Days and Lives :: Propaganda

Prisoner: Danylo Shumuk

At NKVD’s headquarters in Kiev, Shumuk refused to give more information than necessary. After being deprived of sleep for three days, they brought him in for a second interrogation. “Once again I was left on the stool until morning: losing consciousness and falling; sitting down again and then falling as soon as I was upright. In the cell it was the same; a warder stood at the door to make sure I stayed awake, and I was prevented from sleeping for five full days. This form of torture, which is just as exhausting as physical violence, is incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it.”

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.”