Share this project


Share this project

Women of the Gulag: The Last Survivors (editing) project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with

A documentary on the women-last survivors of the GULag

pledged of $30,000 goal
seconds to go

Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on December 23, 2012.

About this project


To all our backers: Thank you so much for your support! Spasibo bolshoe! Even though we did not reach our goal for post-production on Kickstarter, the principles believe that the stories of these courageous women need to be told. This is why we are continuing this tax-deductible campaign on the film's site and on this IDA site here. The principles feel so strongly about the project that they have agreed to match every contribution made. Your tax-deductible pledge through either of these sites will not be added to the Kickstarter totals, but will be treated the same by us.

Our subject is Women of the Gulag. The term GULag, which in Russian is an acronym for "Main Camp Administration," has come to mean something much larger than the corrective labor camps under the GULag administration. Rather it signifies the system of repression of the Soviet period, which peaked under Stalin. We use "gulag" broadly to mean the whole mentality of the Soviet repression system, the end point of which was execution or the camps, special settlements, remote places of exile where the victims of repression "sat." Our documentary tells the human stories of the last women survivors of the gulag.

We successfully gathered funding for the first stage of filming - we are very grateful to everyone! We presented our first results at Stanford University in November, the reports are here and here.

We are now continuing the campaign and the project and are in post-production. We are also interviewing more women in other parts of Russia. We already have almost 40 hours of footage. These funds will go towards recording more testimonies on HD video and towards editing the footage we have gathered. Clearly the timing is urgent as the survivors and the heroines of the original Stalin gulag are getting very old. This is “the last chance.” (Marcel Krüger has an interview with with the filmmakers here.)

A Pulitzer-winning journalist Anne Applebaum expressed in her on-camera interview, "What had happened since the year 2000 is that history has been gradually re-politicized. And the Russians started treating history that way. And that means that they've become more sensitive again about discussing this sort of crimes of their past. For the Russians, understanding the history of the gulag is absolutely crucial." It is also crucial for the West: "The failure in the West to understand the magnitude of what happened in the Soviet Union and central Europe may not seem to have a profound and immediate implications for the Western way of life, however, in the modern global society, it is important to raise awareness of the global history and politics."

Anne Applebaum, in her on-camera statement tells us that Russia still lacks "that defining moment, that big monument" that will help the Russian people come to terms with their past.


Your donation is tax deductible!! WOMEN OF THE GULAG is a fiscally sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization. Contributions on behalf of WOMEN OF THE GULAG are payable to IDA and are tax deductible less the value of any goods or services received, as allowed by law. The value of goods and services being offered is noted under each donation level.


Это фильм о женщинах-оставшихся в живых заключенных ГУЛаг. В отличие от большинства мужчин-заключенных, женщины-заключенные, пережившие ГУЛаг, еще живы. Их осталось мало, некоторым из них глубоко за 90. И так же мало осталось времени у нас, чтобы рассказать их удивительные истории.

Как говорит одна из героинь нашего фильма, "Для россиян понимание истории ГУЛага как неотъемлeмой части всего советского периода истории абсолютно необходимо, если они хотят понять, почему их общество сегодня такое, какое оно есть. Полупризнаниями и полуизвинениями перед жертвами репрессий, которых за прошедшие годы было немало, тут не обойтись. В России до сих пор нет большого памятника жертвам, большого музея, а главное - большого понимания кровавой истории ГУЛaга."


A Quote from Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer-winning Author of "Gulag: A History":

"I wish to express my support for Dr. Paul Gregory’s and Marianna Yarovskaya’s documentary project, Women of the Gulag. <> Although there have been a number of excellent Gulag documentaries, this film is intended to tell the personal stories of just a few former prisoners in greater detail. It will also focus on the stories of women, which differed in a number of ways from that of their male counterparts. Rape, pregnancy and motherhood were a part of the Gulag experience too. <>

Aside from its historic value, a project like this one has special significance in the light of contemporary Russian politics. In recent years, under President Putin, Soviet and Russian history have been re-politicized, and the Stalin period has come to be viewed with ambiguity by politicians, writers, film makers, and regrettably the public. The stories of the victims of the gulag, told by simple people who had little or no understanding of why this was happening to them, make an excellent antidote to creeping historical amnesia. This project is also urgent, of course, because most of their subjects are in their advanced years, and their stories have to be recorded now."

Anne Applebaum
Columnist, the Washington Post
Author, Gulag: A History (2004 Pulitzer Prize)


Я хочу поддержать проект документального фильма доктора Пола Грегори и продюсера Марианны Яровской "Женщины ГУЛага". Хотя уже было снято несколько прекрасных документальных лент о ГУЛаге, в этом фильме упор делается на личные истории нескольких бывших заключенных, рассказанные с такими подробностями, которые ранее нигде не звучали. К тому же это будут истории женщин - заключенных, чей опыт значительно отличается от опыта мужчин. Кроме всех других тягот лагерей, изнасилования, беременности, материнство были частью их жизни в ГУЛаге.

