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:

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


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Content No 7, 2023