GULAGECHOES has strong synergies with the Academy of Finland project “Yugoslavian Penal Nationalism”. In February 2023, Professor Judith Pallot, PI of both projects, accompanied Brendan Humphreys, lead researcher of the Yugoslavian project to Croatia on the invitation of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Croatia, or Republika Hrvatska. The Ministry arranged interviews with staff of the Directorate for Prisons and Probation and at the high security prison in Lepoglava. In this blog Brendan Humphreys writes about what he learned during the visit about the history prison reform in Croatia.
In the first of two blog posts, Myhkailo Romanov, visiting fellow from Kharkiv, describes the impact of Russian’s war on the penitentiary system of Ukraine. In this post he focuses on the impact of the war has had on the penitentiary institutions on the country, including those that were stranded, together with their prisoners, by the rapid advance of the Russian army into eastern Ukraine but were subsequently liberated in September 2022. He describes what human rights defenders from the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KHPG) found in the liberated prisons.
It will be recalled that GULAGECHOES and the Yugoslavian Penal Nationalism projects applied successfully to the Academy of Finland for funding to bring a Ukrainian scholar at risk to the Aleksanteri Institute. As he is of conscription age, Mykhailo is only allowed out of Ukraine for short periods, so we are especially delighted that he has been able to make a second visit to the institute. Whilst here he will be working on a couple of co-authored articles on the different trajectories followed by the Ukrainian and Russian prison systems and on comparisons of wartime carceral practices in the Yugoslavian civil war and in the Russia war on Ukraine. He will also continue discussions on the treatment and fate of people seized by the Russian occupiers in Eastern Ukraine and takin g the opportunity to bring his findings to a wide audience.
Every year one of the keynote slots at the BASEES conference adopts an interview format. Last year, Judith interviewed leading BBC journalist Sarah Rainsford about her experience reporting form Russia and Ukraine. This year on April 1st 2023, it was Judith’s turn to be interviewed, by Sarah Badcock, about her experiences researching Russia over her forty-year career in area studies. The interview can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36jI_-3G5Cg
The BASEES conference moved this year from its normal venue in Cambridge to Glasgow. The core members of the Gulagechoes team travelled to Scotland to take up the opportunity to present the project’s findings to a larger than usual audience and to network with scholars from across Europe and further afield. We had formed a joint panel with Gavin Slade and Laura Piacentini’s UK-funded project “In the shadow of the gulag” with which gulagechoes has strong synergies. The title of the panel was “From Bamlag to Ukraine: intersections of Class, Ethnicity, and Nationality in the Context of Punishment 1930-2023”.
The session, which was chaired by new Gulagechoes team member Yuliya Brin, kicked off with Mikhail Nakonechnyi presenting the results of his work with the archival materials he has collected on the policy towards ethnic minority prisoners in Bamlag. Gavin Slade followed with a paper on decarceration and punitiveness in Russia today. Olga Zeveleva shifted the focus to outside Russia with her paper on the interconnections between ethnicity and class in prisons in the Baltic states which drew on the interviews she took with former prisoners in ‘Russian region’ in eastern Estonia. And Judith Pallot rounded the session off with a discussion of the various ways in which the Russian prison system has been reconfigured to support Russia’s war on Ukraine. There were good questions from the floor which could have continued had we not run out of time.