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Getman Painting - Dead Prisoners, Tossed in Snow

Getman Painting - Dead Prisoners, Tossed in Snow Civil Rights Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts Disasters

Historians estimate that around 3 million forced laborers died in the Kolyma-region camps during the Stalinist era.  How were burials handled in those camps?

Nikolai Getman created this painting to illustrate a typical camp burial in the Siberian cold.  The Global Museum on Communism - The Gulag.org - tells us more about the meaning of this scene:

The burial ritual of the zeks (political prisoners) was quick and simple. It amounted to putting a tag bearing the prisoner’s number on one of his toes, and sending the body to the hills to be buried in the snow.

A famous song describing such burials ends with the words “... and no one will ever learn where my grave is.”

The prisoner in the painting is transporting dead fellow inmates on a sleigh to the snowy hills for burial. The bodies of those who had starved to death were so light that it was often possible to pick up several of them at a time.

Getman called the painting, depicted in this image, “Last Rites.”


Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Global Museum on Communism (The Gulag.org).  The original painting is maintained by the Jamestown Foundation.

 

 

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