Welcome Dr Olga Zeveleva back to the project

We are delighted to welcome Dr Olga Zeveleva back to the project after maternity leave. She is continuing her work on the Estonian and Russian case studies, as well as her analysis of human rights organisations in a prison context.

Researchers: Costanza Curro and Vakhtang Kekoshvili third field trip to Khoni, May 11th-June 5th

In Early June Dr Curro returned from three weeks in Georgia in which she supervised the filming for the gulagechoes video. The deteriorating research environment in Russia over the past year meant that we had to abandon our previous plan to make a project video recording the experiences of ethnic minority former prisoners in FSIN’s facilities.  We decided to shift the site of filming to Gorgia and focus of the video on ‘prison work’ in the late Soviet period.  The late Soviet period in the USSR has been much neglected in research on the history of the Soviet prison system and we aim to use our film to begin to fill in the gap. During her previous field trips to Georgia, Dr Curro has worked in a settlement near Kutaisi that was host until the 1990s to a collection of correctional labour colonies developed to provide labour for the tea plantations.  A majority of the older population in Khoni were associated with the correctional colony in some capacity and were prepared to share their reminisces about working in the Soviet prison system with  our project.


7th-9th June 2022 Judith Pallot was invited by the Institute for Social Studies in the Hague

During the visit, she had consultations with lawyers on the operation of the ICC in relation to the alleged war crimes in the Ukraine war She also gave a paper at a one-day workshop on the impact of the war in Ukraine with reference on the agricultural and rural economies of the region. He paper addressed the issue of how the resources of rural and peripheral regions in Russia are being mobilized for the war in Ukraine, which include consideration of the role of the prison service and prison volunteers in the war.


The annual gulagechoes workshop took place this year after the interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Sadly, on this occasion the war in Ukraine meant that some Russian passport holders who have contributed to the project were unable to attend, in person. Nevertheless, we were able to assembly an international group of scholars who are now becoming leaders in the field of post-communist penological studies for a three-day workshop.

Now that we have passed the halfway mark in the project and are nearing the end of the data collection phase of our work, we were in a position to take stock of what we have achieved so far and what gaps remain to be filled.  The first session of the workshop was concerned with identifying the principal themes that have surfaced from the project’s historical and geographical case studies. It was gratifying that there was a remarkable degree of agreement among those present about the themes and how they might be woven into a co-authored monograph that will showcase the advances the project is making in research on penality across the Eurasian region.  Subsequent sessions focused, in turn, on the case studies lead by each of the project’s research fellows; the historical antecedents in the Soviet Gulag, the country examples of Russia, Estonia, and Georgia. The project was fortunate that Lili di Puppo, a visiting fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute was able to lead discussion on the Muslim case study and we look forward to welcoming her in a formal capacity to the project in the autumn.

The workshop took place in the perfect location of the Nuuksio National Park, where we appropriated two apartments that allowed us to self-cater, which gave us flexibility to combine work with breaks when we could enjoy the beauty of the park.

Book launch of the edited collection “Rethinking the Gulag: Identities, Sources, Legacies”

25th April 2022 Dr Mikhail Nakonechnyi took part in the book launch of the edited collection “Rethinking the Gulag: Identities, Sources, Legacies” edited by Alan Barenburg and Emily Johnson, Indiana University Press. The book launch was hosted by the Harriman Institute of Columbia University. Mikhael’s paper was on  the manipulation of mortality statistics in the gulag. He was joined by  Gavin Slade, Sarah Young, and Dan Healy ,as well as the volume editors. The YouTube of the papers and discussion can be accessed at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Wuz_-Z11U

Report on the 2022 BASEES conference

Members of the GULAGECHOES team presented their work at the first BASEES (British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies 8-10 April, Robinson College, Cambridge) to take place in person since 2019. Originally, two panels and one roundtable had been planned to foreground our research, but their failure to secure visas for the UK meant that none of the Russian passport holders working on the project were able to travel to the conference. We decided, therefore, to merge the two panels into one which we re-titled, Negotiating ethnicity and identity in the communist and post-communist prison – from gulag to the present day. We were delighted to welcome Dr Gabriela Groza, who has conducted all the interviews for GULAGECHOES in Romanian prisons, to the panel where she joined Dr Mikhail Nakonechnyi and Dr Costanza Curro, two post-doctoral researchers on the project working respectively on the ethnic history of the gulag and the Georgian prisons system from the late Soviet period to today, and Dr Ira Jänis-Isokangas of the Finnish National Archive who is working on the letters of Finns incarcerated in the gulag. On the final day of the conference GULAGECHOES hosted a round table Gulag Legacies and Penal Reform: The Consequences of War on the Trajectories of Change in Punishment Cultures in Eurasia’. The participants consisted of two lawyers (Professor Jeffrey Kahn, expert in the Council of Europe) and Dr Sergey Golubok (now working with the ICC in The Hague on Russia’s war crimes), a criminologist (Professor Gavin Slade, from Kazakhstan), and from the Aleksanteri, the historian of Yugoslavia Dr Brendan Humphreys, anthropologist Dr Costanza Curro and geographer, and area studies specialist, Professor Judith Pallot.

Online conference ”From One Crisis to the Next? Mediating Border Crises and Solidarity Activism”, 18th February 2022

Dr Larisa Kangaspuro attended the online conference ”From One Crisis to the Next? Mediating Border Crises and Solidarity Activism”. The conference provided a possibility to hear about the results of the research project “Border Crises in Two Languages: Mediatized Politics and Solidarity Activism in the Wake of the 2015 Asylum Migration”. More about the project at https://blogs.helsinki.fi/bordercrises/