"The differences were only in the details": the moral equivalency of Stalinism and Nazism in Anatolii Bakanichev's Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire.
Bakanichev's homecoming was to be short-lived. Although allowed to return home to Moscow, in 1948 he was arrested and dispatched to the Gulag. Here he found no surprises waiting for him: "The Noril'sk camp turned out to be exactly like I imagined. In general, the same thing as in the Hitlerite camp; the differences were only in the details." (2)
As the above passage illustrates, Bakanichev perceived a fundamental similarity between his experience as a POW in Germany and his time in the Gulag. This article presents a close analysis of how Bakanichev's desire to tell the "truth about captivity" led him to question Stalin's wartime conduct and the simplistic, heroic version of the Great Patriotic War, how he drew on memories of German POW camps and the Gulag to challenge Soviet readers to recognize the equivalency between Stalinism and Nazism, and how this challenge fit into wider debates over the history of Stalinism in the late Soviet Union. By describing how his time in German captivity had opened his eyes to the criminal nature of Stalin's rule, Bakanichev subverted the dominant Soviet mythology of the Great Patriotic War, which sought to legitimize the postwar Soviet order by presenting the war as a moral triumph of Soviet socialism over German fascism. (3) For Bakanichev, the Great Patriotic War was indeed a moral test, but it was one that Stalin's Soviet Union had resoundingly failed. Bakanichev was not content, however, to simply chronicle the ways in which Stalin had betrayed his own soldiers, or even to point out the myriad similarities between his camp experiences. Rather, he argued that the two camp systems were indicative of a deeper affinity between Stalinism and Nazism and challenged Soviet readers to recognize the moral implications of this connection.
Convinced that this truth about Stalinism needed to be communicated to others, Bakanichev committed his memories to paper in 1974-75. He did not attempt to publish this work, however, until the height of glasnost : Bakanichev's efforts in 1988 to publish his memoir in both Literaturnaia gazeta and Novyi mir were unsuccessful, but excerpts would eventually appear in the Rabochaia tribuna newspaper in 1993. (4) Bakanichev also donated typewritten copies of his memoir to Memorial and to Narodnyi arkhiv as another means of preserving his story for others.
Looking back on his own life, Bakanichev saw the story of a young man whose dreams of academic success were suddenly interrupted by war and terror. Bakanichev was able to fulfill his longtime goal of attending Moscow State University (MGU) for only two months before being drafted into the army in 1939. After being surrounded and captured during Operation Barbarossa, he endured almost four years of hunger and forced labor in a series of POW and labor camps, including Steyerberg and Bomlitz. After escaping in the spring of 1945, Bakanichev chose to repatriate to the Soviet Union and attempted to resume his academic studies. Unfortunately, he was now refused entry into MGU, and instead he chose to train at the Gubkin Oil Institute as an engineer.
Even this small consolation was not to last, however, as the Ministry of State Security (MGB) soon summoned Bakanichev several times for interrogation and attempted to persuade him to become a police informant at his institute. After refusing to do so, Bakanichev was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in the Noril'sk Gulag, ostensibly for "anti-Soviet agitation" during his time as a POW. (5) After nearly eight years in the Gulag, Bakanichev was released at the end of 1955 as part of Khrushchev's general amnesty. This time, Bakanichev was finally able to complete his education, receiving his degree as an engineer in 1962. Despite his successful career, and legal rehabilitation in 1965, Bakanichev could not shake the lasting impressions and effects of his prison experience. It is not coincidental that he chose to end his memoir at the Belorusskii train station, the site of his interrogation and, in a very real sense, his lost youth: "In the corner ... there stands a young man with a bouquet of flowers .... But I always hurry through here, occasionally glancing at the other corner of the station, where there is almost always a police car, and speed up my steps even more." (6) In this final juxtaposition of a hopeful youth with his current existence as a fearful former zek, Bakanichev communicated very clearly both his sense of how much prison had taken from him and his lingering unease around representatives of Soviet authority.
Bakanichev's memoir provides a means of tracing what Thomas Rigby called the "shadow culture" of the late Soviet Union: the informal social networks, debates, and subsurface discontent that paved the way for the more public criticism of the Soviet system duringglasnost'. (7) A key part of this "shadow culture" was the contestation of memory and historical narratives. The relationship of history and memory in the Soviet Union, however, was never so simple as juxtapositions of "genuine" memories vs. "distorted" history might suggest. (8) Rather, numerous researchers have observed the ways in which Soviet citizens often relied on established historical narratives to frame or "fill in" their own recollections, thus granting their memories a sense of coherence and historical significance. (9) Memories were shaped by dominant historical narratives at the same time as they could be employed to question and undermine these narratives. (10) Unpublished memoirs like Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire therefore offer a valuable window onto an important cultural process that would eventually help threaten the legitimacy of the Soviet government itself.
Despite a recent wave of veterans' memoirs, the participation of veterans and former POWs in this "shadow culture" has only just begun to receive attention. Veterans during the late Soviet Union were often perceived as one of the last bastions of support for the communist authorities. (11) This perception was due in no small part to the officially sanctioned "war cult" that celebrated the wartime exploits of veterans while seeking to translate this reverence into legitimacy for the Soviet regime, particularly during the Brezhnev years. The memoirs of veterans played a crucial role in this cult and were censored and published by a special Defense Ministry commission that ensured they supported the approved public narrative of the Great Patriotic War. (12) As Mark Edele reminds us, however, the war cult was not merely a propagandistic attempt to co-opt veterans' vital and individual memories; it was a "living religion" in which veterans actively participated. (13) Throughout the postwar period, veterans demanded official recognition and favorable treatment from the regime. Researchers have also increasingly suggested that Soviet veterans in particular emerged from the wartime years with expectations of change, only to see these hopes for liberalization undermined and suppressed by postwar Stalinism. (14) Though the war cult and the special privileges granted to veterans in the late 1970s served in some way to bind veterans to the regime, they should not cause us to overlook the fact that many Soviet veterans' first experience with the postwar regime was disappointment, and that veterans throughout the postwar years remained a potential source of both support and opposition to the Soviet regime.
This was particularly true for former POWs like Bakanichev, who experienced the same postwar disappointment and struggle for recognition of their wartime sacrifices but found this situation complicated by the widespread stigma attached to having been a POW. Official censorship and the dominant, heroic narrative of the Great Patriotic War meant that the history of Soviet POWs was largely taboo among Soviet historians. (15) Glasnost' and the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, brought on a wave of Russian-language scholarship that further illuminated the mistreatment of Soviet POWs by both the German and the postwar Soviet authorities. (16) Recent research on Soviet POWs in both Russian and English has given us an excellent understanding of what they suffered during the wartime years, how they faced legal and social discrimination upon returning home, and how these stories were long ignored in the Soviet Union. (17)
As yet, however, scholars have not seriously investigated how former POWs later wrote about their experiences, drew on their memories to formulate critical or supportive narratives of the Great Patriotic War, or reacted to important events like Khrushchev's "de-Stalinization" or glasnost : The analysis of Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire presented here is therefore intended as a preliminary investigation into critical discourses of memory among former POWs in the Soviet Union. I will consequently at times refer to other POW memoirs to suggest where Bakanichev's memoir might be part of a larger, shared discourse. (18) Bakanichev's memoir, however, cannot necessarily be taken as representative of the feelings of all POWs. Almost 1.9 million former POWs repatriated to the Soviet Union, each with individual memories of the wartime years and subsequent lives. The example of the former POW Nikolai D'iakov, who emerged as an anti-Stalinist and advocate for POWs among the Soviet veterans' movement, at least suggests that other POWs may have also shared Bakanichev's feelings and helped contribute to a critical reevaluation of Stalinism in the late Soviet Union. (19) The true extent and nature of this contribution must remain a subject for future scholarship.
