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31 October 2019
Children of GULAG

30 October is marked in Russia as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions.  The date was officially established in 1991 to commemorate all those who suffered and perished in prison camps or were executed in the years of Stalin's terror.

One large category of such victims is children whose parents or relatives were persecuted. The little prisoners were stripped of freedom, hope and parental love.

For many years scores of documents providing evidence of repressions were strictly confidential. Now, alongside with harsh facts and statistics, there is a flood of personal stories, emerging from letters, memoirs and photo albums.

On 28 of October the National Library of Komi held a meeting for young citizens to talk about the children of GULAG in the Komi Republic and their individual fates.

The guest speakers of the meeting, historian Mikhail Rogachev, the chair of the Pokayanie Public Foundation, and Nikolay Morozov, professor of regional studies and political science, led the discussion and shared their personal views on the account of the repression years.

In the focus of the meeting were also black and white photos of the time, each of them having their own story to tell.

According to NKVD Order No 00486 of 1937, breast-fed babies were to be sent to prison camps with their convicted mothers and at the age of 12 months deported to children's homes. Oftentimes, however, the children were held in prison camps until the age of five, in separate barracks, in custody of female criminal convicts, but never with their mothers, political prisoners. It was assumed that the presence of children would negatively affect the labour productivity. The lucky ones were adopted by distant relatives and usually changed several foster families.

Whether the small victims of repressions were raised in children's homes or in foster families, they all had tormented childhood and could never fully recover from the physical loss and moral damage.

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At the meeting several college students from the young audience received awards for their student research on the themes associated with GULAG in Komi.

The meeting was also accompanied by a book exhibition displaying the newly published materials related to the historic period.

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