once along, then three times across. We got four crusts and four middle-crumbs. There are always fewer crusts, so the guards take everything that’s better. Instead of 350 grams we got barely 120-150.”

Portrait of Stalin

Soviet Propaganda in Microcosm

The content of the propaganda activities in Gulag camps mirrored those in the Soviet Union at large. Images of Stalin, slogans extolling the heroism of labor in the Soviet Union, explanations of the superiority of socialism to capitalism, lessons on hygiene and cultured living—all showed the type of society and the type of person Soviet authorities were trying to create. Above all, propaganda focused on labor, which was seen as the key to rehabilitating the criminal and to completing the camp’s economic plans. A prisoner who refused to work was refusing to reform himself and did not deserve rehabilitation or release.

In this excerpt from Stolen Years, former prisoner and painter Nikolai Getman recalls working on propaganda in the Gulag.

Movie Transcription

FROM STOLEN YEARS Nikolai Getman – “So I was given jobs painting slogans and posters. Slogans like ’shockwork is the path to liberation,’ or ’liberation through honest toil.’ And whose quotations were these? The words of our great father. So I had to make a portrait of him, as well. I did a good job of painting him. His portrait came out well.”