Before delving into Bakanichev's memoir itself, a discussion of terminology is necessary. I have already repeatedly suggested that Bakanichev drew on his own experiences and memories in Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire to formulate a moral condemnation of the history and legacies of Stalinism. Like most Soviet citizens who lived under Stalin's rule, however, Bakanichev never actually employed the literal Russian term for "Stalinism" (stalinizm), instead most often utilizing the similar but not necessarily equivalent "Stalin's order/ regime" (stalinskiiporiadok). Indeed, Bakanichev's memoir has a tendency to speak in personalized terms about both Stalinism and Nazism, most often using Stalin's and Hitler's names in their adjectival Russian forms (stalinskii and gitlerovskii). This terminology creates some ambiguity as to the degree that Bakanichev was criticizing Stalin's rule in a limited sense, or Stalinism as a more systemic phenomenon. As I demonstrate, however, Bakanichev clearly believed legacies of Stalin's regime had outlived the man himself and continued to influence the Soviet Union, thereby making his condemnation of Stalin's rule even more necessary. It should also be noted that Bakanichev never condemned Soviet socialism as a whole in his memoir and at one point criticized Stalin's theory of intensification of class warfare as being "anti-Marxist," suggesting that he was more anti-Stalinist than anti-Soviet. Nevertheless, Bakanichev's memoir did occasionally criticize the Brezhnevera government and its policies. (20) Keeping these potential ambiguities in mind, I therefore speak of Bakanichev as criticizing not only "Stalin's rule" but "Stalinism" as a systemic entity. (21)
The Truth of Captivity
The murderous treatment of Soviet POWs by the German army has by now been well documented. Of the 5.7 million Soviet soldiers who fell into German captivity, 3.3 million, or almost 58 percent, perished from hunger, maltreatment, disease, forced labor, and outright executions. In contrast, roughly 4 percent of British and American POWs died in German captivity. (22) The clear disparity between conditions for Soviet versus Western POWs, as well as the staggering number of the former, left many Soviet POWs confused and stunned. Feelings that they had been betrayed by Stalin, the Soviet government, and the Communist Party were reportedly common among Red Army soldiers in German prison camps. (23) Bakanichev held Stalin directly responsible for the harsh treatment of Soviet POWs in German camps: by not signing the Third Geneva Convention of 1929, Stalin had placed Soviet POWs beyond the protection of international law. Encounters with POWs from other countries--who enjoyed better food, mail privileges, and Red Cross support--therefore served as a constant reminder that "for Stalin, there were no prisoners of war, only traitors to the motherland." (24)
Although his feelings of anger toward Stalin were not surprising (and typical of former POWs), what is perhaps surprising is that Bakanichev did not necessarily reject these charges out of hand. In fact, Bakanichev's memoir showed a willingness to question several central tropes of the Soviet war mythology: namely, the constant emphasis on the heroism and patriotism of the common Red Army soldier and the "national unity" that had made victory possible. Bakanichev expressed doubt as to the degree to which the average Soviet soldier responded to the German invasion with the kind of righteous anger commonly depicted in officially published histories and memoirs. (25) Instead, Bakanichev argued, the Soviet troops during the initial invasion were remarkably "passive," governed by "feelings of hostility [toward the Soviet government] for many injustices," and possessed no real malice toward the Germans. Indeed, the vast majority of those captured during the first months of the war had simply not wanted to fight, which was the main explanation for the Red Army's devastating defeats and the sheer number of prisoners taken by the German army. (26)
Interestingly, this was one of the reasons that Soviet society widely continued to perceive former POWs as "defeatists" and "traitors," even many years after the end of the war and their supposed rehabilitation. (27) Although the official History of the Great Patriotic War published in 1960 explained the Red Army's disastrous early defeats by reference to the "cult of personality," inadequate training, and the element of surprise, its images of heroic Red Army soldiers fighting to the death could not help but cast suspicion on the millions who could not or did not. (28) The limited number of published histories of Soviet POWs focused strictly on heroic figures, such as the martyred Soviet general Dmitrii M. Karbyshev, or the Soviet POWs who staged a brief uprising in Auschwitz. (29) Even later dissident writers tended to treat the supposed defeatism of Soviet POWs as a given, arguing that Stalinist repression had led millions of soldiers "to prefer captivity to life in such a country." (30) This idea that a huge number of Soviet POWs, and Soviet citizens in general, were at least initially unenthusiastic about fighting for Stalin and the Soviet regime has remained a point of contention among historians. (31)
Former POWs also faced explicit legal discrimination. Returning POWs were not officially recognized as having participated in the war. They were subject to a stringent "filtration" process and, particularly in the case of officers, possible arrest. Moreover, even those POWs who were cleared through "filtration" were prohibited from living in Leningrad, Moscow, and Kiev, unless they had previously resided there. These limitations were comparable to those applied to convicted criminals and released Gulag inmates. (32) Although Stalin's death allowed some relaxation of these legal restrictions, former POWs were not fully legally rehabilitated until the 1990s.
Official censorship and the officially promoted war cult therefore had a distinct influence on the perception of POWs and the content of memoirs written by former POWs. (33) It would be overly simplistic, however, to see the constant emphasis on heroism and resistance in many POW memoirs to be only the result of official propaganda and censorship. Narratives of defiant resistance and heroic escapes were common among POW memoirs published outside the Soviet Union and after glasnost' relaxed censorship restrictions. (34) The emphasis on heroism can therefore be understood primarily as a response to the continuing social stigma associated with having been a POW. Memoirs of former POWs contain a large element of self-justification--as if, by demonstrating that Soviet POWs could also act heroically, these authors would be able to remove the "stain" of having been a prisoner. Indeed, this was often the memoirs' explicit purpose. In his autobiography, the former POW (and Gulag inmate) Nikolai Numerov declared that the task of all former prisoners was "to tell people the truth, raise our voices in defense of the good name of all those unknown heroes ... and take away from them the shameful label of 'traitors to the motherland.'" (35) Similarly, it is not surprising that one of the first glasnost'-era histories to draw extensively on memories of former POWs chose an undeniably heroic subject: resistance movements organized by Communists and Soviet POWs in various Nazi camps. (36)
Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire was therefore written in a discursive environment in which the experiences of POWs were mostly marginalized and the image of the heroic, defiant, and ideologically committed Red Army soldier was officially dominant. In the declared interest of telling the "truth about captivity," however, Bakanichev undermined the official image of heroic resistance by relating more realistic stories of prisoners simply trying to survive. He reported, for example, how desperate hunger in the POW camps led to numerous fights over food, and occasionally even to incidents of cannibalism. (37) The near-constant hunger even sometimes overrode a desire to escape. At Steyerberg, Bakanichev's work crew discovered a tunnel leading out of their barracks constructed by the previous occupants; rather than escape, they used the tunnel to sneak out of the camp to steal extra food. (38)
Bakanichev explicitly recognized that such episodes might seem unheroic and not "worthy" of Soviet soldiers, particularly when considered against the Soviet war cult. He acknowledged that in Steyerberg there were "no protests, no demonstrations or sabotage" but emphasized that this did not make all prisoners "traitors." (39) To expect such resistance among starving, unarmed prisoners was entirely unrealistic; when he himself was accused by a military court in 1948 of "convincing other prisoners not to resist and not to escape," Bakanichev replied that "anyone who knew the real conditions of being a prisoner would simply laugh at such accusations." (40) This did not stop Bakanichev from trying to defend himself by appealing to the accepted notions of heroism and resistance. Bakanichev emphasized that despite being promised "large rewards," no one in his barracks offered any information about Soviet military units or technology. (41) As further proof of his own patriotism, he related how he had used his friendly relationship with a German overseer, and his access to the man's book collection, to copy maps of the surrounding area and distribute them to prisoners planning an escape. (42)
Thus, while Bakanichev's memoir rejected the notion that all Soviet POWs were "traitors," his commitment to telling the truth about his experiences undermined the simple, Manichean depiction of Soviet soldiers that formed one foundation of the Soviet mythology of the Great Patriotic War. Consider, for example, Bakanichev's rather frank discussion of the Russian Liberation Army (the ROA or "Vlasovites"). For one, even to address this issue was in some way to challenge the official war narrative. It has been estimated that by 1944, almost 1 million Soviet citizens were serving in the German army. Such massive collaboration could, of course, have no place in the mythology of the Great Patriotic War, as a genuine discussion of this phenomenon would have meant questioning the unshakable "Soviet patriotism" that supposedly sustained POWs even in the direst conditions. It was far better to paint all "Vlasovites," and indeed all POWs, as "traitors and defeatists," than to admit that feelings of hopelessness and betrayal were endemic among Soviet POWs. (43)
One might expect then that, in an effort to defend themselves against this charge, former POWs would be certain to condemn "Vlasovites," collaborators, and other "traitors" in order to differentiate clearly their own loyalty. However, many POW memoirists, including Bakanichev, demonstrated a more ambiguous attitude to the ROA. (44) In his discussion of ROA recruitment efforts among the Soviet POWs, Bakanichev never used the word "traitors" and even showed some understanding of the movement's goals and motivations. He was quick to draw a distinction between himself and the Vlasovites, writing: "Did I sympathize with the Vlasovites? Of course not. But I long ago came to the conclusion that the creator of the Vlasovite army was not Hitler but Stalin." (45) By presenting a distinction between Russian patriotism and loyalty to Stalin in these terms, Bakanichev introduced the question of whether, given the Stalinist government's treatment of its own citizens, being opposed to such a government could really be considered treasonable. (46)
Bakanichev's stated commitment to relating the truth (istina) about the experiences of Soviet POWs therefore involved much more than positioning more realistic tales of POW death and survival against the dominant war mythology's emphasis on heroism and martyrdom. Through questioning the dominant image of POWs as "defeatists" and "traitors," Bakanichev developed a critical discourse that held Stalin responsible both for the suffering of all Soviet POWs and for the fact that some, in desperation, turned against their own country. In this way, Bakanichev's willingness to challenge enduring negative perceptions of Soviet POWs and common but overly simplistic notions of heroism and loyalty became linked to a challenge to Stalin's wartime leadership in general. As Bakanichev related his further experiences as a Gulag inmate, this critical perspective developed into a moral indictment of Stalinism as a whole.
