Getman Painting - Traveling to Camps in Uncovered Trucks

Getman Painting - Traveling to Camps in Uncovered Trucks Civil Rights Famous Historical Events Social Studies Visual Arts

Forced-labor prisoners traveled long distances to the various GULAG camps.  Once they arrived by rail or ship to a stopping-off place, prisoners would travel the rest of the way by open-air truck. 

The Kolyma-area camps are located very close to the Arctic Circle where the weather is extremely cold.  Exposed, in the open air, to snow, sleet, freezing cold or other bad-weather conditions, the prisoners were forced to endure one hardship after another.

In this image of one of Nikolai Getman's paintings, we see a truck carrying forced laborers to work in the Kolyma-area camps.

What was Kolyma?  Why were slave laborers sent to this distant area in Russia's Far East?  We learn more from Dr. Robert Conquest:

For Russians - and it is surely right that this should become true for the world as a whole - Kolyma is a word of horror wholly comparable to Auschwitz.  And the first and easiest point to remember is that it did indeed kill some three million people ...

Hitler's atrocities were carried out against those he had himself declared to be his enemies.  Stalins' were a random operation against his own subjects and supporters.  Stalin, simply because he had a longer period to operate in and a larger pool of potential victims, killed a good many more than Hitler did...

...Basically, the frightfulness of Kolyma was due not to geographical or climatic reasons, but to conscious decisions taken in Moscow.  For a few years before 1937, in fact, it was well administered and the death rrate was low.  The climate, though exceedingly cold, is a remarkably healthy one for men who are properly fed, clothed and sheltered.

In this earlier phase, the main aim of the administration was to produce gold efficiently.  In the later period (as one commandant put it quite openly) though the gold remained important, the central aim was to kill off the prisoners.

In the earliest period of the labor camp system, the Solovki camps on the islands of the White Sea were the symbol of the whole system, the worst killers.  They were followed, in the mid-thirties, by the camps of the Baltic-White Sea Canal.

Kolyma took their place just when the system was reaching its maximum expansion, and remained central to it for the next fifteen years, as (in Solzhenitsyn's words) "the pole of cold and cruelty" of the labor camp system.  (Kolyma:  The Arctic Death Camps, by Robert Conquest, Oxford University Press, 1979, at pages 15-17.)

Nikolai Getman’s original oil-on-canvas, entitled “Headed for Kolyma” - depicted in this image - measures 36.5 x 28.8 inches.  Getman entrusted its care to the Jamestown Foundation. 

Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Jamestown Foundation.


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"Getman Painting - Traveling to Camps in Uncovered Trucks" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jan 19, 2020.
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