Open Access

Denial of Humanity and Forms of Enslavement in the Russian Gulag: Early Narratives of Gulag Survivors (1919–1940)


Although the foundations of the Soviet concentration camp system date back to the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War, the amplitude of human suffering in the Gulag would not be known in detail until after 1962, i.e. the year when A. Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published. But even before the start of World War II, the totalitarian Soviet universe spoke the language of oppression that public opinion in the West constantly refused to acknowledge. This paper tries to recover a neglected corpus of early autobiographical narratives depicting the absurd Soviet concentration system, in the authentic voice of a number of Gulag survivors (G. Kitchin, Tatiana Tchernavin, Vladimir Tchernavin, S. A. Malsagoff, etc.).