"The Differences Were Only in the Details"
Although Bakanichev described his time as a POW as the initial source of his doubts about the legitimacy of Stalin's rule, the heart of his memoir was an explicit comparison between his experiences in German captivity and his time as a Gulag inmate. Despite being separated by a three-year period during which he attempted to resume a normal life, these two prison experiences remained fused in Bakanichev's understanding and were presented as such in Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire. There were obvious reasons for this, including the direct causal link between Bakanichev's history as a former POW and his subsequent arrest, as well as the immediate similarities of life in a POW work camp and the Gulag. As Bakanichev grimly stated, "12 hours of work in the cold, a half-starved existence, somebody was killed, somebody died--all this was the norm for camp life and did not arouse any surprise from anyone." (47) Bakanichev's language also equated these two camp systems: the German work camp in Steyerberg became the "zone [zona]," the term commonly employed by Gulag prisoners to refer to the Soviet camps. (48) Similarly, Bakanichev chose to use the term "Soviet concentration camps [kontslageri]" for the Gulag camps, although he noted that in the parlance of 1974, many had begun to employ Solzhenitsyn's term "the Gulag Archipelago." (49) Finally, Bakanichev's encounters with both the German and Soviet secret police had revealed that "the workers of Stalin's political punitive organs differed practically in no way from the fascist Gestapo." When called in for interrogation by the MGB, Bakanichev noted that he already possessed "practical experience and knowledge" of such matters and that "captivity in this sense played a positive role." (50)
Bakanichev also credited his time as a POW, despite its hardships, as being his first exposure to different information and perspectives regarding the Soviet Union and Stalinism. The first source of this new perspective was his fellow prisoners: "There was quite a various collection of people [in the German prison camp] ... and I heard much about things I previously had not known or had not known from firsthand sources: about the Soviet camps, about the details of the 1933 famine, about Lenin's testament, and much else. The opinions of thousands of people, [and] different stories gave me the chance to compare facts and establish the truth [istina]." (51)
Bakanichev preserved this sense of his fellow prisoners as being the most reliable sources of information during his descriptions of the Gulag as well. He devoted a significant portion of this section to retelling stories about the lives and particularly the arrests of other prisoners, calling them "instructive stories." (52) The "lesson" to be learned was one with which Bakanichev was already all too familiar: that the fact that both Germany and the Soviet Union had incarcerated and killed millions of innocent individuals was indicative of a deeper affinity between Stalinism and Nazism.
Bakanichev consequently argued that his time as a POW had given him particular insight into the nature and crimes of Stalinism far beyond that possessed by the typical Soviet citizen. He noted the irony, for example, that despite spending almost the entire war in captivity with limited access to outside information, he was still better informed than his father, who read Soviet newspapers every day. (53) Bakanichev contrasted his new perspective on the war with the blind acceptance that he discovered among many Soviet citizens, with his laboratory supervisor serving as a good example:
Usually she would say, "that Stalin, what a genius, what a good fellow, after all, would we have ever won without him?" ... But I thought, "is she, a person with a higher education, really so misinformed and fooled by propaganda that she cannot sort out such elementary things?" But then I calmed down.... Whenever an idea is violently promoted, the majority of people, either unable or unwilling to think creatively, either cannot or are scared to think differently. After all, in Germany tens of people said the same thing to me about Hitler. (54)
Bakanichev therefore came to the conclusion that most Soviet citizens, out of fear, naivete, or complacency, accepted the official narrative of the war and, more important, of Stalin's rule in general.
Bakanichev extended this conclusion to the 1930s as well, challenging the Soviet people to recognize the truth behind Stalinist propaganda. At the same time, as Stalin was proclaiming that "the most valuable and decisive capital is people, cadres," the system of camps was being prepared to receive any real or perceived opponents of the Stalinist system. However, "there were many naive people who took this statement for the genuine article. They did not think about what hid behind the words 'we are still pressing forward, clearing from the path any and all obstacles.'" (55) What was hidden, Bakanichev argued, was that Stalin was only interested in clearing "obstacles" to his own tyrannical rule. In this way, Stalin and Hitler were two sides of the same political coin:
In my opinion, the greatest crime in the history of human existence is the creation of the systems of concentration camps in fascist Germany and Stalin's Russia at the beginning of the 1930s ... I thought of a concentration camp system as a political order where any person who does not share the point of view of some kind of "Fuhrer" or "leader of the world proletariat" is put behind bars, and even for the fact that they are unsure which is which, being unable to tell the difference between [these leaders'] points of view. (56)
Thus the similarities between Nazism and Stalinism in Bakanichev's mind were so great that one might have trouble telling them apart.
Bakanichev was certainly not the first or last person to draw such conclusions. The clear parallels between the systems, including the obsession with "internal enemies," the secret police, and the networks of camps, have led casual observers and professional historians alike to compare Stalinism and Nazism ever since the 1940s, if not even earlier. (57) Moreover, the Soviet government itself was sensitive to such potential comparisons, going to great lengths to emphasize distinctions between the "corrective" labor colonies of the Soviet Union and the extermination camps of Nazi Germany. (58) Even after de-Stalinization, official Soviet publications still declared the concentration camps of Nazi Germany to be but one exceptionally prominent manifestation of the inevitable injustice of capitalist society. For Bakanichev, however, and likely for many of the other hundreds of thousands of former POWs who survived the horrors of both German camps and the Soviet Gulag, the similarities between their two camp experiences suggested that Nazism and Stalinism shared a broader affinity with each other.
The war correspondent and novelist Vasilii Semenovich Grossman came to a similar conclusion in his monumental novel Life and Fate. Although we do not have concrete evidence that Bakanichev had read Life and Fate, it is clear that such ideas about the moral equivalency of Stalinism and Nazism were circulating in the Soviet Union at this time. (59) Like Grossman, Bakanichev argued that the wartime years had revealed disturbing parallels between Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia both in their respective political structure and in their use of violence against their own citizens. Unlike Grossman, however, Bakanichev never actually used the term "totalitarianism" to label these systemic affinities between Nazism and Stalinism. The reason for this is not immediately apparent; as discussed above, Bakanichev clearly presented Hitler and Stalin as mirror representatives of the same "political order" (poriadok).
