Children of the Gulag

Cathy A. Frierson and Semyon S. Vilensky

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This groundbreaking book offers a comprehensive documentary history of children whose parents were identified as enemies of the Soviet regime from its inception through Joseph Stalin's death. When parents were arrested, executed, or sent to the Gulag, their children also suffered. Millions of children, labeled "socially dangerous," lost parents, homes, and siblings. Co-edited by Cathy A. Frierson, a senior American scholar, and Semyon S. Vilensky, Gulag survivor and compiler of the Russian documents, the book offers documentary and personal perspectives. 


The editors present top-secret documents in translation from the Russian state archives, memoirs, and interviews with child survivors. The editors' narrative reveals how such prolonged child victimization could occur, who knew about it, and who tried to intervene on the children’s behalf. The editors show how the emotions from childhood trauma persist into the twenty-first century, passing from victims to their children and grandchildren. Interviews with child survivors also display their resilient ability to fashion productive lives despite family destruction and stigma.

Cathy A. Frierson has held the Class of 1941 and Arthur K. Whitcomb Research Professorships at the University of New Hampshire and is the author or editor of a number of books about Russia. Semyon S. Vilensky was a Gulag prisoner and journalist who serves as chair of the Moscow literary-historical society “The Return” and on the Russian Federation's Presidential Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression. He is also the editor of Till My Tale Is Told, a collection of memoirs by women prisoners in the Gulag.

“A pioneering study.”—Walter Laqueur, editor of The Holocaust Encyclopedia

“An essential addition to the budding scholarship on children in the former Soviet Union and to the growing literature on repression and the Gulag under Stalin.”—Lynne Viola, University of Toronto

"With its rich and interpretive narrative, wide array of sources, and moving photographs, the Frierson and Vilensky volume offers an excellent resource for scholars and students, an essential starting place for research on children's experiences of revolution, civil war, famine, and repression."—Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, The Russian Review

"A significant and sickening book, which… show[s] the stark contrasts between official policies toward Soviet children and their actual experiences."--Anne Applebaum, The New Republic

"Cathy Frierson and Semyon Vilensky have performed a great service in putting so much important material at the command of an English-speaking audience; monumental in size, their book is also a memorial to a particularly heart-wrenching group of Terror’s victims."—Catriona Kelly, Times Literary Supplement

“Children of the Gulag is an illuminating and harrowingly detailed addition to the historiographies of Soviet childhood and repression.”—J. S. Hardy, Slavonic & East European Review, Vol. 89, No. 3

"For its documentary wealth, this collection is undoubtedly an indispensible tool from both the pedagogical and scientific points of view, allowing the historian to grasp useful information for comparing children’s living conditions with those of other totalitarian regimes."—Dorena Caroli, International Journal History of Education and Children’s Literature
ISBN: 9780300122930
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
480 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
29 b/w illus.
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