’I Never Talked...’: Enforced Silence, Non-Narrative Memory, and the Gulag

Journal Article (Academic article)

Jehanne Gheith’s essay comes from a larger project of life history interviews with Gulag survivors which she conducted over the course of several years (multiple interviews with each person) in which she explores the Gulag as cultural haunting. The Gulag is typically left out of western histories of traumatic memory in the twentieth century. Gheith argues that this omission is connected to the silence around the Gulag in Russia and to the fact that the dominant models for traumatic memory are based on the Holocaust, an experience that does not fit for Gulag survivors. Many trauma theorists place narrative (telling the story) at the center of healing from trauma. Yet, for some fifty years after the height of Stalin’s purges, Gulag survivors risked severe punishment if they discussed their experiences in the labor camps so that this kind of narrative approach was not open to them. One of the major effects of the enforced silence, Gheith argues, is that absent the narrative option, Gulag survivors developed creative, non-narrative ways to deal with their memories and experiences. Gheith discusses two interviews in depth as a way to personalize the memories and to show how the Gulag continues to be remembered.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Gheith, J

Published Date

  • May 2007

Published In

  • Mortality

Volume / Issue

  • 12 /


  • 2

Start / End Page

  • 159 - 175

Published By