The Truth About Stalin’s Prison Camps

Vera Golobeva spent more than six years in one of Stalin’s Gulag camps. Her crime? “To this day, I still don’t know,” she says. In a new documentary, Golobeva remembers the excruciating details of her imprisonment. When she was arrested,…

The Truth About Stalin's Prison Camps

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Vera Golobeva spent more than six years in one of Stalin’s Gulag camps. Her crime? “To this day, I still don’t know,” she says. In a new documentary, Golobeva remembers the excruciating details of her imprisonment. When she was arrested, along with her father, mother, and sister, Golobeva was taken to KGB headquarters and tortured. She was eight months pregnant. “I felt as if they were burying me alive,” she says in the film. The worst was yet to come.

Between 1918 and 1987, Soviet Russia operated a vast network of hundreds of prison camps that held up to 10,000 people each. When Stalin launched his infamous purges in 1936, millions of so-called political prisoners were arrested and transported to the Gulag without trial. The first wave of prisoners were military or government officials; later, ordinary citizens—especially intellectuals, doctors, writers, artists, and scientists—were arrested ex nihilo. At the camps, many prisoners were executed or died from overwork and malnutrition. The death rate often hovered around 5 percent, although in years of widespread famine, mortality could be as high as 25 percent. Historians estimate that as part of the Gulag, Soviet authorities imprisoned or executed around 25 million people. Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/607546/gulag-stories-russia/

“Pregnant in the Gulag” was produced by Coda Story. Watch more videos from the series “Generation Gulag”: https://codastory.com/series/generation-gulag

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