Varlam Shalamov's Harrowing Kolyma Tales

‘I consist of the shards into which the Republic of Kolyma shattered me,’ Varlam Shalamov once told a fellow gulag survivor. Sentenced to hard labor for Trotskyist activities, Shalamov spent 17 years in the gulag, primarily in Kolyma, located at the edge of the Arctic Circle, eight time zones east of Moscow and ‘one of the most uninhabitable places on earth’, according to the geopolitical journalist Tim Marshall.‘Instead of yesterday’s minus 40 it was only minus 25,’ Shalamov writes in one of the stories, ‘and the day seemed like summer.’

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