Cover Osteuropa 6/2007

In Osteuropa 6/2007

An Olympus for Thieves
Collecting Clues in Varlam Shalamov and Danilo Kish

Tatjana Petzer

Deutsche Fassung


The early Soviet penal system assessed criminals as “socially close,” who, in romanticising depictions, were taught in the camps to become good citizens of the new order. In fact the Gulag was a golden era of the criminal underworld. Criminals built up a counterculture in the camps. The monopoly of power in their hands, which served to watch over other prisoners, shows Stalinist disciplinary policy in a distorting mirror. Varlam Shalamov und Danilo Kish avoid the myth of the noble thief. They follow the transformation of the human psyche in the camp, collect the bloody evidence of crimes, and archive victim and perpetrator files from the vanished continent Kolyma.

(Osteuropa 6/2007, pp. 205–228)