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.”

Digging a Grave

Propaganda’s Impact

Measuring the impact of propaganda is difficult. Despite all they suffered, many Gulag prisoners loved their country, and when it faced a battle for its very survival in World War II—the Soviet Union’s “Great Patriotic War”—the love of country proclaimed in camp propaganda found a receptive audience. Eugenia Ginzburg recalled the arrival in Kolyma of news about the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. “We, the outcasts, racked by four years of suffering, suddenly felt ourselves citizens of this country of ours. We, its rejected children, now trembled for our [motherland].”

Many Gulag prisoners worked hard in the camps to provide food, energy, and munitions for the front. More than a million prisoners were even released to join the Red Army at the front, and some performed heroically in defense of the motherland. But did their love of country and their heroic actions come from the Gulag’s propaganda? It seems very unlikely.