Some years ago, when this blog was a new venture, I started an annotated reading list of Russian and Soviet labour camp narratives. My aim initially was to expand it over time, but as one so often finds, there never is time, and it has lain neglected for several years now, despite fairly regular comments and emails from readers suggesting some very worthwhile additions – many of which I had read, but some of which were new to me. My work has moved on too much to go back to that now, so rather than pretending I’m going to make any further additions to the list, I’m repurposing it as recommendations for readings in translation on the subject.
Instead I’m using the sources I have been collecting for my book to start a new project, which ultimately aims to compile a comprehensive bibliography of published Russian/Soviet carceral narratives. I have begun with texts about Soviet-era imprisonment, and the first version has gone live today. My aim is to continue expanding this bibliography, and eventually add bibliographies of tsarist-era and post-soviet narratives, plus secondary sources.
Wherever possible, I will link to full texts (for the Soviet-era works in this bibliography, the main source will be the Sakharov Archive; for pre-revolutionary texts, it will be the Internet Archive). Where no full text is available, I will give a link to a catalogue entry, generally WorldCat. I have grouped translations together with the original texts, except in the case of Solzhenitsyn, where I have for the time being just given a reference to his Collected Works in Russian and separate entries for translations. Most of the translations I give are in English, for obvious reasons, though I do also include quite a few in French. I have more references to original texts in Polish than German due to my own language competencies.
I have mainly stuck to works about the Soviet labour camps, but have added a couple of works on camps in other Soviet-bloc countries, and would be interested in other recommendations in this category, where my knowledge is very limited. As well as memoirs and other works by survivors, I have included some fictional works by writers who did not experience the camps themselves. A couple of these were in their time controversial, but I think it’s right to list both prominent works that made false claims when the Gulag existed and recent fictional works, because the former played their part in shaping public perception of the Gulag and its texts, and the latter indicate that the continuing legacy of the subject.
The plan is ultimately to release the bibliographies as data, but that will not happen for quite some time as this is obviously a large-scale project, and I am currently working on my own. The first version of the bibliography of Gulag narratives contains around 750 entries, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it barely scratches the surface. The Sakharov archive of Gulag memoirs alone contains around 3700 bibliographic references, and nearly 1600 complete texts. But I think this bibliography as it stands is large enough to be useful, which is why I am publishing it now. And if anybody wishes to suggest a collaboration, I will be very willing to discuss it (German speakers especially welcome!).
With thanks as ever to John Levin for his invaluable technical assistance.