An oral history by Shertai Suvanov, a Kyrgyz survivor of the Kolyma Gulag


Nathan Light


This book chapter was published in Spanish translation and is here slightly updated. It discusses the political, academic and social context in which victims of Stalin’s repressions in the 1930s have been able to publish narratives about their experiences. The collaboration to produce life histories or life stories and their use in anthropological research and activism is discussed, emphasizing Central Asian cases and contexts. The chapter presents a lightly annotated oral history told to the author by Shertai Suvanov, a Kyrgyz victim of the Gulag who describes his arrest, trial, transport to, and life as a prisoner in the Kolyma region from 1937 until 1949. The chapter also briefly describes the book written and published by Shertai about his experiences, and relies upon it as a reference to clarify toponyms and personal names in Shertai’s oral account.