The labour camps and special settlements of the Soviet gulag are part of European and not simply Russian experience. In the countries that have recently joined the European Union there are memories and an inheritance that are unknown elsewhere in Europe. This experience deserves to be part of the construction of the memory of Europe as a whole.

With support from Radio France Internationale (RFI), a research team of European anthropologists, geographers, historians and sociologists set out to find archival documents, survivors’ testimonies, objects and personal documents relating to the deportation to the Soviet Union of citizens of the Central and East European countries annexed, occupied or “liberated” by the Soviets during or after the Second World War.

We recorded their memories in their countries of origin — Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Ukraine — and the countries where they settled after their liberation, such as France, Italy and the UK. We also went to Siberia and Kazakhstan to find those who stayed where they had been resettled.

These are the materials we have made available here. Our aim is to preserve the life stories of our witnesses and to show under various headings the key events in which many of them shared. Combining theme and biographical rooms, maps and timelines, we wish to make known our witnesses’ lives and point out the relationship between their life stories and historical events.


Seven programmes of La Marche du monde presented by Valérie Nivelon, were broadcast on RFI as part of this project.


Project initiators


Centre for Russian, Caucasian and Central European studies


Radio France Internationale


Project partners


French National Research Agency


French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)


School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS)


Marc Bloch centre (Berlin)


French Centre for Research in Social Sciences (Cefres, Prague)


Franco-Russian Centre for Social and Human Sciences in Moscow


French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED)



The Shoah Memorial in Paris, as a partner, held a conference attended by some of the witnesses.

The Fondation pour la mémoire de la Shoah  supported the research leading to the design of the project.


Project leaders: Alain Blum (CERCEC, EHESS and INED), Marta Craveri (CERCEC), Valérie Nivelon (RFI).

Project team : Mirel Banica (University of Bucharest), Juliette Denis (University of Paris Ouest and IHTP), Marc Elie (CERCEC, CNRS), Catherine Gousseff (Marc Bloch centre, CNRS), Malte Griesse (University of Bielefeld), Emilia Koustova (University of Strasbourg), Anne-Marie Losonczy (EPHE, IRIS), Jurgita Mačiulytė (University of Vilnius), Françoise Mayer (CEFRES), Agnieszka Niewiedzial (CERCEC), Isabelle Ohayon (CERCEC, CNRS).

Research centres: The project was coordinated by the Centre for Russian, Caucasian and Central European Studies (CERCEC, CNRS and EHESS) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) with the cooperation of Cefres (Prague), the  Marc Bloch centre (Berlin) and the Franco-Russian Centre for Social and Human Sciences (Moscow).

The research work was made possible by support from the French National Research Agency (ANR Corpus programme), the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED).

Scientific committee:  Annette Becker (University of Paris Ouest), Albin Głowacki (University of Łódź), Andrea Graziosi (University of Naples Federico II), Oleg Khlevniuk (State Archive of the Russian Federation – GARF), Marie-Claire Lavabre (CEVIPOF, Sciences-Po), Yuri Shapoval (Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv) and Nicolas Werth, (CNRS, IHTP).

Translators:  Emilia Koustova (translation coordinator, Russian to French), Ewa Pawlikowska (French to Polish), Roger Depledge (French to English).

Interpreters: Emilia Koustova (interpreter coordinator, Russian to French), Katia Bailby (Hungarian to French), Natalka Boyko-Jacura (Ukrainian to French), Jan Krotki (Polish and Russian to English), Marc Páleníček (Czech to French), Ewa Pawlikowska (Polish to French), Vadim Poliakov (Russian to French), Kadri Põlluveer (Estonian to French), Marc Ruiz-Portella (Hungarian to French), Lerra Sheynin (Russian to English), Iléana Verzéa (Romanian to French), Philippe Minns (German to French), Boris Kovaltchouk (Ukrainian to French), Rūta Janušaitė (Lithuanian to French). .

Copy editor: Clémence Lafarge.

Site design and development: Accroche-com'


Web developer: Germain Guglielmetti,

Image and video processing: William Vincent-Sully

Sound engineers (RFI) : Medard Chablaoui, Marc Fichet, Xavier Gibert, Philippe Nadel

Sound archiving (RFI) : Manuela Bermudez et Clémence Bragard

Press relations : Anthony Ravera (RFI), Priscilla Dacher (CNRS), Joëlle Busuttil (EHESS)

Our thanks go

  • First of all, to the 160 witnesses who took the time to tell us their stories;
  • Marie-Hélène Mandrillon (CERCEC, CNRS/EHESS), without whom the project could not have existed and who has always supported us;
  • All the RFI management and staff who advocated and supported this project from the start;
  • Xavier Gibert (RFI), who has always been available to arrange studio interpreting, sound editing and training for those going on location;
  • Géraldine Vivier and Cécile Lefèvre (INED), who helped us with their long experience with non-directive interview surveys;
  • All those who took part in the survey stage, helping us to find the witnesses, welcoming us during our ground missions, taking part in interviews with the witnesses in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Kazakhstan: Antonio Ferrara (University of Naples Federico II), Aigi Rahi-Tamm (University of Tartu, Estonia), Peep Varju (Memento, Tallin, Estonia), Dzintra Geka (Riga, Latvia),  Irena Salienece (Daugavpils, Latvia), Dalius Žygelis (Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, Vilnius), Adam Hradilek (Institute for the study of totalitarian regimes, Prague), Yelena Zimovina (Buketov Karaganda State University, Kazakhstan), Hannelore Baier (journalist, Sibiu, Romania), the staff of the Carl Wolff home for the elderly (Sibiu, Romania), Larisa Salahova (teacher training universities of Bratsk and Irkutsk, Russia), Mikhail Rozhansky (Centre for Independent Social Research and Education, Irkutsk, Russia), Dominika Rank (Ukraine);
  • Eugenijus  Peikštenis, Director of the Museum of Genocide Victims of Lithuania and Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė, Director of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania;
  •  The others from outside the project who summarised interviews in their original languages: Jean Gousseff (German), Svitlana Grand-Chavin (Ukrainian), Marc Ruiz-Portella (Hungarian), Irina Tcherneva (Russian), Inga Vendelin (Estonian), Anna Zaysteva (Russian). Isabelle Urbaitis translated sound recordings from Lithuanian to French.
  •  Marc Lamouche (INED), who set up the server in his own time;
  • Yadranka Krasevec (CERCEC, CNRS/EHESS), who took on the time-consuming task of overall project management, and Arnaud Contentin and Arnaud Rois (March Bloch centre, Berlin), Xavier Le Torrivelec (Franco-Russian Centre, Moscow) and Michel Perottino (CEFRES, Prague) who managed the project in the other three partner research centres.

This site is hosted by the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED, Paris).

Contact: eurgulmem <at> ined (dot) fr