Silbermedaille 23|24

Siberian Exiles 3

The story of Marju and the legacy of the Atomic Gulag

Siberian Exiles is a trilogy about the deportations from the Baltic States to Siberia under the Soviet regime. Part 3 is based on the story of Marju, an Estonian deportee, which leads to a nuclear test site in Kazakhstan and the beginning of the Cold War. In 1945 Marju’s father was arrested and sent to a Gulag camp in Kazakhstan. Marju and her mother ended up at a kolkhoz in southern Siberia on the Kazakhstan border. They were put to work as farm labourers on the vast steppe, where Marju witnessed the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb in 1953. Claudia Heinermann travelled to Kazakhstan in search of traces of the Gulag camps where Marju’s father and other Baltic nationals had been imprisoned, and to uncover the history of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. She wanted to find out if there was a link between the Gulag system and the Russian atomic project that heralded the beginning of the Cold War. During her travels Heinermann spent several days at the nuclear test site and visited Kurchatov, the former administrative centre of the test site. She talked to former employees, who had worked on the test site under an obligation of secrecy, and went to the villages that had been located in the fall-out zone for years. She spoke to eyewitnesses who in their youth had seen the mushroom clouds rise and felt the earth shakes.

Bildautor*innen: Claudia Heinermann

Textautor*innen: Claudia Heinermann

Gestaltung: Sybren Kuiper

Herausgeber*innen: Claudia Heinermann

Verlag: Self-Publishing

ISBN: 978-90-814089-5-0

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