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.

Fieldwork planning workshop, Aleksanteri Institute, Helsinki University 29.10.2019

Following on from the project launch workshop in February 2019, a detailed fieldwork-planning workshop took place on 29th October, 2019. The workshop was attended by all the members of the research team based in Helsinki, the people who will be leading the first phase of field-work in the Russian Federation and new recruits to the project.  Professor Pallot opened the workshop by a talk in which she revisited the project’s aims and explained developments since the project launch workshop. Newcomers to the project introduced themselves and discussed the contribution they would be making to the different stages of the project.  The main business of the workshop followed. This consisted of finalising the logistics and timetabling associated with the first round of interviews, which with the cooperation of the Urals Federal University will take place in Sverdlovsk oblast. Among the topics on the agenda were the methodology, recruitment of research participants, data management in the field, ethical guidelines to be followed.