Recounting the horrors of the Gulag to the Youtube generation
May 15, 2019 2:38 AM   Subscribe

Kolyma - Birthplace of Our Fear (Russian, English subtitles). In late April, Russian Internet superstar Yuri Dud, mainly known for his interviews with celebrities and other public figures, shocked both his 5 million subscribers and the general public by publishing a two-hour documentary about the Kolyma region in Russia’s far northeast that is almost synonymous with Stalin-era repressions, visiting the sites of some of the deadliest prison camps in the area and interviewing historians and local activists, as well as descendants of Gulag inmates.

According to Dud, he was inspired to stray so far from his usual subject matter by two things: the fact that according to a recent survey, almost half of young Russians aged 18-24 have never heard of Stalin’s repressions, and his parents' generation's fear of sticking out, their "desire to coat everything in gray", which he sought to get to the root of. The documentary's been an instant hit with over 13 million views and seems to have really struck a chord with young viewers, although predictably, there's also been no dearth of defenders of Stalin's policies.
posted by daniel_charms (10 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
This is good news and very important, since the Russian government is actively trying to destroy the memory of the Soviet prison system. Gulag museums - often run by volunteers - have been forced to close. See here and here, for example.
posted by Termite at 3:28 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]

Kolyma seems like a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. An entertaining and enlightening look at Soviet history.
posted by Schadenfreude at 3:30 AM on May 15

My SO follows this guy. He's a very good interviewer. It is sort of more like a podcast format.
The video did make a big splash. Worth watching.
posted by k8t at 8:01 AM on May 15

I know I will be spending some time looking at this! Thanks very much for posting!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:29 AM on May 15

About 10 years ago I had a young man working for me on a construction project. He was intelligent and interested but hadn't gone to college and had taken a detour through heroin and prison but was well traveled. I was mentioning to him that I had just seen a large picture book at the library that was all about the gulags and he asked me "whats a gulag?" It really took me aback.
posted by Pembquist at 11:01 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

150,000 dead over 25 years is a stunning figure. To put it in perspective of how uniquely evil Stalin was, that's almost as many as died in 3 days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
posted by smithsmith at 1:53 PM on May 15

that's almost as many as died in 3 days in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I was born under communism albeit not during the worst time of it.

The horryfying thing about gulags is not just the * number* of people who were killed. It was the torture and dehumanization, the contempt and loss of dignity. People suffered for years. The whole systern played people against each other and made you afraid of work colleagues and family members. It destroyed relationships and communities.

The fear affected millions of people for decades.
posted by M. at 2:45 PM on May 15 [8 favorites]

I'm just pointing out the enormous scale of the destruction, I'm not sure why you'd frame it as a defence of communism. Thankfully, those days of dehumanisation, destruction of lives, relationships and communities through mass incarceration under communism are now long gone.
posted by smithsmith at 5:09 PM on May 15

I love the way this interviewee describes growing up in Kolyma, particularly the part where he's standing outside in -43 C with his hood down and wearing fingerless gloves:
Yuri: How do you live and grow up in a place where it's this cold for six months a year.
Artyom: When you live there, especially as a kid, I don't think you notice the cold at all. Though before going outside, you do have to wrap yourself properly. For kids, only their eyes are peeking out. They've got scarves and hats on. One hat, two hats. You walk around like that, and... When I was a kid, it was like, you open the building door, leaving the warmth, and you imagine yourself walking in space on some...
Yuri: On the Moon.
Artyom: Yeah, Mars, the Moon, whatever. You're in space. And you go to school. Like that. We spent all our childhood years outside. The cold never bothered us. We were perfectly okay with it.
I hope moon bases become a thing. I want there to be kids really walking to school on the Moon.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 8:16 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Having watched about half of this, I am struck by how emotionally damaged by their parents' suffering the interview subjects seem to be. I mean, this is not surprising, but it's very moving.
posted by thelonius at 9:35 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

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