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Getman Painting - Self-Inflicted Wounds

Getman Painting - Self-Inflicted Wounds Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts Disasters

Facing a long future in a remote and hostile place, some forced laborers who were sent to the GULAG tried to harm themselves.  Perhaps they meant to avoid work.  Perhaps they meant to die.

Nikolai Getman created this painting to depict what happened in the GULAG when someone tried to harm himself.  The Global Museum on Communism - The Gulag.org - tells us more about the meaning of this Getman painting:

In camp slang, fitil' (the wick of a candle) came to mean someone who would soon die. Such inmates lost their will to live after only days of endless labor under wretched conditions, and would resort to self-mutilation in an attempt to incapacitate themselves.

Prisoners would occasionally gain access to explosives and ignite them either in a hand or a boot. Inmates who attempted this often received extra terms and were sentenced to punishment cells where they would sit without rations, heat, or medical attention.

No one offered assistance, not even the medical section. A prisoner with a self-inflicted wound was allowed to suffer.  If he survived, he survived; if he didn't, he didn't.


Media Credits

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

 

 

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