During the thirty year rule of Joseph Stalin millions of innocent citizens were imprisoned in forced labour camps (the Gulag), executed or exiled. Russia has never fully confronted this dark history.

Today, Putin’s regime glorifies the idea of a strong leader. Stalin is praised for leading the Soviet Union to victory over Nazi Germany. The fact that he was the architect of the Gulag is silenced. According to a recent poll, 38 percent of the Russians think Stalin was the most outstanding person in history and almost half of the population believes that the repression was necessary to maintain order in the country. Even victims of the Stalinist regime sometimes share this view on history.

For six months, photographer and journalist Hester den Boer travelled in Siberia. She visited former campsites, interviewed victims of the Stalinist terror, met with researchers who are now under prosecution themselves and talked to people who think Russia is in need of a strong leader like Stalin. In her project she brings these opposing voices together.

Suppressed by the Saviour gives a unique and intimate insight into Russia’s past and the current climate of growing repression. The project will be launched in the winter of 2018 as a travelling exhibition, a web application and a nonfiction book.

Authors

Hester den BoerHester den Boer (1981)obtained a BA in Comparative Religion Studies, a BA in Russian Language and Culture and an MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She works as an independent journalist and photographer. Since 2009 Den Boer regularly travelled to Russia, often staying for several weeks in remote cities in Siberia. Her in-depth stories have been published in renowned media like NRC, De Groene Amsterdammer, Trouw, and Investico. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally in various places including Photoville (US) and FoamLab (NL). In 2015 Den Boer was shortlisted for the European Press Prize.

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Platforms

Galina Ivanovna recently discovered that her parents were deported from Bulgaria and that she herself was born in exile.  Galina prefers not to tell people that she is a daughter of 'enemies of the people'.
Galina Ivanovna recently discovered that her parents were deported from Bulgaria and that she herself was born in exile. Galina prefers not to tell people that she is a daughter of 'enemies of the people'.
© Hester den Boer
In 1997 more than nine thousand bodies were discovered in the woods near the White Sea Canal. Memorial established a cemetery on the site.
In 1997 more than nine thousand bodies were discovered in the woods near the White Sea Canal. Memorial established a cemetery on the site.
© Hester den Boer
The city Vorkuta is built on the remains of the biggest gulag complex in the European part of the Soviet Union.
The city Vorkuta is built on the remains of the biggest gulag complex in the European part of the Soviet Union.
© Hester den Boer
Antonia Novosad served a ten-year sentence as a political prisoner in a gulag camp in Magadan, in the region of Kolyma.
Antonia Novosad served a ten-year sentence as a political prisoner in a gulag camp in Magadan, in the region of Kolyma.
© Hester den Boer
Photographs on the kitchen table of Antonia Novosad. On one of the postcards is written ‘privet c Kolymy’ which means ‘greetings from Kolyma’.
Photographs on the kitchen table of Antonia Novosad. On one of the postcards is written ‘privet c Kolymy’ which means ‘greetings from Kolyma’.
© Hester den Boer
Volgograd, former Stalingrad, takes a central place in the patriotic history of Russia.
Volgograd, former Stalingrad, takes a central place in the patriotic history of Russia.
© Hester den Boer
In Panorama, the central museum on World War II in Volgograd, there is almost no mention of the human sacrifices that were made to win the battle of Stalingrad.
In Panorama, the central museum on World War II in Volgograd, there is almost no mention of the human sacrifices that were made to win the battle of Stalingrad.
© Hester den Boer
Dmitri Filjayev is the chairman of the Stalin centre. Russia’s first Stalin centre was opened in the city of Penza in 2015.
Dmitri Filjayev is the chairman of the Stalin centre. Russia’s first Stalin centre was opened in the city of Penza in 2015.
© Hester den Boer
The small city of Yagodnoye is a settlement in Kolyma.
The small city of Yagodnoye is a settlement in Kolyma.
© Hester den Boer
This card is given to people when they are officially rehabilitated from the crimes they were accused of under the Stalinist regime.
This card is given to people when they are officially rehabilitated from the crimes they were accused of under the Stalinist regime.
© Hester den Boer
Viktor Dengerovich lives in Ust-Omchug, a small city in Kolyma. His mother served here a prison sentence of nine years.
Viktor Dengerovich lives in Ust-Omchug, a small city in Kolyma. His mother served here a prison sentence of nine years.
© Hester den Boer
A café on the road from Magadan to Yagodnoye. This road is called the road of bones because it was build by prisoners straight through the permafrost.
A café on the road from Magadan to Yagodnoye. This road is called the road of bones because it was build by prisoners straight through the permafrost.
© Hester den Boer
The small city Yagodnoye in Kolyma.
The small city Yagodnoye in Kolyma.
© Hester den Boer
Yuri Dmitriev is a local historian and researcher. He works for Memorial, a human rights organisation that since its establishment in the late 1980s has been investigating crimes committed by the Stalinist regime.
Yuri Dmitriev is a local historian and researcher. He works for Memorial, a human rights organisation that since its establishment in the late 1980s has been investigating crimes committed by the Stalinist regime.
© Hester den Boer
Empty buildings on the banks of the small river Vorkuta.
Empty buildings on the banks of the small river Vorkuta.
© Hester den Boer
A mass grave close to the former Gulag town Vorkuta. Until this day undiscovered mass graves are found.
A mass grave close to the former Gulag town Vorkuta. Until this day undiscovered mass graves are found.
© Hester den Boer
Vadim Maksheyev lives in Tomsk. He was deported in 1941 from Estonia, together with his parents and sister.
Vadim Maksheyev lives in Tomsk. He was deported in 1941 from Estonia, together with his parents and sister.
© Hester den Boer
In 1979, in the Siberian town Kolpashevo, a large mass grave was discovered. The KGB cleaned up the grave and provided no explanation. Even in the local newspaper there was no mention of the tragedy.
In 1979, in the Siberian town Kolpashevo, a large mass grave was discovered. The KGB cleaned up the grave and provided no explanation. Even in the local newspaper there was no mention of the tragedy.
© Hester den Boer
The statue of Mother Russia in Volgograd, former Stalingrad.
The statue of Mother Russia in Volgograd, former Stalingrad.
© Hester den Boer
The head office of the FSB in Moscow.
The head office of the FSB in Moscow.
© Hester den Boer
Jakov Borizovitsj lives with his wife in a village close to Kolpashevo. Jakov has Dutch ancestors. For this reason, his family was exiled.
Jakov Borizovitsj lives with his wife in a village close to Kolpashevo. Jakov has Dutch ancestors. For this reason, his family was exiled.
© Hester den Boer
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch
Exhibition sketch