It may be that Bakanichev was not entirely prepared to move beyond presenting similarities between Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia to seeing them both as manifestations of a single, abstracted political and ideological structure. Grossman, in contrast, argued that the commonality between these totalitarian systems, and indeed the essence of totalitarianism itself, was violence. Violence was so central to a totalitarian state, Grossman wrote, that it ceased to be a "means" and instead became the basis of totalitarianism itself, without which the system would cease to exist. (60)
Nevertheless, Bakanichev's memoir was clearly engaging with many of the same ideas that brought Grossman to his conclusions regarding totalitarian systems. Indeed, there are several parallels between Grossman's and Bakanichev's work that suggest a more widespread questioning of the supposed "lessons" of the Great Patriotic War and the political legitimacy of the postwar Stalinist order. Bakanichev's comments at the beginning of this article are a particularly good example. In juxtaposing the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany and the Soviet government's treatment of its repatriating citizens, Bakanichev simultaneously challenged the official narratives of the war (which did not include space for the stories of POWs or the specific suffering of the Jewish people) and questioned the moral legitimacy that the Soviet Union had supposedly accrued through its defeat of Nazi Germany. (61) Grossman, for his part, devoted much of his novel to the epic battle of Stalingrad but also made the murder of Europe's Jews a central aspect of Life and Fate, suggesting parallels between the violence of the Holocaust and that of collectivization in the Soviet Union. (62) Grossman and Bakanichev, coming from very different experiences of the wartime years, both equated Stalinism and Nazism and thereby subverted one of the key tropes of the mythology of the Great Patriotic War. The fact that this subversion in part stemmed from the fact that the personal stories of Grossman (as a Jew) and Bakanichev (as a POW) had no place in this mythology in turn suggests that wartime memories that did not "fit" with dominant narratives could serve as an impetus to critical thinking for other Soviet citizens as well.
Bakanichev was not content, however, simply to illuminate the similarities between Nazism and Stalinism. Rather, he challenged the Soviet population to recognize not only that they had been deceived by Stalinist propaganda, but also that through their inaction and passivity they had allowed Stalin's crimes to take place. After discussing the injustice of deporting ethnic Germans from western Poland, for example, Bakanichev wrote:
Of course, readers, especially those who lost loved ones in the war and on German-occupied territory, can say, "you would know whom to defend, if you saw what they [the Germans] did in the occupied territories; besides, the majority of them were for Hitler." True, the majority of Germans during the period of triumphant Nazi military operations applauded Hitler. But didn't we, more than half the Russian population--when Stalin had thousands of innocent people arrested, sent to prison and concentration camps, or shot--believe that the "Soviet people under the leadership of the Great Stalin are going from victory to victory" and yell "hooray for the Great Stalin"? (63)
Bakanichev in this way suggested that the Soviet people were partly complicit in Stalin's crimes, and not only because the terror could not have been carried out without the cooperation of thousands of NKVD agents, local officials, and informers. (64) The complacency of the population as a whole, its unwillingness to question official rhetoric, and the tendency to choose conformity over an (admittedly dangerous) independent position also made these crimes possible.
In Bakanichev's opinion, both Hitler and Stalin were allowed to come to power because honest and conscientious individuals did not stand up to them: "In the Stalin period I met many people who changed their point of view [on Stalinist repression] only when they themselves ended up behind bars, but up to that point ... they had signed documents and said things they did not believe, just to show 'I am one of ours [svoi],' that after all this they will not 'touch' me, let other people answer, and I will stand off to the side. In Germany under such circumstances there came to power all kinds of hitlers [sic], and with us, stalins [a u nas staliny]." (65) Bakanichev's prison experiences, and perhaps the very fact that for 12 long years he had not been "one of ours," had convinced him of the fundamental equivalency between Stalinism and Nazism, and that such systems stemmed ultimately from individuals choosing conformity over their own conscience.
Bakanichev's memoir therefore became an explicit moral challenge to the Soviet people to recognize two crucial facts: first, that the Stalinist system extended beyond Stalin himself to the whole multitude of "little stalins" (many of whom, undoubtedly, still held government positions); and second, that the Soviet people were therefore not solely victims of Stalinism but had allowed this system to grow through their complacency and inaction. In expanding on this thought, Bakanichev wrote, "There were also many intelligent people who believed that democracy would simply appear, without any kind of struggle for it." (66) Implied in this statement is a belief that any hopes for freedom or democracy in the Soviet Union rested on the willingness of individuals to take action, to express their moral opposition to Stalinism, and to choose freedom over obedience.
As an example of this choice, Bakanichev related the story of his own briefly successful escape from the Stalinist Gulag. After becoming acquainted with another trustworthy prisoner, the former army officer Maksimov, Bakanichev planned to escape with his compatriot by digging under an unused camp gate. This plan required months of preparation in which Bakanichev and Maksimov surreptitiously fed one of the guard dogs from their own meager rations, before finally taking advantage of a particularly foggy morning to escape past the now-friendly dog. In describing this escape, Bakanichev noted that any number of things could have gone wrong, leading to a "sure death," but he emphasized that "we considered it better to die from the bullets of a guard while escaping, or from a wild animal in the taiga, than to perish in a Stalinist concentration camp. It would be an honest death, a death in resistance to lawlessness." (67) Although Bakanichev and Maksimov were eventually caught, for a short time they enjoyed a feeling they "had never experienced ... we were beholden to no one, we were our own masters ... perhaps now the quiet Siberian taiga would hide us from the cruel and unjust Stalinist laws." (68) As Bakanichev saw it, this brief period of absolute liberty was worth the consequences that followed (which included solitary confinement), as it had demonstrated that even within the Gulag he had not lost his commitment to moral opposition and love of freedom.
Bakanichev was not alone among former POWs in expressing his moral opposition and even taking action against the camp regime. The memoirs of Nikolai Nikolaevich Boldyrev and Vsevolod Vasil'evich Gorshkov both suggest that former POWs played a key role in helping lead Gulag uprisings in 1953-54. (69) As Boldyrev put it, "these soldiers, having endured the terrible German concentration camps, could not endure the horror of the Stalinist camps." Steven Barnes's short study of the Kengir uprising also points out the role of veterans, particularly those who had already experienced similar struggles in Nazi camps. (70) In light of Bakanichev's constant emphasis throughout his memoir on the moral equivalency between Stalinism and Nazism and the need to resist tyranny, it may seem surprising that he did not participate in the Noril'sk camp uprisings in 1953. Bakanichev explained this fact by noting that although there were heated debates about joining the uprising in his camp section, most inmates there had only a short time left on their sentences and convinced the others not to participate. (71) Like many other former POWs and Gulag inmates, Bakanichev's experiences in the camps helped convince him of the evils of Stalinism, a fact that he later tried to communicate through his memoir. What role these former POWs may have played in encouraging or supporting broader reform after leaving the Gulag, however, is still largely unclear. (72)
"Truth Is Never Accepted without Opposition from the Many"
Given his conviction that his two prison experiences had revealed the truth about Stalinism, why did Bakanichev wait until almost 20 years after the events described to write his memoir? (73) Bakanichev unfortunately gives few concrete answers within his memoir itself, choosing to end his story with his official notice of rehabilitation in 1965. There are many possible reasons why he chose to wait to begin committing his memories to paper: lack of sufficient free time, the fact that a memoir that dealt frankly with the POW and Gulag experiences would have little chance of being published, or even a lack of confidence in his own literary abilities (Bakanichev cautioned in his introduction that he was "not a writer"). (74) Bakanichev's eventual decision to write a memoir undoubtedly stemmed from his conviction that his story needed to be preserved and communicated to others, as evidenced by his references to "readers" and his efforts to publish the manuscript. This decision, however, was made even more relevant by the creeping revival of Stalinism during the Brezhnev years. Bakanichev's camp experiences provided both an example of the evils of Stalinism and its parallels with Nazism, and an example of moral opposition to these two "totalitarianisms." His memoir can therefore be considered as part of a general trend in late Soviet memoir writing of testifying about the Stalinist past and trying to come to terms with its contemporary legacies.
What Bakanichev shared with other memoir writers in the late Soviet Union was a sense that his personal experiences had revealed larger, historical truths that needed to be communicated to others. As with many of the memoirs investigated by Irina Paperno, Bakanichev's memoir presented itself as the testimony of one whose life had been "broken" by Stalinism. (75) Like others who had experienced Stalinist repression, Bakanichev tried to "make sense" of his traumatic experiences by making his memoir a document of social and historical significance. In this way, Bakanichev's camp experiences, despite their incredible hardships, had in his mind served some higher purpose. This rationalization may have been particularly important for those former POWs and Gulag inmates who reported feeling isolated from "normal" Soviet society, even after their supposed rehabilitation. (76) Bakanichev at several points in his memoir voiced this sense of being under constant suspicion: for example, by describing his continued dread of the Belorusskii station or noting that immediately after being released from the Gulag "now according to the law we could be called not zek, but 'citizen,' as if in 15 minutes such a reincarnation had taken place." (77) By arguing that his two camp experiences had given him particular insight into the nature of the Stalinist regime and its moral equivalency with Nazism, Bakanichev recast these episodes from sources of supposed "shame" and isolation into sources of enlightenment and truth. Bakanichev's memoir in this way sought to recreate his own "journey to truth" for readers, even if, at the time, such readers were only a presumed future audience.
