Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Varlam Shalamov was born in Vologda, Russia to a family of an orthodox minister and a teacher. While studying Soviet law at Moscow State University, he joined a Trotskyists' group and on February 19, 1929 was arrested and sentenced to three years of hard labor in Vishera, North Urals for distributing the Letters to the Party Congress known as Lenin's Testament, which, in part, criticized Stalin.
Upon his return back to Moscow in 1932, Shalamov begins publishing essays and articles.
At the outset of the Great Purge, on January 1 1937, Shalamov was arrested again for "counter-revolutionary Trotskyist activities" and sent to Kolyma, also known as "the land of white death", for five years. In 1943 he was struck with another term, this time for 10 years, for anti-Soviet agitation: he called Ivan Bunin a "classic Russian writer."
In 1946, being a dohodyaga (emaciated and devitalized), his life was saved by a doctor-inmate A.I. Pantyuhov, who risked his own life to qualify Shalamov as a hospital attendant. The new "career" allowed Shalamov to survive and to write. In 1951 he was released from the camp, but not allowed to leave Magadan until November 1953.
After the death of Stalin in March 1953, masses of zeks (from the Russian abbreviation z/k for zakliuchonnyi, an inmate) were being released and rehabilitated, many posthumously. Shalamov was allowed to return to Moscow after having been officially rehabilitated in 1956.
He proceeded publishing poetry and essays in Soviet magazines, while writing his magnum opus, The Kolyma Tales . The manuscripts were smuggled abroad and distributed via samizdat. The translations have been published in the West since 1966, but complete Russian-language edition appeared only in 1978.
The Western publishers always disclaimed that Shalamov's stories were being published without the author's knowledge or consent. Surprisingly, in 1972 Shalamov retracted the Tales, most likely being forced to do so by the Soviet regime. The book was finally published on Russian soil in 1987, after the author's death of poor health in 1982.
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