WASHINGTON -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is proud to announce the release of Generation Gulag, a 12-part documentary series produced by Coda Story and screened by Current Time for Russian-speaking audiences beginning on June 15. The series explores the Russian government’s campaign to rewrite the history of the Gulag through the eyewitness testimony of survivors.
“Generation Gulag documents a brutal chapter in Soviet history -- and recent attempts by Russian authorities to revise it. The series is an effort to defy propaganda and disinformation, so that Russians can know the truth about their country,” said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. He added, “We are very pleased to collaborate with Coda Story on this project, since part of Current Time’s mission is to support Russia’s most independent and important voices, and to tell its most urgent stories.”
The highly original series of short films features interviews and animated illustrations depicting survivors’ memories of the Gulag, the Soviet labor-camp system that imprisoned more than 28 million people -- an estimated 12 million for political reasons -- between 1918 and 1987. Today in Russia, state-run media, schools, museums, and government increasingly avoid discussions about the system’s cost to human life, instead promoting what President Vladimir Putin has termed the country’s "heroic" past. By documenting survivors’ experiences, Generation Gulag seeks to defend against distortions and forgetting.
The series (available with English subtitles here) begins with the story of celebrated Russian ballet dancer and choreographer Azari Plisetsky, the younger brother of the late prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who lived in the Gulag as a young child. His father, Soviet diplomat Mikhail Plisetsky, was charged with espionage and executed in 1938.
Says Plisetsky, “Everyone must know the truth about these terrifying repressions, about the genocide of our own people that happened during our lifetime. Especially the younger generation… [M]any people try to forget about these wounds and avoid reopening them. But we must reopen them. There is absolutely no justification for what the country, the people, and families lived through.”
Observing current efforts to glorify the Soviet period, survivor Galina Nelidova told Coda Story that she believes it is "shameful that people still don’t know the whole truth.”
Coda Story is an award-winning non-profit newsroom covering global crises which affect the world by providing context and continuity through character-driven narratives on the most pressing issues. It reports on disinformation, authoritarian technology, and the “war on science.” Generation Gulag is part of Coda Story’s Rewriting History coverage, which tracks how distorting the past is serving regimes today.
Current Time is a 24/7 Russian-language digital and TV network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. In addition to reporting uncensored news, it is the largest provider of independent, Russian-language films, screening more than 100 yearly, many of which are not available on any other platform. It participates in more than 15 independent film festivals, and has supported such critically acclaimed films as Putin’s Witnesses, State Funeral, and The Earth Is Blue As An Orange.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 3.6 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2019. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.