Posts tagged gulags

BRIC’s Complicated Bureaucracies and Our Complicity in Human Trafficking

What is it about the BRIC(K)(S) countries which are supposedly the economic powerhouses? They simultaneously have very complicated bureaucracies to work through in order for tourists to visit their lands.  Kazakhstan is among the list of eight nations which are coincidentally in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) structure.  Some would like to add Kazakhstan and South Africa to make it spell BRICKS but the first four letters is what is traditionally known in the world of economics as the countries to watch as they continue to flex their monied muscles.

To get visas and the wait time tourists are resigned to go through is the following for these difficult-to-get-to countries:

1) India – $76

2) Russia – $140 – 90 day wait

3) China – $130

4) Brazil – $140 one month

5) Bhutan – $20 – 3 months

6) Iran – $30 3 months

7) Kazakhstan – $40 – one month

8 ) Saudi Arabia – $500 (if you want to do the hajj, you have to have money, obviously)

Here’s what was originally written about Kazakhstan and the seven other countries :

Apply a month in advance.
Fee: $40

Why Go: Fictional Borat may have put Kazakhstan on the map, but it’s actually the ninth-largest country in the world by size and a place that combines Islamic, Western, and Soviet culture into an unusual mix. Adventure seekers come for the many mountains, which provide both trekking and skiing opportunities. Others come to explore the nomadic past of the Kazakhs and to see UNESCO World Heritage attractions, including petroglyphs and nature reserves that are home to such species as the rare Siberian white crane.

Why It’s Complicated: When it comes to visas, all the “Stans” can be tough, according to Habimana. For Kazakhstan, for instance, you need to write a personal letter of intent to the embassy in Washington, D.C., stating the purpose of your trip, the places you plan to visit, and your dates.

What to Do: Follow the instructions on the embassy’s website, and apply a month out from your trip (approval takes a couple of weeks). While the government enacted new rules in 2010 to try to simplify the process, what that means for tourists remains to be seen. Fans of bureaucratic garble will appreciate the official description of the changes, which are “aimed at further liberalization and streamlining of Kazakhstan’s visa regime.”

My young university friend just returned from the Not For Sale Global Forum in Sunnyvale, CA had many impressions that were exploding in her head after listening to about 50 speakers.  However, the main thing about the evils of human trafficking is that it revolves all around economics.  So, if there is any common thread among the BRIC countries, they appear to be one of the worst offenders when it comes to using people to build up their own economies.

We already know what happened to the Soviet Union when they forced their own people into labor camps to work off their being too wealthy (i.e. kulaks or Enemies of the People).  Those during Stalin’s time who were not of the correct political stripe or who told the truth were punished. They were forcibly sent to hardship posts in the gulags of Siberia and Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, many of the talented ones died.

So, the same can be written about these modern day, complicated countries that have too much paperwork and red tape to go through. The BRIC countries undoubtedly have bureaucrats who are pocketing the visa money. No surprise there with corrupt governments from the very top. They are also turning a blind eye to those traffickers who are bringing people in or out of their country illegally. Police are easily being bought off with huge sums of money so the trafficking of innocent people continues.

Westerners, who should know better, do not want to be a part of this complicity of trafficking by remaining unaware and silent on the subject.  How can we help? By traveling to these countries to see with our own eyes? As aforementioned, that becomes an arduous process money and time wise. Laws must be placed on the books, law enforcement must be mobilized to catch the predators in the BRIC countries and those victims who have been enticed and trapped free to return to their families and their lives before slavery. Maybe another way to avoid all the red tape is to be wise as shoppers and not buy products that have come out of BRIC economies?  Hmmm…I wonder if that will ever catch on in the U.S?

Hopefully we will not be part of the complications in human trafficking by our complicity of silence, ignorance and doing nothing?

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Laura’s Grandfather: 15 year Victim of the Gulag

 I. Introduction

          It is a well known fact that USSR was one of the Greatest Powers. Everything appeared to be good, stable and firm. For the majority of people, there was no class division. And it looked like there was nothing to complain about. But, in truth, not everything was so perfect, as it might seem to be. The Soviet system was far from ideal. And those people who did not follow all the rules, or whose actions were misinterpreted were strictly punished. It is hard to imagine what victims of Soviet system had to endure, especially when sent to the Gulags as “enemies of people”, but nothing can be done except to avoid such a horrible mistake again.


II. Soviet penal system

          The Soviet regime of the late 1920s and 1930s aimed on enemies hunting. At first, their target were “former people” – people of non-proletarian origins (Guseva, 2007). But the members of these groups were not really suspected of any oppositional activity. According to Guseva (2007): “neither their thoughts nor their past behavior justified arrests, but only a hypothetical possibility of them committing a crime because they belonged to a certain social group” (p. 325).

