Corrective Labor Colony ‘Perm-36’ in the Memory of Neighbouring Villages Residents

Corrective Labor Colony ‘Perm-36’ in the Memory of Neighbouring Villages Residents

Riazanova S.V.

Dr. Sci. (Philos.), Leading Researcher, Institute for Humanitarian Studies of PFRC UB RAS, Prof., Perm State Agro-Technological University, Perm, Russia

Mitrofanova A.V.

Dr. Sci. (Pol.), Leading Researcher, Institute of Sociology of FCTAS RAS; Prof., Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russia

ID of the Article: 9694

The research was funded by the RSF, project № 22-28-00836.

For citation:

Riazanova S.V., Mitrofanova A.V. Corrective Labor Colony ‘Perm-36’ in the Memory of Neighbouring Villages Residents. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2023. No 7. P. 117-126


Conceptually the article is built upon cultural trauma theory. The study, based on a qualitative analysis of interviews conducted in the late 1990s, reveals specific distinctions of the collective memory of villagers in the proximity of a former corrective labor colony for political detainees in Perm Krai, on the site of which the Memorial Museum and Reserve of the Political Repression History “Perm-36” currently works. The interviewers found out that the locals refuse to play the role of witnesses to the colony’s life, and that it exists in their memory rather as an alien and non-transparent object. Therefore, formally speaking about detainees, local residents actually talk about themselves, creating an image of their own life with forced labor, everyday hardships and shortages, which, in some historical periods, did not differ much from life in the labor camps. By contrast, the colony is represented in their collective memory as a well-organized and rich enterprise, and the life of detainees looks like deserving envy. Working there in the eyes of the local residents is sometimes associated with the possibility to improve one’s labor conditions and to move up the social ladder. The few relatively detailed narratives, most likely, originate from mass media of the early 1990s, when the topic of Soviet repression was broadly discussed. Most of the collective farmers view the museumification of the colony as meaningless, considering it a fraud and a waste of money. Exhibits of the memorial museum, where their vision is not presented, are seen by the locals as an encroachment on their own history. Encouraged by the interviewers to talk about the colony that is unimportant for them, villagers try to narrate about themselves, denying that they are “witnesses” to anything. These particular cases discussed in the article demonstrate that entire social groups (for example, the peasantry) are excluded from the national historical memory, and that such groups have to bear testimony of their traumatizing experience in an indirect way. The authors conclude that the routine approach to commemorating political repressions needs to be reconsidered in order to work out a comprehensive memory politics, because as long as the above-mentioned groups remain deprived of the opportunity to theorize and to construct their own version of cultural trauma, it remains impossible to create a common national narrative that makes sense of the XX century repressions.

political repression; Perm-36; cultural trauma; collective memory; testimony; memory politics


Alexander J.C., Eyerman R., Giesen B., Smelser N.J., Sztompka P. (2004) Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Babashkin V.V. (2011) Peasants, postpeasants and power in the 20th century: mutual strategies of adjustment. In: Peasantry and power in Russian history of the 20th century. Coll. of art. of the Intern. roundtable (November 12, 2010, Moscow). Ed. by P.P. Marchen’, S.Yu. Razin. Moscow: APR: 70–79. (In Russ.)

Bogatova O.A., Mitrofanova A.V., Riazanova S.V. (2022) A Mordovian settlement as a site and community of historical memory: collective narratives and representations. Finno-ugorskii mir [Finno-Ugric World]. Vol. 14. No. 4: 402–417. DOI: 10.15507/2076-2577.014.2022.04.402-417. (In Russ.)

Boltanski L. (1999) Distant Suffering: Morality, Media and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Goncharova I.V. (2011) Power and peasantry in the end of the 1920s (based on materials from the Central Chernozem region). In: Peasantry and power in Russian history of the 20th century. Coll. of art. of the Intern. roundtable (November 12, 2010, Moscow). Ed. by P.P. Marchen’, S.Yu. Razin. Moscow: APR: 153–163. (In Russ.)

Koleva D. (2020) Memory and Justice: Private Memories and Public Narratives about Communism. Sofia: CIELA. (In Bulgar.)

Koznova I.E. (2000) ХХth century in the social memory of Russian peasantry. Moscow: IF RAN. (In Russ.)

Koznova I.E. (2011) Peasant memory about power in contemporary Russia. In: Peasantry and power in Russian history of the 20th century. Coll. of art. of the Intern. roundtable (November 12, 2010, Moscow). Ed. by P.P. Marchen’, S.Yu. Razin. Moscow: APR: 213–222. (In Russ.)

Lonetree A. (2021) Decolonizing Museums, Memorials, and Monuments. The Public Historian. Vol. 43. No. 4: 21–27. DOI: 10.1525/tph.2021.43.4.21.

Mayring Ph. (1983) Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag.

Mitrofanova A.V., Ryazanova S.V., Plais Ya. A. (2022) Place as a Palimpsest of Events and Interpretations in the Politics of Memory (On the Example of the NKVD Investigative Prison Museum). Izvestia Tulskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Gumanitarnye nauki [Herald of Tula State University]. No. 2: 3–16. DOI: 10.24412/2071-6141-2022-2-3-16. (In Russ.)

Obukhov L.A. (2010) The History of One Colony (Lesnaya ITK-6. The First Kouchino Period, 1946–1953). Vestnik Permskogo Universiteta. Ser.: Istoriya [Bulletin Perm University. History]. Vol. 1. No. 13: 40–47. (In Russ.)

Obukhov L.A. (2016) «…There are Generals, Colonels, and Subcolonels». The History of a Colony for Employees of Law-protecting Bodies in the Settlement of Kouchino, Molotov (Perm) Oblast. In: After Stalin. The Reforms of the 1950s in the Context of Soviet and Post-Soviet History: Mat. of the 8th Inter. Scienif. Conf. (Yekaterinburg, October 15–17, 2015). Moscow: ROSSPEN; Fond «Prezidentskii tsentr B.N. Eltsina». (In Russ.)

Prokhorov V.E. (2009) Authentic stories of the inhabitants of the former Komaritskaya volost. Briansk: Beloberezhie: Desiatochka. (In Russ.)

Riazanova S.V., Mitrofanova A.V. (2022) The Palette of Memory Sites of Political Repressions: Monuments and Counter-Monuments. Vestnik Permskogo Universiteta. Ser.: Istoriya [Perm University Herald. History]. Vol. 3. No. 58: 152–162. DOI: 10.17072/2219-3111-2022-3-152-162. (In Russ.)

Scherbakova I.L. (2013) Memory about Stalinism in the Culture of the 1950s–1970s. In: The History of Stalinism: Living in Terror. Mat. of the International Academic Conference. (St. Petersburg, October 18–20, 2012). Moscow: ROSSPEN; Fond «Prezidentskii tsentr B.N. Eltsina»: 21–40. (In Russ.)

Spivak G.Ch. (2001) Can the Subaltern Speak? In: Introduction into Gender Studies. P. II. A Reader. St. Petersburg: Aleteiya: 649–670. (In Russ.)

The History of Stalinism: Peasantry and Power. (2011) Mat. of the Intern. Scientif. Conf. (Yekaterinburg, September 29 – October 2, 2010). Moscow: ROSSPEN; Fond «Prezidentskii tsentr B.N. Eltsina». (In Russ.)

Content No 7, 2023