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New book highlights fates of Czechoslovak people in Soviet gulags

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Prague, Oct 12 (CTK) – Historians from the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) have completed a book highlighting the fates of Czechoslovak people who went through Soviet gulags, based on which a documentary series has been made to be broadcast by public Czech Television (CT) later in October.

One of the book’s authors, Adam Hradilek, told CTK on Thursday that in enquiring into the Czechoslovak inmates’ fates, the researchers cooperated mainly with Ukrainian archives.

The book, whose coauthors are Jan Dvorak and Jaroslav Formanek, describes the little known history of Czechoslovaks hit by repressions in the Soviet Union in the 1920s-1950s.

“The tragic fates of 12 Czechoslovaks and their family members and friends, as presented in the book, show the willfulness of the Soviet totalitarian power, which mercilessly liquidated even supposed opponents of the regime, or recklessly misused them for slave labour,” the authors write in the preface.

Hradilek said the USTR has been dealing with the history of gulags permanently since its establishment ten years ago.

Historians have recorded dozens of testimonies of eyewitnesses, mostly people from Subcarpathian Rus, an area that belonged to interwar Czechoslovakia and went to the Soviet Union’s Ukraine after WWII.

Based on the testimonies, historians succeeded in finding the relevant documents in the archives of former Soviet secret services, mainly in Ukraine.

From the inmates’ families, the historians gained a number of photos and materials including memoirs that former prisoners wrote for their family only and artifacts they brought home from gulags, Hradilek said.

He said the number of Czechoslovak citizens staying in gulags from the 1920s to the 1950s is very hard to ascertain.

During the WWII alone, some 8,000 refugees from Subcarpathian Rus and 2,000 from the Czech Lands ended in gulags. They were mainly Ruthenians from the Subcarpathian Rus occupied by Hungary in 1939-1944, and also persecuted Jews and Communists.

They were often arrested while crossing the border. The regime tended to impose the toughest sentences on Communists for having abandoned the communist party in a difficult moment, as Moscow put it.

The new book presents individual people’s stories in a broad historical context starting with the interwar development of the Soviet regime and ending with the post-war persecutions.

Hradilek said the USTR researchers’ enquiry into the fates of Czechoslovak victims in gulags will continue.

The book, Czechoslovaks in Gulag, will be issued by Edice CT in the weeks to come. Its ceremonial presentation is scheduled for November 23.

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