Keeping Faith with the Party: Communist Believers Return from the Gulag

Keeping Faith with the Party: Communist Believers Return from the Gulag

Keeping Faith with the Party: Communist Believers Return from the Gulag

Keeping Faith with the Party: Communist Believers Return from the Gulag


How is it that some prisoners of the Soviet gulag-many of them falsely convicted-emerged from the camps maintaining their loyalty to the party that was responsible for their internment? In camp, they had struggled to survive. Afterward they struggled to reintegrate with society, reunite with their loved ones, and sometimes renew Party ties. Based on oral histories, archives, and unpublished memoirs, Keeping Faith with the Party chronicles the stories of returnees who professed enduring belief in the CPSU and the Communist project. Nanci Adler's probing investigation brings a deeper understanding of the dynamics of Soviet Communism and of how individuals survive within repressive regimes while the repressive regimes also survive within them.


Early on in this research, an interview I conducted with a Gulag survivor somewhat inadvertently proved to be an excellent illustration of precisely the kinds of issues I was aiming to address. It was a follow-up to a previous interview almost ten years earlier. Right after I got to Moscow in the spring of 2006, I called Zoria Serebriakova to talk to her about my new project. As it happened, she had just finished reading the Russian edition of my book on Gulag survivors, published by Memorial, and she was eager to share her thoughts about it.

She picked me up outside a subway station on the outskirts of Moscow and we talked for the hour it took to drive to her dacha, which had been home to Old Bolshevik Leonid Serebriakov, then Andrei Vyshinskii, and then to Zoria and her mother again when they returned from exile. Zoria was so anxious to express her opinions that we skipped the small talk and started our discussion even as I was climbing into her car.

Zoria passionately expressed her outrage at the interaction between the ex-prisoners and the government when the survivors were released from the Gulag. Her outrage, however, was not directed at the unapologetic behavior of the government’s representatives, but rather at the ingratitude of the returnees. Zoria was so affronted by their ingratitude that she incredulously asked, “How could it be that they were not grateful to the government when they were released from camp?” Underscoring her argument, she declared, “Those times were full of opportunity.”

Yes, she acknowledged that I had accurately reported the bitterness expressed by many Gulag survivors, but she herself had been a prisoner, and she claimed that her embittered fellow prisoners were misguided. So the people whom I had . . .

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