During the rule of Joseph Stalin (1924-1953) millions of innocent citizens were imprisoned in forced labour camps (the Gulag), exiled or executed. 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. Den Boer approached her subject both textually and visually by means of a travelling exhibition, a nonfiction book and a web application made on the storytelling platform Slices. The trilingual app – in English, Dutch and Russian – serves to complement and expand on the journalistic content of the book, while making it accessible to the international and Russian community.
The project will be launched in January 2019, starting with an exhibition in Melkweg Expo in Amsterdam and the launch of the book and the web app in the same month.
On 11 January 2019, Suppressed by the Saviour will premier as 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.
A nonfiction book, Onderdrukt door de verlosser. Een zoektocht naar Stalins erfenis in het Rusland van nu, 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: 11 Januari 2019, coinciding with the exhibition at Melkweg EXPO.
‘Hester den Boer combineert in haar boek de grote geschiedenis van het stalinisme in Rusland met de kleine, intieme verhalen van Russen zelf. Het is een meeslepend boek over een verbijsterend verleden’ (Xandra Schutte, chief editor De Groene).Buy
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 in winter 2018 and includes ten episodes. Stay tuned!
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