In June 2014, the former office of the SEWER cooperative (North) burned down in the village of Batagai (Yakutia). The rooms of the building housed the archives of the Ege-Khaya mine (in operation until 1973) and the Soviet prisoner and labour camp YanLag (in operation until 1953). The archive stored thousands of personal files of former prisoners and civilians who had mined tin in one of the coldest places in the world.
In 2020, the Russian photographer Evgeniya Zhulanova visited the region and artistically documented the traces that are still visible today. In the process, she met former (forced) labourers who do not want to see the remaining pieces of memory and thus also a part of their own biography forgotten. The wastelands of the production sites, wooden barracks and watchtowers, personal objects of people and files from the archives are impressive testimonies to this much too little known history of more than 18 million people imprisoned in GuLAGs.
Dealing with the memory of Stalinist terror and dealing with state injustice is still difficult in Russia today. The human rights organisation ‘MEMORIAL’ was founded during perestroika by Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov. Its goal to this day is to anchor the history of the GuLAGs in public historical consciousness and to give the victims a face. In November 2021, the Russian prosecutor’s office applied for the dissolution of the internationally recognised organisation.
Evgeniya Zhulanova (Moskau, RU)
Photographer, photojournalist, storyteller
2014-2015, Fotodepartament Institute, Documentary photograph
2015-2018, Rodchenko Art School, Documentary photography
Evgeniya works with museums and Russian human rights organisations, such as Memorial International and the Sakharov Centre.
Her work has been published here and elsewhere: takiedela.ru ; the-village.ru ; Lenta.ru ; meduza.io ; «Русский репортер» ; «Кот Шредингера» fotodoc.center ; birdinflight.com ; rbth.com
Kuration: Elena Pagel