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Russia: The Great Purge

From 1937-1938 about 1 million people were murdered under Stalin's rule in what is known as the Great Purge. Stalin was set to purge anyone in Russia that he deemed to be opposing him or considered disloyal. Those suspected were either killed or sent to the gulag - forced labor camps that were mostly in Siberia. Many people in the labor camps died from starvation or disease; they were given tiny rations of food to eat and had to endure hard physical labor no matter how sick or hungry they were.


Anton Antonov-Ovseynko is a survivor of Russia's gulags and now runs the Gulag Museum in Moscow. The museum shows the experience that many Russians endured in the Soviet labor camps where many died. He spent more than ten years in the camps and describes it as a type of holocaust; he wasn't released until after Stalin died in 1953. His whole family suffered from Stalin's purges. Roman Romanov, the deputy director of the museum, reflects on the fact that the museum doesn't get that many visitors because not many Russians know their history.


Orlando Figes' book "The Whisperers" shares stories of several victims and what they witnessed and the suffering they endured during Stalin's purges. Figes did over a thousand interviews with gulag survivors and their family members and collected letters, memoirs, and other documents. The title is a representation of what life was like in Russia during that time period; people were scared to talk and many told secrets behind their families, neighbors, and friends backs because of Stalin's regime pushed people to report on each other for disloyalty. People had to do what they could to survive, but many lived with shame or guilt afterwards.


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