Bakanichev's memoir, although unpublished, therefore existed as part of a larger critical discourse on Stalinism in the late Soviet Union. This was a discourse shaped by debates about the Soviet past, by the circulation of samizdat literature, and by disappointment among Soviet intellectuals over the increasing censorship and ideological orthodoxy after the end of Khrushchev's "Thaw." Indeed, Bakanichev's transformation of his two prison experiences into an extended critique of Stalinism was likely spurred on by the general "sanitization" of the Stalin period during the Brezhnev years. Debates regarding the history of the Great Patriotic War played an important role in this process, which in many ways began with attempts to revive Stalin's reputation as a military leader on the 20th anniversary of Victory Day. The effort to rehabilitate Stalin continued with attacks in 1965-66 on Aleksandr Nekrich's revisionist history June 22, 1941, which held Stalin personally responsible for the military disasters of 1941. (78) Nekrich's ouster from the Communist Party in 1967 may have signaled the official triumph of the Stalin apologists, but it did not put an end to debates about Stalin's wartime conduct. Bakanichev's extended discussion of his time as a POW, and his repeated declarations that Stalin was responsible both for the Red Army's initially poor performance and for the suffering of Soviet POWs, can therefore be read as a direct response to contemporary attempts to reinstate Stalin as the leading architect of victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Bakanichev's brief references to both Milovan Djilas's The New Class and Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago also indicate a certain familiarity with dissident literature. (79) The latter is particularly interesting, as Bakanichev evidently shared some of Solzhenitsyn's views. While an extensive comparison between their works is beyond the scope of this article, both authors argued that the Soviet population's complacency had allowed Stalin to take power and carry out his murderous policies and demanded that readers recognize this moral complicity. (80) Bakanichev's decision to record his own prison experiences may have even been partially inspired by the publication of The Gulag Archipelago in 1973 and its circulation in the Soviet Union in samizdat form.
We should not overemphasize these similarities, however. Whereas Solzhenitsyn clearly intended The Gulag Archipelago as an indictment of Leninism and the entire Soviet system, Bakanichev's brief discussion of the post-Stalin years in Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire gives a more ambiguous sense of his own attitudes toward the current Soviet government and the Soviet system as a whole. On the one hand, Bakanichev clearly placed most of the blame for the crimes of the Stalin era on Stalin himself and the Stalinist government. Bakanichev also refrained from open criticism of Lenin, showed some sympathy for Bukharin's gradualist scheme of collectivization, and dated the creation of the Gulag to the early 1930s, thus firmly locating it within the Stalin period. (81) In a later passage, Bakanichev wrote "if in any state too many people are put in prison, then it is clear that it is not the people who are sick [bol'nye], but the leadership of this state." (82) By attributing this sickness to the "leadership," rather than the "state" more broadly, Bakanichev seemed to imply that Stalin and his ruling circle, rather than the Soviet system as a whole, were responsible for the crimes of the Stalin period.
Yet it is also clear that Bakanichev perceived Stalinism to have encompassed much more than the personality of Stalin and his ruling circle, making its legacy for the Soviet Union more complicated and persistent. He explained: "It is impossible that only Stalin can be to blame for the destruction of so many people. Revolutions have a downside: they breed fanatics. And with us, and not only with us, these fanatics took power and supported the terrorist Stalin and helped him destroy millions of 'heretics.'" (83) Stalin's rise to power was therefore not an inevitable outcome of the October Revolution, but it was always a possibility, and one that was unfortunately not prevented. Both the Soviet state and the Soviet people were at least partially responsible for this failure. (84) Bakanichev also saw the post-Stalin Soviet leadership to be complicit, although their potential to act was limited by the "still-fanatical faith in Stalin" among many people. Bakanichev compared Khrushchev's de-Stalinization to the abolition of serfdom under Alexander II, calling both "progressive" but "unwilling half-measures." (85) As Bakanichev noted, there were still many in the Soviet government who worried about potential damage to the prestige of the Soviet leadership and hence "were not interested in unmasking the nature of Stalin's order." (86) Khrushchev, in Bakanichev's opinion, was "one of the only Soviet leaders who dared to tell the people the truth, though not the whole truth," but his actions showed him to be more of a "liberal" than a "true democrat." (87) Therefore, despite Khrushchev's half-measures, many of the legacies of the Stalin period were still present in the contemporary Soviet Union, such as strict censorship of artistic works, surveillance of the population, and limits on personal freedom.
These ambiguities help explain the fact that, despite Bakanichev's emphasis on the harmful legacies of Stalinism and the need to resist tyranny, there is no evidence that he became an active political dissident. Bakanichev's memoir does not discuss any political protests against the Soviet government after he returned from prison, nor is Bakanichev's name mentioned in any of the major works on the Soviet dissident movement. (88) Given what Bakanichev had endured during his time as a POW and Gulag inmate, it is wholly understandable that he chose to try to live out the rest of his life in peace, rather than actively seek another confrontation with the Soviet regime. Galina Ivanovna Kasabova, who corresponded with Bakanichev during the preparation of her edited collection of memoirs O vremeni, o Noril'ske, o sebe (On the Times, on Noril'sk, on Myself) is of this opinion as well: "they [former POWs and Gulag inmates] survived so much in the camps, and then saw that there had been no changes for the better.... It was only in the 1990s that they believed that changes had taken place and began to tell their stories." (89)
As we have seen, however, for Bakanichev this process began much earlier. Although he may not have engaged in outright political opposition to the Brezhnev-era regime, his memoir continually emphasized the need for moral opposition to Stalinism and a willingness to face the truth about the Stalinist past. Bakanichev apparently tried to set this example in his personal life as well: his granddaughter Irina recalls that, while Anatolii Efimovich never mentioned participating in political actions against the Soviet regime, he spoke very openly about his camp experiences with relatives and friends, believing it his duty to relate this truth to others. (90) Though Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire derived its moral authority from Bakanichev's wartime and Gulag experiences, it also invoked a notion of moral criticism and resistance to authority that was popularly associated with the Russian intelligentsia, both in its 19th-century incarnation and in Soviet evocations of this tradition. (91)
Bakanichev's memoir actively pitted this idealized intelligentsia tradition against Stalinism, again arguing that a willingness to follow one's own individual conscience, ability to think critically, and courage to express moral opposition were necessary forms of resistance. We have already examined how Bakanichev viewed Stalinism as coming to fruition partly due to the moral complacency of the majority of the Soviet population. Bakanichev blamed this failing largely on the unwillingness or inability to think critically for oneself. This failure could be partly explained by the regime's control over information but was only exacerbated by the tendency toward dogmatic, xenophobic, and overly judgmental attitudes. Bakanichev noted, for example, that his admission of reading German newspapers and books while a POW would undoubtedly draw fire from "ideologically minded" (ideinye) critics but responded: "fortunately I have never suffered from the disease of pushing away different ideas. I consider one of the reasons for our defeats in 1941 to have been ignorance of all this 'fascist rubbish.'" (92) In this way, Stalinism's insistence on "ideological purity" was not only misguided but had actually weakened the Soviet Union.
Bakanichev also employed the technique of referencing Russian historical figures as a way of suggesting a specifically Russian tradition that was antithetical to Stalinism. At several points in his memoir, Bakanichev imagined how celebrated 19th-century figures would have reacted with disgust to Stalinism. In the introduction to his memoir, Bakanichev commented that, like Herzen, he had discovered that a constant battle of good and evil existed in the world but would never have imagined that he would witness evil on a scale far greater even than serfdom. (93) After comparing his interrogation by the MGB to that of Pushkin under Nicholas I, Bakanichev noted that even Pushkin, "that wonderful defender of freedom," could not have imagined the tyranny that would exist under Stalin's rule. (94) Bakanichev's trial, which left a "lifelong impression" for its brevity and injustice, brought up associations with another great Russian writer: "Immediately Dostoevskii came to mind, toward whom fate was no more gracious ... At the same age, 28, Dostoevskii was sentenced to hard labor ... and now here I was, a Soviet hard-labor convict [katorzhanin]." Both men, Bakanichev pointed out, had been oppressed because they had dared to speak unpopular truths to those in authority.
