Chelyabinsk’s Labor Camp History & An Artist View Of Today

 

Artist Anastasia Bogomolova is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of  this artistic social documentary photography.  These images are from her project ‘Bakal‘.  To see Anastasia’s gallery of projects click on any image.

 

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Since the autumn of 1941 until the spring of 1946 there was the Bakallag labor camp (GULAG system) on the territory of Metallurgical district in Chelyabinsk (Ural, Russia). In wartime it turned into a place of confinement for the free citizens, mainly Russian Germans deported from the Volga region. Mobilized for the construction of local plants, which make the main industrial potential of the city, they worked and lived here, died from exhaustion and took on last shelter in unmarked mass graves among the metallurgical slags.

 

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My beautiful picture

 

After more than 70 years the events associated with the camp have little or no reflection in the contemporary city landscape, and Russian Germans, like thousands of other repressed citizens, remain not only outside the formal processes of glorification, but generally at the periphery of commemorative process. Collective memory can’t tolerate ambiguity. It’s easier and more convenient to reduce events to mythic archetypes. The traumatic experience of thousands and thousands of people is forced to overcome a reluctance to hear about it, but also heroic stereotypes of society. In Chelyabinsk, as in many other areas of the former Soviet hard-labor camps of GULAG system, the memory of the survivors and the memory of the deceased is enshrined in the rare memorial places. However, these places are deprived of the symbolic aura of memory, which would indicate past and conceptualize it. They are just a continuation of total oblivion. And oblivion doesn’t have healing powers for historical traumas.

 

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See also:

Recall

By Anastasia Bogomolova

 


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