Azerbaijan International

Spring 2006 (14.1)
Pages 54-57

Gulag in Art

Nikolai Getman - A Former Prisoner Remembers
by Nikolai Getman (1917- )

Strangely enough, there are very few paintings depicting the Gulag forced-labor prison network system of Stalin's Era. Nikolai Getman (1917- ) is one of very few artists who has documented what he saw and experienced.

in 1946 Getman became one of the millions of Stalin's victims. He was seated at the same table as some of his artist friends when one of them drew a caricature of Stalin on a cigarette box. The consequence? The entire group was arrested and Getman was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and five years suppression of civic rights and sent to Taishetlag in Russia's Irkutsk Oblast. Stalin's death brought about Getman's release 7 years, 10 months and 18 days later.

After his release in 1953, Getman started painting in complete secrecy. He worked on his paintings for more than 40 years. In 1996, fearing that his paintings might be lost or even destroyed, he appealed for sponsors to help take them out of Russia. The entire collection is now in the care of the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, DC. Getman lives in Orel, Russia..


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