Bakanichev therefore presented his own moral confrontation with the Stalinist regime as the central episode of his memoir. After returning to Moscow and beginning his studies at the Gubkin Oil Institute, Bakanichev was summoned to the offices of the MGB at the Belorusskii train station. Over the course of several "conversations" with Bakanichev, the MGB tried to convince him to become a secret police informant on his fellow students, which he categorically refused to do:
Colonel Davydov sat at the table and motioned for me to sit ... "so you, Bakanichev, were a prisoner of war, the Soviet regime is giving you a chance to put it right, and you don't want to work with us?" I answered the same as the last time, that I was a student, and that in my circle of friends there were no enemies of the people.... Davydov began to try to intimidate me. I said that I had answered clearly enough, that I would not work with you and that I considered that any honest Russian would have said the same thing. (95)
Bakanichev noted that he made this decision assuming that it would lead to his arrest, lending the episode even more gravity. This act was portrayed as a fully conscious refusal to cooperate with the regime, even though Bakanichev admitted that when first pressured to "name names" among his university acquaintances, he tried to placate the authorities by giving them the names of those students he knew least. Despite this concession, Bakanichev called his eventual refusal to cooperate "the greatest thing I ever did in my life." (96) As presented in this scene, Bakanichev's refusal to cooperate stemmed directly from his wartime experience and his ideas about the moral equivalency between Stalinism and Nazism.
For one, Bakanichev rejected the notion that he must somehow atone for his time as a POW. Moreover, he emphasized that "any honest Russian" would also refuse to collaborate with the Stalinist authorities. The latter idea not only alluded to an imagined tradition of moral resistancc to tyranny but also suggested that the Stalinist secret police should be considered "foreign" to Russia as well: "Now, occasionally, when I tell this story ... some people ask ... now why did you refuse [to work with the MGB]; after all, they weren't the fascists? These people still think that all kinds of iagodas [iagody], ezhovs [ezhevy], and berias [berii] are more attractive than himmlers, because the former are 'ours,' 'our own,' 'Soviet.' After all they were 'for the people.'" (97)
For Bakanichev, "the people's" preference for "our own" rulers only demonstrated the degree to which they were deceived by Stalinist propaganda and misplaced their national loyalty. The unpublished memoir of G. N. Satirov, another former POW, also seemed to suggest that one could be critical of the Stalinist regime while adhering to a deeper, specifically Russian patriotism. (98) In both cases, a genuine devotion to Russia and its cultural traditions was contrasted with blind allegiance to the Stalinist government. Such distinctions were particularly salient for former POWs, whose loyalty, even after Khrushchev's general amnesty for accused "collaborators," was still often called into question. Bakanichev's memoir therefore came full circle: from suggesting that it was Stalin who had betrayed Soviet POWs to suggesting that the entire history of Stalinism, given its moral equivalency with the Soviet Union's greatest enemy, should be considered a form of betrayal as well.
In this way, Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire emerges as an example of "dissidence" closer to the literal Russian translation of inakomyslie (different thinking) than the limited dissidence celebrated in the West at the time--that is, active political opposition. The fact that there is little evidence that Bakanichev became an active political opponent of the Soviet regime should not obscure the fact that, in presenting Stalinism and Nazism as moral equivalents, Bakanichev questioned the moral legitimacy that the Soviet Union had supposedly derived from its victory in the Great Patriotic War. At a time when the Brezhnev regime increasingly sought to use the war cult to bolster its own legitimacy, this questioning at least indirectly carried several implications for the authority of the Communist Party.
For one, Bakanichev's memoir in many ways presaged the polemical use of "totalitarianism" in the final decade of the Soviet Union. Throughout the 1980s, dissidents like Andrei Sakharov increasingly declared the Soviet Union "totalitarian" precisely for the polemical and moral impact of equating the Stalinist past with the extensively documented Nazi crimes. This use of "totalitarianism" as a polemical device, as opposed to a rigorous analytical concept, has often been seen as an importation of contemporary Western rhetoric and vocabulary. (99) What Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire demonstrates, however, is that these "totalitarian" comparisons were finding fertile soil among those who, like Bakanichev, had experienced the horrors of both regimes and had already developed similar ideas. In such an environment, criticism of the Stalinist past could very quickly translate into moral condemnation of a Communist Party leadership that seemed reluctant to face this past.
Bakanichev's memoir therefore provides further evidence that the conceptual world of veterans, and former POWs in particular, was richer than the late Soviet stereotype of the diehard Stalinist "VOVa" might lead one to believe. (100) The mythology of the Great Patriotic War undeniably served as a primary source of self-identification and sense of belonging for most veterans, even those whose history as POWs or Gulag prisoners had largely excluded them from official recognition. For example, Iurii Bogdanovich Lukashevich, a former paratrooper and Gulag inmate, spent 56 years agitating for the return of his wartime medals and considered their loss among the worst consequences of his wrongful conviction. (101) Scholars in recent years have uncovered a plurality of attitudes among postwar veterans, however, with marginalized groups like POWs being perhaps particularly likely to harbor critical attitudes. (102) Of the POW memoirs surveyed for this article, most expressed condemnation of Stalinism and attempted to relate the authors' wartime experiences to ongoing debates over the legitimacy of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. (103)
While it was only after the fall of the Soviet Union that Bakanichev and other former POWs would see their stories told without restrictions, the intriguing question still remains to what extent such anti-Stalinist ideas and "totalitarian" comparisons may have circulated at an earlier time among the comrades, families, and friends of former POWs. Further research is needed into published and particularly unpublished memoirs to understand the extent of anti-Stalinist sentiments among former POWs. Oral histories with surviving POWs may also give insight into their attitudes toward the revelations of glasnost' and the eventual Soviet collapse that would help place these sentiments in a wider context. Finally, the social world of former POWs and other veterans needs to be explored further to outline what role POWs played in the Soviet veterans' movement, what company they kept, and how stories of their experiences contributed to the more general revelations of the Stalinist past during glasnost'. Taken together, these various research directions may reveal a significant social group whose stories helped to challenge one of the most enduring of Soviet myths. Bakanichev, for his part, summed up his perceived task with a quote from Hegel: "the duty of the thinker is not to retreat from any conclusions--he must be prepared to sacrifice his most cherished beliefs to the truth." (104) Bakanichev's own journey to this truth had taken him from the prison camps of Nazi Germany to Stalin's Gulag. Now he saw his duty as conveying this truth to a Soviet population that he believed was largely unwilling to face the Stalinist past, lest its "most cherished beliefs" be put in jeopardy.
Dept. of History
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3560 USA
(1) Anatolii Efimovich Bakanichev, "12 let za koliuchei provolokoi," in Tsentr dokumentauii "Narodnyi arkhiv" (TsDNA) E 27, op. 1, d. 1, 1. 44.
(2) Ibid., 84.
(3) For a discussion of the war as a legitimizing myth, see Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton, N J: Princeton University Press, 2001). On the war cult, see Nina Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia (New York: Basic Books, 1994).
(4) Rejection letters from Literaturnaia gazeta (15 April 1988) and Novyi mir (2 December 1988) to A. E. Bakanichev, TsDNA f. 27, op.1, d. 4, 11. 1-2.
(5) Bakanichev was convinced that the real reason for his arrest was his refusal to cooperate with the MGB ("12 let," 64-71).
(6) Ibid., 126.
(7) Thomas H. Rigby, The Changing Soviet System: Mono-Organizational Socialism from Its Origins to Gorbachev's Restructuring (Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar, 1994), 214-19. See also Kathleen E. Smith, Remembering Stalin's Victims: Popular Memory and the End of the USSR (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); and David Remnick, Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (New York: Random House, 1993).
