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Gulag Echoes in the “multicultural prison”: historical and geographical influences on the identity and politics of ethnic minority prisoners in the communist successor states of Russia Europe.


"The project will examine the impact of the system of penality developed in the Soviet gulag on the ethnic identification and political radicalisation of prisoners in the Soviet Union and the communist successor states of Europe today. It is informed by the proposition that prisons are sites of ethnic identity construction but that the processes involved vary within and between states. In the project, the focus is on the extent to which particular ""prison-styles"" affect the social relationships, self-identification and political association of ethnic minority prisoners. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the communist successor states all set about reforming their prison systems to bring them into line with international and European norms. However, all to a lesser or greater extent still have legacies of the system gestated in the Soviet Gulag and exported to East-Central-Europe after WWII. These may include the internal organisation of penal space, a collectivist approach to prisoner management, penal labour and, as in Russian case, a geographical distribution of the penal estate that results in prisoners being sent excessively long distances to serve their sentences. It is the how these legacies, interacting with other forces (including official and popular discourses, formal policy and individual life-histories) transform, confirm, and suppress the ethnic identification of prisoners that the project seeks to excavate. It will use a mixed method approach to answer research questions, including interviews with ex-prisoners and prisoners' families, the use of archival and documentary sources and social media. The research will use case studies to analyze the experiences of ethnic minority prisoners over time and through space. These provisionally will be Chechens, Tartars, Ukrainians, Estonians, migrant Uzbek and Tadjik workers and Roma and the country case studies are the Russian Federation, Georgia and Romania."



Net EU contribution
€ 2 494 685,00
Yliopistonkatu 3
00014 Helsingin yliopisto

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Manner-Suomi Helsinki-Uusimaa Helsinki-Uusimaa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)