          Next, in the early 1930s came the turn to penalize the “kulaks”. Hundreds of thousands of peasant families were labeled “kulaks” and deported away from their home (Getty & Rittersporn, 1993).  And it became a very frequent occurrence when people informed against peasants who seemed to be kulaks, or had some connections with them. Often they were portrayed as young idealists, a new generation of Soviet people promoting communist ideas. And as Guseva (2007) wrote it led to: “…a generation of “new Soviet people”—loyal to the Party rather than their family, vigilant and merciless, ready to spy and report on their parents and neighbors” (p. 327). Remembering what my father said about my granddad, Utelbay Jumabayev: “…as a secretary of Komsomol organization, studying at MGU, he had presented a paper – “About preparing scientific specialists in Kazakhstan”. Furmanov’s  wife, who was at that meeting, reported on him as if he were a nationalist. And he was sent to the Siberian gulag for 15 years”. This is a vivid example of how people denounced others, pretending to be the heroes, who saved the government.


III. Gulags

          Thus everyone who had, or seemed to have, any slightest threat to the government were punished. As McDermott (2007) wrote: “the ‘Great Leader’ said: ‘Anyone who attacks the unity of the socialist state, either in deed or in thought, yes, even in thought, will be mercilessly crushed’” (p.614). Usually they were sent to exiles, Gulags. The Gulag was the government agency that administered the penal labor camps of the Soviet Union (Uzzell, 2003). The Gulag system had become primarily known as a place for political prisoners and as a mechanism for repressing political opposition to the Soviet state. There were at least 476 separate camps, some of them comprising hundreds, even thousands of camp units (Gheith, 2007). Gheith (2007) also wrote that: “the Gulag system spread throughout the former Soviet Union: through the Urals, Siberia, Central Asia, with one of the largest camp systems being in Kazakhstan” (p.162). The number of convicted people reached 2 million in 1941 (Uzzell, 2003). The death rate in the camps was “too high” (Uzzell, 2003). According to Getty and Rittersporn (1993), it was found that between 1934 and 1953, 1, 053,829 people died in the camps of the Gulag.


IV. Sufferings form the Gulag

          Soviet ‘ethnic cleansing’ led to a lot of suffering. But people were not supposed to talk over this problem; otherwise, there was a risk to be next who would be sent to the Gulag. Many people’s lives were destroyed: children, whose parents were arrested and shot, spent their lives trying to find out what happened to their family; people who were put in the Gulag spent their lives trying to build a life, they often had difficulty finding work and dealing with the psychological and physical disruption of these years.  But what about those sufferings that happened inside the Gulags?

          The Gulag tried to organize prisoners to live in such a way as to get maximum work out of them. The system of food norms was designed for economic purposes. As Uzzell (2003) wrote for the frailest prisoners it was given half as much food as those deemed capable of heavy labor. Being at Siberian exile, my granddad remembered that every day people next to him died. In winter time when they were moving from one camp unit (in Siberia) to another, if you had just stopped for several seconds you would have had been immediately frozen to death, and no one would search for you because  they already knew that you were dead. After spending 15 years at Gulag he remained the same intelligent, calm and kind man, but the shadow of those tormented years never left  his eyes.


V. How my granddad survived

          As I already told my grandfather was sent as nationalist to Siberian Gulag. You might know that in Siberia there was one of the most horrible Gulags in the Soviet Union. He spent there 15 agonizing years. My granddad was from intelligence, but he used to stay not only with political prisoners but also with killers and thieves. And along with hunger and cold people were dying from murders. But as my father told me everyone respected my granddad, because of his justice, erudition, wide reading and strength of will. 15 tormented years he struggled with death, repeating to himself again and again: “I will survive”. He was not of those men who ever gave up. So he survived. And after several years my grandfather defended a dissertation.


VI. Conclusion

          The ideology of the Soviet Union made a society where people had to report on each other.  And the communist system was merciless to those on whom were that reports. The social effects are searing, long-lasting, and often just that little bit under the surface that makes it difficult to bring into the realm of language and tangibility. Unfortunately the consequences of that terror are irreversible. But knowing the past we can change the future. So by having minor representation of how had society admitted such horrible situation and what endured victims of the Soviet regime, we are not to allow such huge human’s mistake happen again.





Getty, J. & Rittersporn, G. (1993). Victims of the Soviet penal system in the pre-war  years:  A first approach on the basis of… American Historical Review, 98(4),



Gheith, J. (2007). “I never talked”: enforced silence, non-narrative memory, and the           Gulag.        Mortality, 12(2), 159-175.