Exhibition

In January 2019, Suppressed by the Saviour will premier with a solo exhibition at Melkweg Expo in Amsterdam. The show will be available for travelling afterwards. This exhibition sketch provides an impression of the installation. The design visualises the layering of voices; from the victims, from local media, political speeches, etc. and leaves it up to the viewer to decide which information to follow or to block.

 

book cover 'Onderdrukt door de verslosser'
book cover 'Onderdrukt door de verslosser'

Nonfiction book

A nonfiction book, published by Atlas Contact, will be launched alongside the photo exhibition and web app. In this book Hester den Boer investigates the role of the Stalinist past in Russia today. She travelled for six months through the in Siberia. She visited former campsites, interviewed victims of the Stalinist terror, met with researchers who are now under prosecution themselves and talked to people who think Russia is in need of a strong leader like Stalin. Why do people continued to believe in a leader who sent millions of innocent people to death?

Launch: Januari 2019, coinciding with the exhibition at Melkweg EXPO.

Buy
  • 240 pages
    Paperback / softcover
    ISBN: 9789045033457

    Launch: October 2018

     

The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices
The Gulag Heritage in Slices

Web app

Suppressed by the Saviour presents a collection of personal stories that reflect on Russia’s past and the current climate of growing repression. The innovative web app is created in collaboration with Slices, an Amsterdam based start-up developing online storytelling solutions for journalists. The platform will be launched winter 2018 and includes ten episodes. Stay tuned!

In the media

  • Slachtoffers van Stalin herdenken is te politiek in Poetins Rusland

    To commemorate Stalin's victims is too political in Putin's Russia

    Steven Derix, NRC, 4 November 2017 Read more »
  • Kartonnen staatsterreur: Rusland houdt zijn cultuurmakers in de gaten

    State terror: Russia keeps an eye on its culture makers

    Hester den Boer, De Groene Amsterdammer, 8 november 2017 Read more »
  • Stalin was nodig: Nationaal geheugenverlies in Rusland

    Stalin was necessary : National amnesia in Russia

    Hester den Boer, De Groene Amsterdammer, 28 October 2015 Read more »
  • ‘Amerikanskiji Lizy’: Het laatste onafhankelijke tv-station van Rusland

    ‘Amerikanskiji Lizy’: The last independent TV station in Russia

    Hester den Boer, De Groene Amsterdammer, 10 June 2015 Read more »

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