Workshop “The international co-operation at the Nordic Council of Ministers”, Stockholm, Sweden

The Research Coordinator of the project Dr Larisa Kangaspuro was invited to attend a workshop in Stockholm. “The international co-operation at the Nordic Council of Ministers” was the information’s meeting and workshop on 7 February 2020 regarding Open call programme for Nordic-Russian co-operation and NGO´s in The Baltic Sea Region.

The aim of the meeting was provide all the relevant information for applying for funding, help to build strong partnerships and help to find the right partner.

Archival fieldwork in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (Moscow)

Mikhail Nakonechnyi, a postdoctoral researcher, responsible for historical dimension of the GULAGEchoes project, has started his first archival fieldwork in the State Archive of the Russian Federation (Moscow). The archive contains tens of thousands of case files, which could be relevant to the purposes of the project. Concurrently working with materials of the GULAG, the Ministry of Justice and camp Procuracy, he intends to glean unpublished documents, generated by the Stalinist law enforcement agencies. These unique sources allow to get a multi-institutional perspective on the questions of ethnicity and ethnic relations in the Soviet system of judicial incarceration between 1930 and 1953.

Film under the project’s auspices

January 30-February 1st

Visit of Dmitri Omelchenko from HSE St Petersburg who is scheduled to direct a film under the project’s auspices for use as training in the management of “difference” in the penitentiary system.  The purpose was to discuss the current prospects for implementing earlier agreed plans for the filming.

Seminar “Gulag and Finland – History and Memory”

January 29th-30th

Members of the research team attended the two-day seminar on the gulag, “Gulag and Finland – History and Memory” which took place in Helsinki. The first day was consisted of open lectures in the Helsinki public library that were devoted to the experiences of Finnish deportees and prisoners in the Russian gulag. Among the invited guest speakers were Irina Flige from Memorial St Petersburg, Nicolas Werth distinguished gulag scholar from the Sorbonne, Paris and our own Judith Pallot.  Judith’s presentation, which was translated into Finnish, discussed the legacies of the gulag in the present day penal system in Russia but cautioning against the overuse of historical parallels

The seminars were followed by film showings that evening and the following day of films about the gulag. The highlight was the showing of the three-hour documentary about the gulag produced by Nicolas Werth, Patrick Rotman and Francois Ayme.

Negotiation of access for the project to Georgian penitentiaries

January 19-23rd

Professor Pallot visited Georgia in order to negotiate access for the project to Georgian penitentiaries and for permission to interview prisoners from a variety of culture, ethnic and linguistic groups.  She had very productive discussions with deputy Justice Minster, Mr Gocha Lordkipanidze and other members of the Ministry of Justice concerned with international law and Georgia’s membership of the Council of Europe and with Mr Nika Tskhvarashvili, Deputy Director General of the Special Penitentiary Service and with other members of the SPS sub-departments. During the course of three days of intensive discussion Professor Pallot learned about the current reform of the penitentiary system and especially the effort being directed towards the resocialisation-rehabilitation and vocational training of offenders.   She was able in her spare time to reacquaint herself with Tbilisi which she last visited in 1991 as a participant of the Anglo-Georgian Geography seminar in 1993.


The team members of the GULAGECHOES project have been busy working through interdisciplinary bodies of literature on ethnicity, race, prisons, historical perspectives on prison systems and their evolution in North America, Europe, Russia, Eastern and Central Europe. In order to find new ways of approaching this task, Olga Zeveleva attended a workshop “Speed up your literature review with IRIS.AI”, organised by the IRIS.AI team in collaboration with the University of Helsinki Library (16 January, 2020). The software, which University of Helsinki employees can access online using their university emails, automates searches across academic journals and allows researchers to create complex and hierarchical search queries based on their research questions and abstracts. So far, the programme only contains open access databases across all disciplines, but in the future the number of available journals and articles will grow. The programme has helped to expand the collection of papers the team members are building on in their work.

Link to IRIS.AI:



On 13-14 January 2020, the postdoctoral researchers of the GULAGECHOES team attended a workshop organized by Andrey Indukaev at the University of Helsinki, titled “Words and Actions. Political text mining”. The workshop provided an overview of methods social scientists and computer scientists have used to analyse large corpora of text data and images. Questions about how far computational linguistics and AI can take us, and how we can use them in a way that is driven by our research questions, are relevant to discussions among GULAGECHOES team members with regard to the large corpus of Gulag memoirs we are analysing.

Link to workshop programme:


Open lecture by Anastasia Burakova: “Persecution of Russian NGO activists: steps and case studies”

The GULAGECHOES project was delighted to host an open lecture on December 10th in the Aleksanteri Institute by Anastasia Burakova on the on NGO activism and its challenges in the Russian Federation today organised by Dr Larisa Kangaspuro.  The lecture was directly related to the project’s concerns with the human rights of prisoners confined in penal facilities in the Russian Federation. Anastasia Burakova is herself an activist in the NGO Open Society and its current chair in St Petersburg so she was able to give first-hand account of the impact of the legislation that specifically targets civil society organisations in Russia that have been recipients of international aid.  In the lecture, case study examples were used to illustrate the various tactics, legal and illegal, employed by the state to constrain NGO activities which stimulated many questions and comments from the audience.

Presentation “Social inclusion of female ex-prisoners. Russian experience”, 51st ASEEES Annual Convention. 23-26.11.2019, San Francisco, USA


ASEEES Annual Convention is the biggest annual international conference of Russian research area. Dr Larisa Kangaspuro was the organiser of the panel section “Towards a brighter future! Social and legal adaptation in Russia” comprising of leading experts from the Nordic countries, England and the United States.

Archival fieldwork in the United States

Dr Larisa Kangaspuro worked in the archival section of the Museum of Russian Culture in San Francisco, November 9-16, 2019. The archival section of the museum has acquired unique historical materials, primarily related to the Russian post-revolutionary emigration, as well as pre-revolutionary Russia and the period of the civil war. Some authors of memoirs (mainly the memoirs of emigrants of the second wave and the correspondence of the 1920s-1930s) went through prisons of different regimes: the Red Army and White Army.

She also worked in the Bancroft Library on November 18-22, 2019. The Bancroft Library is the primary special collections library at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the largest and most heavily used libraries of manuscripts, rare books, and unique materials in the United States. For political reasons, it is not easy to find documents on the history of the peoples from the USSR in the Russian archives. Especially about repressive activities directed against them. In particular, the library contains archival materials on the history of Siberia. It is generally known that Siberia was a place of hard labor and exile, both in imperial Russia and later.