Guseva, A. (2007). Friends and foes: informal networks in the Soviet Union. East        

          European Quarterly, 41(3), 323-347.



McDermott, K. (2007). Stalinism ‘from below’?: Social preconditions of and popular           responses to the Great Terror. Totalitarian Movements & Political Religions,              8(3/4),        609-622.


Utelbay Jumabayev (from family remembrance)


Uzzell, L. (2003). Remembering the gulag. First things: A Monthly Journal of Religion &           Public        Life, 137, 38-45.


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Tentative Autumn Leaves and Thesis Statements

autumn-leavesautumn-leaves-iiThe leaves have been hanging on for weeks, back in Minnesota with one good wind they would have been LONG down on the ground.  That is why I LOVE Almaty, Kazakhstan right now, I have always loved the autumn colors.  Also, I’m very proud of my students for coming up with some fairly workable thesis statements, though they are as tentative as the autumn leaves.  See what you think of the topics my students have chosen, such as education, Kazakh language and nationalities issues; famine and starvation; repression and gulags and Great Patriotic War:




1. Oppression in education before the Bolshevik revolution encouraged masses of illiterate people who did not know enough to rebel against the government and hopefully lessons will be learned with our current education to help people improve their lives with better training.


2. During the Soviet Union in Kazakhstan, all universities and schools were conducted in Russian, therefore the Kazakh people had to learn Russian to get a good education in order to get jobs in order to survive.


3. Most Kazakhstani people lived in rural areas with not enough educational facilities or had large families who couldn’t afford proper education; some had to go a long way to the nearest school or do without studying at all.


4. The Soviet Union had many unsolved problems about education, they wanted to use Marxist-Leninist propaganda to improve morals and work ethics for all Soviet citizens.


5. The intelligence and serious thinking people had lots of problems because of Soviet ideology, so they had to abandon their research and scientific work.


6. Huge masses of illiterate people led to the October Revolution of 1917 and that problem progressed during the Soviet period; now there is a need to raise the level of education especially in rural areas.


Kazakh Language and Nationalities issues

1. Being on the brink of cultural degradation, the Kazakh people had to be educated in the Russian language in order to succeed in the Soviet policy and eventually develop into its own independent country after the Soviet Union collapsed.


2. The Kazakhs could not use their own native language and traditions during the Soviet times and in order to survive to get an education, they had to learn Russian.


3. Groups of individuals who felt discriminated against had to use the power of the group in order to survive against the policies of the Soviet Union.


Famine and Starvation

1. During the years of famine in Kazakhstan, 1.5 million people died but other people solved this problem because their aim was to survive more than just to die.


2. Kazakhstan’s famine after and during WWII was a great problem for many people but my grandparents found a solution by getting products from their own garden and own cattle.


Repression and Gulags


1. Before WWII mass political repression took lots of innocent people’s lives, it was implemented as a strict policy in order to force people to obey so they could survive.


2. People were sent to the gulag when they did not accept the USSR politics or if people complained about them, so in order to NOT be sent, they had to accept Stalin’s policy or complain on their neighbor first.


3. It is hard to imagine what victims of Stalin’s policies had to endure especially when sent to the gulags as “enemies of the people,” but nothing can be done except to avoid such a horrible mistake again.


4. During the industrialization in USSR, the government needed lots of low-paid people to construct factories, roads and they decided to create gulags where they used imprisoned political enemies and zecs who helped to increase the economy of the country by their hard work.


5. The Kazakh elites were killed as enemies of the country and their relatives were sent to work at camps, nevertheless, the “wives and children of the enemies of the people” survived because of their very strong wish to live, hope and love to bring their Kazakh land to independence for the next generation.


Great Patriotic War or WWII

1. During the period of WWII, 27 million Soviet people died and sometimes those who survived didn’t have enough food but my grandparents solved this problem because they loved each other, they survived for love.


2. During the Soviet period, many people in Kazakhstan had no jobs or opportunities to earn money for food, but those who survived had their own ideas and ways to educate themselves.


3. During WWII, a lot of women with their children struggled to survive and thanks to their enduring hardships, we have our grandparents who continued our next generation.


4. During WWII, folks could not trust anyone so that is why some people became spies, they worked for the Soviets and for its enemies.


5. In years of WWII there were medical centers which had doctors who were helping injured people by treating them and there were others who loved their job and helped with pleasure.


6. A lot of innocent people suffered from the Great Patriotic War but Stalin could have diminished the amount of victims and deaths if he had believed that the Nazis would attack the Soviet Union and had been better prepared for this war.

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