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Getman Painting - Prisoners in Groups of Five

Getman Painting - Prisoners in Groups of Five Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts Disasters

Millions of prisoners, who were sentenced to forced-labor terms at Kolyma, began their ordeal with rail travel from various areas in the Soviet Union. 

Depending on the starting point, the journey could be as long as fifteen days.  Between 50-60 people were jammed into a freight car, forced to travel in extremely uncomfortable conditions. 

Every three or four days, the freight train would stop so the rail crew could take-on more water for the engine’s boiler.  That’s when the prisoners received water, meaning ... they were able to quench their thirst every three or four days.

When the transport crew fed the prisoners, they usually gave them salt herring.  That made the prisoners even thirstier, but they needed nourishment from the fish.

If any prisoner broke a rule, even in a minor way, the transport crew had the authority to throw that person off the train.  Such an action amounted to a death sentence.  Anyone left behind, when the train resumed its journey, would die on the permafrost.

Nikolai Getman created this painting which depicts a group of prisoners during a train stop.  In the GULAG, prisoners were typically separated into groups of five.

His original oil-on-canvas entitled “Moving Out” - depicted in this image - measures 34.6 x 26.9 inches.  Getman entrusted its care to the Jamestown Foundation.


Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Jamestown Foundation.

 

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