(8) Good examples of this counterpositioning can be found in Geoffrey Hosking, "Memory in a Totalitarian Society: The Case of the Soviet Union," in Memory: History, Culture, and the Mind, ed. Thomas Butler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 115-30; Irina Shcherbakova, "The Gulag in Memory," in Memory and Totalitarianism, ed. Luisa Passerini (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 103-16; and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The GulagArchipelago, 1918-1956." An Experiment in Literary Investigation, 3 vols., trans. Thomas P.. Whitney and Harry Willets (New York: Harper and Row, 1974-78).
(9) For examples of the interplay among public discourse, established historical narratives, and memory, see Daria Khubova et al., "After Glasnost: Oral History in the Soviet Union," in Memory and Tatalitarianism, 89-102; Catherine Merridale, Night of Stone: Death and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia (New York: Viking, 2001), 211-12; Orlando Figes, The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 629-41; Lisa A. Kirschenbaum, The Legacy of the Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1995: Myth, Memories, and Monuments (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Kirschenbaum, "Gender, Memory, and National Myths: Olga Berggolts and the Siege of Leningrad," Nationalities Papers 28, 3 (2000): 551-64; Natasha Kolchevska, "The Art of Memory," in The Russian Memoir: History and Literature, ed. Beth Holmgren (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2003), 145-66; and Irina Paperno, "Personal Accounts of the Soviet Experience," Kritika 3, 4 (2002): 577-610.
(10) Consider, for example, the case of former Gulag prisoners who simultaneously condemn the Stalinist camp system but take pride in the contribution that their own forced labor made to the Soviet war effort. See Figes, Whisperers, 636-40. it Anna Krylova, "Dancing on the Graves of the Dead," in Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space, ed. Daniel J. Walkowitz and Lisa Maya Knauer (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 83-102; and Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead, 190-99.
(12) Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead, 135.
(13) MarkEdele, Soviet Veterans of the Second World War: A Popular Movement in an Authoritarian Society, 1941-1991 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 9.
(14) Elena Zubkova, Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957 (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1998); and Donald Filtzer, Soviet Workers and Late Stalinism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). See also Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead, 131-35; Richard Stites, "Soviet Russian Wartime Culture," in The People's War, ed. Robert Thurston and Bernd Bonwetsch (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), 171-84; Bonwetsch, "War as a 'Breathing Space,'" in The People's War, 137-53; Merridale, Night of Stone; Elena S. Seniavskaia, Frontovoe pokolenie, 1941-45 (Moscow: Institut rossiiskoi istorii RAN, 1995); Beate Fieseler, "The Bitter Legacy of the Great Patriotic War," in Late Stalinist Russia: Society between Reconstruction and Reinvention, ed. Juliane Furst (London: Routledge, 2006), 46-61; and Mark Edele, "More Than Just Stalinists: The Political Sentiments of Veterans, 1945-1953," in Late Stalinist Russia, 167-91.
(15) Western researchers were consequently the first to address the subject of Soviet POWs; see Christian Streit, Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen, 1941-1945 (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstallt, 1978); and Mark R. Elliott, Pawns of Yalta: Soviet Refugees and America's Role in Their Repatriation (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).
(16) Viktor N. Zemskov, "K voprosu o repatriatsii sovetskikh grazhdan 1944-1951 gody," Istoriia SSSR, no. 4 (1990): 26-41; Mikhail I. Semiriaga, "Sud'by sovetskikh voennoplennykh," Vaprosy istorii, no. 4 (1995): 19-35; Iu. N. Arzamaskin, Zalozhniki Vtoroi mirovoi voiny: Repatriatsii sovetskikh grazhdan v 1944-1953 gg. (Moscow: Iu. N. Arzamaskin, 2001).
(17) See Aron Shneer, Hen: Sovetskie voennoplennye v Germanii, 1941-1945 (Moscow: Mosty kul'tury, 2005); Edele, Soviet Veterans, 103-26; and Pavel Polian, Zhertvy dvukh diktatur: Zhizn', trud, unizheniia i smert' sovetskikh voennoplennykh i ostarbaiterov na chuzhbine i na rodine (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2002).
(18) For other examples of POW memoirs, see E Ia. Cheron, Nemetskii plen i sovetskoe osvobozhdenie (Paris: YMCA Press, 1987); I. A. Lugin, Polglotka svobody (Paris: YMCA Press, 1987); P. N. Palii, Vnemetskomplenu (Paris: YMCA Press, 1987); N. V. Vashchenko, Iz zhizni voennoplennogo (Paris: YMCA Press, 1987); M. G. Nikolaev and G. N. Satirov, "Russkii chelovek i pered litsom smerti ne pasuet: Iz vospominanii voennoplennogo G. N. Satirova," Otechestvennye arhkivy, no. 6 (2003): 58-92; B. N. Sokolov, V plenu (St. Petersburg: Tsitadel', 2000); Nikolai Fedorovich D'iakov, Mechenye: Zapiski byvshego soldata (Moscow: Panorama, 1999); and the memories of Lev Aleksandrovich Netto in O vremeni, o Noril'ske, o sebe, ed. Galina I. Kasabova (Moscow: PoliMedia, 2005-6), 6:8; and Figes, Whisperers, 531-32.
(19) Edele, Soviet Veterans, 102-28, 180-81.
(20) Bakanichev, "12 let," 57, 61-62. Apart from expressing his discontent with the legal restrictions and suspicion of former POWs and Gulag inmates, Bakanichev also criticized collectivization and the continued problems with the Soviet agricultural economy.
(21) On the historiography of the origins and attributes of Stalinism, see Alter Litvin and John Keep, Stalinism: Russian and Western Views at the Turn of the Millennium (London: Routledge, 2005); and Giuseppe Boffa, The Stalin Phenomenon (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992).
(22) Streit, Keine Kameraden, 10.
(23) Shneer, Plen, 241-42.
(24) Bakanichev, "12 let," 24.
(25) See Tumarkin, The Living and the Dead, 74-80; A. F. Terekhov, Tsenoiu zhizni (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel'stvo, 1963), 45-46; D. Solov'ev, Chelovek ne stanovitsia na koleni (Tashkent: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo khudozhestvennoi literatury UzSSR, 1960), 3-7; and I. I. Kin'diushev, Kpobednym rassvetam (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel'stvo, 1978), 49-50, 104-5.
(26) Bakanichev, "I2 let," 11-12, 17.
(27) This question still colors discussions of Soviet POWs; see Shneer, Hen, 128; and Mark Edele's discussion of the controversy raised, even among other veterans, by an article calling for the full rehabilitation of POWs in 1987 (Soviet Veterans, 126).
(28) P. N. Pospelov et al., eds., Istoriia Velikoi otechestvennoi voiny Sovetskogo soiuza, 6 vols. (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel'stvo, 1960-65).
(29) Dan'o Borisov et al., Soldat, geroi, uchenyi: Vospominaniia o D. M. Karbysheve (Moscow: Voennoe izdatel'stvo Ministerstva oborony SSSR, 1961); A. Trinda, Skleimom na ruke (Minsk: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo BSSR, 1958), 239. Cited in Shneer, Plen, 252-53.
(30) Petro Grigor'evich Grigorenko, "V podpol'e mozhno vstretit' tol'ko krys," in Zhizn'sapozhok neparnyi, ed. G. S. Pomerants (Moscow: Pik, 2001), 93-228. See also I. A. Dugas and F. Ia. Cheron, Sovetskie voennoplennye v nemetskikh kontslageriakh (Moscow: Avuar Konsalting, 2003), 9-12, 20-25; and Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, 3:29.
(31) See, for example, Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia 1917-1991 (New York: Free Press, 1994); Shneer, Hen; Mark von Hagen, "Soviet Soldiers and Officers on the Eve of the German Invasion," in The People's War, 187-210; and Robert Thurston, "Cauldrons of Loyalty and Betrayal," in The People's War, 235-57.
(32) Pavel Polian, "Internment of Returning Soviet POWs," in Prisoners of War, Prisoners of Peace: Captivity, Homecoming, and Memory in World War II, ed. Bob Moore and Barbara Hately-Broad (New York: Berg, 2005), 123-40; and Edele, Soviet Veterans, 104-21.
(33) For example, images of starving Soviet POWs were often cut by the censors for not being sufficiently "dignified" (Shneer, Hen, 194).
