European Memories

of the Gulag



The core of the project is a database currently comprising 182 sound recordings of interviews with people who were deported in 1939–1953 from the Soviet Union’s western territories to Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Far North. Most of them were carried out in 2007–2012. Further interviews continue to be collected, and the database should soon reach 200 sound recordings. The interviews were held in 14 countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, and United Kingdom) in 13 languages by 15 researchers fluent in at least one of the languages spoken in each country. With support from RFI, the interviews were recorded with professional equipment. For 82 of them, there is also a video stream.

The database also contains more than 2,500 documents and photographs: pictures of witnesses, photo albums, scenes of deportee life, drawings, letters, administrative documents, and public archives.

Accessibility of data and metadata

All the data are documented (interview details, witness information, archives, and photographs). This information is open access for all site users.

Ten or so interviews are available to the general public in full via the European Memories of the Gulag site (such as the original Russian interview with Marytė Kontrimaitė and its French version). The website also contains many interview extracts in the original language only or dubbed. The dubbing is added by professional actors in a studio to ensure sound quality. Some biographical interviews have been fully transcribed. Those without transcripts come with short biographical summaries. Further transcripts will be available in the next few years to enable hearing-impaired users to access the entire content of the eye-witness stories.

All the interviews in the corpus are accessible to higher education lecturers and researchers once their research project has been approved by the Editorial Committee. The database is a particularly valuable source for students, lecturers, and researchers working on forced displacement, stories of exile, and deportation in general, as seen ‘bottom-up’. It can also provide fruitful material for language teaching.

The metadata for all the interviews in the database are fully accessible.

Requests for full interview access

Lecturers and researchers may apply for a research permit giving access to all the interviews and documents in the database. The request should be submitted to the Editorial Committee along with a presentation of the research project and a curriculum vitae. If approval is granted, an agreement will be signed between the project sponsor and INED, specifying the conditions of use for the material. The researcher will undertake in particular to:

  •     be the sole user of the accessible data and not to transfer those data to any other person;
  •     download the material solely on the guarantee that it will be stored only temporarily and protected from any third-person access;
  •     delete the data after a period laid down in the agreement;
  •     refrain from any commercial use of the data;
  •     use the interviews in compliance with general research privacy rules;
  •     inform the Editorial Committee of any publication or dissemination of any part of the material and to forward to the Committee any article, broadcast, or other production using the data;
  •     cite the source of the data in any production as follows: Source: Sound Archives — European Memories of the Gulag,, INED, last accessed on [date];
  •     delete the data, should the agreement be terminated.