Getman Painting - Prisoners Built Road with Hand Tools

Getman Painting - Prisoners Built Road with Hand Tools Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Disasters

The landscape in the Kolyma region - in Russia’s Far East - has rivers, gullies, ravines and hills.  Geologists had found gold at the source of many of the rivers.

To get the gold, slave laborers - using hand tools - built a serpentine road which twisted and turned around the hills.  When the road was completed, prisoners used it to move to the next work site where they would search for gold. 

This particular view of the Kolyma Road depicts a section leading to the Shturmovoi mine in Khotyni.  The director of the Daltstroi Corrective Labor Camps - a man named Stepan Nikolaivich Garanin - set strict daily quotas for the prisoners. 

If the laborers didn’t meet their daily quotas, Garanin would have them shot. Large numbers of people died as a direct result.

When government authorities learned about Garanin’s actions, he was arrested himself. 

To keep scandal away from the secret police (once called the Cheka, later called the NKVD) who ran the GULAG, someone concocted a story about Garanin.  He was - according to the rumor which spread through the camps and throughout the USSR - a Japanese agent.  His purpose, according to the story, was to tarnish the NKVD’s reputation. 

Nikolai Getman created this painting - “The Serpentine Road” - to commemorate so many people who were killed behind those road bends.  His original oil-on-canvas - measuring 30.1 x 34.6 inches - is now maintained by the Jamestown Foundation. 

Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Jamestown Foundation.


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"Getman Painting - Prisoners Built Road with Hand Tools" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Nov 21, 2019.
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