(34) As Mikhail Nikolaev recently noted regarding POW memoirs, "according to the common stereotype, the most important thing that always occupied prisoners' minds was the preparation of escape plans" (Nikolaev and Satirov, "Russkii chelovek," 60). See also Aleksandr Vasil'ev, Memorial (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1986).
(35) Nikolai Vladimirovich Nurnerov, "Zolotaia zvezda" Gulaga (Moscow: Stolitsa, 1995), 8. See also Roger Markwick, "An Indelible Stain: Memoirs of a Red Army POW Nurse 1941-1945," paper presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) National Convention, Philadelphia, 23 November 2008.
(36) E. A. Brodskii, Oni nepropali bez vesti (Moscow: Mysl', 1987). It should be noted that this is a heavily reworked version of Brodskii's earlier work, Vo imia pobedy nad fashizmom (Moscow: Nauka, 1970).
(37) Bakanichev, "12 let," 17, 44. Other memoirs and documents also contain scattered reports of cannibalism among Soviet POWs; see Shneer, Hen, 194-200.
(38) Bakanichev, "12 let," 33.
(39) Ibid., 27-28.
(40) Ibid., 71.
(41) Ibid., 21.
(42) Ibid., 24.
(43) From Vlasov's execution in 1946 until Khrushchev's Thaw, no mention of Vlasov was made in the official Soviet press, and even the official history of the Great Patriotic War devoted only one line to the "traitor and coward" Vlasov. See Catherine Andreyev, Vlasov and the Russian Liberation Movement: Soviet Reality and Emigre Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 10.
(44) The notorious camp politsai were another matter, being universally condemned for their cruelty and their willingness to abuse their former comrades. For examples of fairly sympathetic portrayals of the Vlasov movement, see Grigorenko, "V podpol'e," 117-18; and Sokolov, V plenu, 99.
(45) Bakanichev, "12 let," 34.
(46) Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago contains similar reasoning (1:236-50).
(47) Ibid., 1:91.
(48) Ibid., 1:19. As Nanci Adler notes, the experience of being excluded from Soviet society, and the stigma attached even to "rehabilitated" prisoners, caused some former inmates to call Soviet society outside the Gulag the "big zone." See her "Life in the Big Zone," Europe-Asia Studies 51, 1(1999): 5-19; and The Gulag Survivor: Beyond the Soviet System (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002).
(49) Bakanichev, "12 let," 84.
(50) Ibid., 60.
(51) Ibid., 17.
(52) For examples, see ibid., 88-89, 90, 103.
(53) Ibid., 56.
(54) Ibid., 48.
(55) Ibid., 91.
(56) Ibid., 99.
(57) On the long history of comparisons between the two "totalitarianisms," see Abbott Gleason, Totalitarianism: The Inner History of the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Peter Holquist, "State Violence as Technique," in Landscaping the Human Garden, ed. Amir Weiner (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003), 19-45; Henry Rousso, ed., Stalinism and Nazism: History and Memory Compared, trans. Lucy Golsan et al. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004); and Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin, eds., Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
(58) Weiner, Making Sense of War, 37-38, 294-97. Weiner argues that the Soviet silence regarding specifically Jewish suffering during the war also partially stemmed from these concerns.
(59) Mikhail Romm's 1965 film Obyknovennyi fashizm has often been considered another (veiled) comparison of Stalinism and Nazism. My thanks to the anonymous reader at Kritika for bringing this source to my attention.
(60) V. S. Grossman, Zhizn'i sud 'ba (Moscow: Astrel', 2008), 200-4.
(61) This is not the only instance in which Bakanichev discusses German execution of Jews; see Bakanichev, "12 let," 16-17 and 25.
(62) Grossman, Zhizn 'i sud'ba, 200-3, 397-403.
(63) Bakanichev, "12 let," 51.
(64) Ibid., 110.
(65) Ibid., 68.
(66) Ibid., 68.
(67) Ibid., 94.
(68) Ibid., 95.
(69) N. N. Boldyrev, "Zigzagi sud'by," 126-27; V. V. Gorshkov, "Mne podarili moiu zhizn'," in Pozhivshi v Gulage: Sbornik vaspominanii, ed. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Moscow: Russkii put', 2001), 245-358.
(70) Steven A. Barnes, "'In a Manner Befitting Soviet Citizens': An Uprising in the Post-Stalin Gulag," Slavic Review 64, 4 (2005): 823-50.
(71) Bakanichev, "12 let," 113-14.
(72) Jeffrey Jones suggested this question in "'I Remained Alive, But in Territory Filled with Occupying Forces': POWs in the Postwar 'Reconstruction' of the Soviet Union," a paper presented at AAASS National Convention, Philadelphia, 23 November 2008.
(73) The title of this section is a quotation from Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevskii, as given in Bakanichev, "12 let," 53.
(74) Bakanichev, "12 let," 4.
(75) Ibid., 126; Paperno, "Personal Accounts of the Soviet Experience," 588-89.
(76) See the memories of former Gulag inmates in Solzhenitsyn, Pozhivshi v Gulage; B. N. Sokolov, V plenu i na rodine (St. Petersburg: Ostrov, 2004), 291; Adler, The Gulag Survivor; and Figes, Whisperers, 565-607.
(77) Bakanichev, "12 let," 117.
(78) Roger Markwick, Rewriting History in Soviet Russia (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 200-8.
(79) Bakanichev, "12 let," 84, 109, 125-26.
(80) Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, 1:13, 145, 168-69, 242, 490, and 2:261, 362.
(81) Bakanichev, "12 let," 27, 57, 99.
(82) Ibid., 116.
(83) Ibid., 110.
(84) Ibid., 99.
(85) Ibid., 117.
(86) Ibid., 122.
(87) Ibid., 123-24.
(88) Liudmila Alekseeva, Soviet Dissent: Contemporary Movements for National, Religious, and Human Rights (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1985); Alekseeva, The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1993); S. P. de Boer et al., eds., Biographical Dictionary of Soviet Dissidents 1956-1975 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982); Andrei Sakharov, Moscow and Beyond, 1986-1989, trans. Antonina Bouis (New York: Knopf, 1991). Memorial also does not include Bakanichev on its list of dissidents active before glasnost', though a copy of Bakanichev's memoir can be found in the Memorial archives and Bakanichev contributed to research on the Noril'sk camp complex conducted by Memorial Krasnoiarsk and the Sakharov Center after 1991.
(89) E-mail conversation with author, 19 October 2008.
(90) Telephone conversation with author, 7 April 2010.
(91) Jay Bergman, "Soviet Dissidents on the Russian Intelligentsia, 1956-1985: The Search for a Usable Past," Russian Review 51, 1 (1992): 16-35.
(92) Bakanichev, "12 let," 20.
(93) Ibid., 5.
(94) Ibid., 64.
(95) Ibid., 64.
(96) Ibid., 124.
(97) Ibid., 68.
(98) Nikolaev and Satirov, "Russkii chelovek," 74-78.
(99) See Gleason, Totalitarianism, 212-14; and Jay Bergman, "Was the Soviet Union Totalitarian?" Studies in East European Thought 50, 4 (1998): 247-81.
(100) "VOVa" was a derogatory term for veterans who continued to support the Soviet system in its last years, derived from the abbreviation for Velikaia otechestvennaia voina. See Krylova, "Dancing on the Graves of the Dead," 89.
(101) Iurii Lukashevich, Skvoz ternii: Posviashchaetsia 60-letiiu velikoi pobedy (St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo Sankt-Peterburgskogo universiteta, 2005), 121-22.
(102) See Edele, "More Than Just Stalinists," 179-80; Edele, Soviet Veterans, 103-26; Zubkova, Russia after the War; and Fieseler, "Bitter Legacy of the Great Patriotic War," 57.
(103) B. N. Sokolov's memoir also harshly criticized Stalin's wartime leadership and was written around the same time as Twelve Years behind Barbed Wire. Satirov's memoir was less explicitly anti-Stalinist but did question Stalin's wartime conduct and his treatment of POWs. The memoirs of emigre POWs published abroad (Palii, Cheron, Vashchenko) tended to be more explicitly anti-Stalinist and anti-Soviet. See also Mark Edele, Soviet Veterans, 102-28; and Figes, Whisperers, 579-80.
(104) Bakanichev, "12 let," 4.
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|Title Annotation:||Forum: The Soviet First Person|
|Author:||Stone, Andrew B.|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2012|
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