Помимо исторического значения, такой проект очень важен в контексте современной российской политики. В последние годы, при президенте Путине, советская и российская история подверглись политическому пересмотру, и сталинский период теперь часто рассматривается политиками, писателями, режиссерами, и, к сожалению, публикой как "неоднозначный". Истории жертв ГУЛага, рассказанные простыми людьми, которые зачастую плохо понимали (или вообще не понимали) того, что с ними происходило, - это прекрасная прививка против такой исторической амнезии.

Этот проект не терпит отлагательств. Героини будущего фильма находятся в крайне преклонном возрасте, и их истории надо рассказать сегодня и сейчас.

Анна Аппельбаум

Обозреватель газеты «Вашингтон Пост»

Автор книги "Гулаг: История" (Пулитцеровская премия за 2004 г.)

Letter of support from Yermolai Solzhenitsyn:

From: yermolai solzhenitsyn
Date: October 13, 2012 5:11:08 AM PDT
Subject: Re: Filming “Women of the Gulag” in Russia

Today’s Russia is a society transformed by staggering change, a land of much energy, tremendous resources and opportunities, yet one facing also many a momentous challenge, as we seek to chart our way forward.

One significant handicap for us in this quest is the dearth of memory, a striking absence of knowledge and even of interest in the recent past. As a result we are too often moored in the tactics of the current moment, losing the perspective and the lessons from preceding generations, unable to heed the heritage, the history, the good, the evil, the warnings and the bitter testimony stretching out to us from our forebears in the twentieth century. Not knowing, not needing and not caring to objectively understand one’s past casts a dark shadow indeed on the prospects of any nation’s future.

Thus we should be thankful for every sincere effort to bring our history back, to help us face, digest, discuss and come to terms with it. Even if too many in the current adult generation in Russia prefer to hide from this painful chapter of the Gulag, the younger generations will want and inevitably need to know the whole truth, will simply be unable to build a healthy society until the rot hidden from memory and light somewhere deep within is duly exposed and considered. And so I can only be supportive and grateful to Paul Gregory and Marianna Yarovskaya for bringing to life the stories of the women survivors of the Gulag in their film and book, for jarring our memory, for providing a chance for new generations of Russians to look directly into those faces and those eyes, to listen firsthand to their testimony, to start repairing the bridges to that time, which we so desperately must do in order to earn a worthy future.

Yermolai Solzhenitsyn
Moscow, October 2012

Risks and challenges

For post-production, we have a very qualified team of Award-winning/ Los Angeles based professional filmmakers who have a track record of very successful projects. The book and the e-book by Paul Gregory will come out in early 2013 at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University. We do not expect major delays with completing the film or getting the book and the e-book published.

Tchavdar Georgiev, Editor
Tchavdar Georgiev is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and holds an undergraduate degree from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has edited a number of award-winning fiction and non-fiction films as well as television programming for HBO, PBS, History Channel, National Geographic, Channel 1 Russia and MTV Russia.
The latest show he edited for National Geographic called “Alien Earths” was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Animation.
He has worked on the documentary We Live in Public which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and the feature Bastards which won the MTV Russia awards for best film.
His commercial clients include Honda, Oscar de la Renta, TELE2 and Rooms To Go. His spots have won several Telly Awards.
His documentary “The Desert of Forbidden Art” that he wrote, produced and directed together with Amanda Pope was nominated for the 2012 Emmy Award, won the Cine Golden Eagle Award and Best Documentary at the Palm Beach International Film Festival and will be broadcast on PBS Independent Lens in 2011.
Tchavdar operates his own post-production boutique in Culver City with state of the art offline and online HD equipment.


Wendy Blackstone, composer (several Academy Award nominations)

Having begun her career scoring documentaries, the form is an imperative to who she is as an artist. Of the numerous she has scored, some recent titles include: James Gandolfini’s HBO Special, Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq, HBO's The Alzheimer Project, Crude, Secrets of the Code, 9/12, and Snoop Dogg’s : California Youth Authority.
Wendy diversified into theatre with Anna Deavere Smith’s “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992”, directed by George C. Wolfe (Angels In America), taking her music to Broadway’s Cort Theatre and helping the show gain two Tony nominations.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter


  • Yes, please add $10 to your pledge and it will cover the postage to ship all your reward items.

    Last updated:
  • Sorry, no. The cost of mastering, burning and packaging two different professional DVD's is prohibitive. The good news is that if you want you can download the digital copy and burn a standard DVD for your own personal use.

    Last updated:
  • Kickstarter does not allow pledges with Paypal so we set up a website here:

    Please note that your pledge will not be added to the kickstarter totals, but will be treated the same by us.

    Last updated:
  • We are very genuine about producing a first class documentary. As broadcast /media professionals, the projects we produce all the time have budgets well over $100K and sometimes 2-3 millions for a documentary (An Inconvenient Truth, Countdown to Zero, Samsara, Greedy Lying Bastards). A full length doc like this commissioned from a network would have a budget of about $400K or higher. Every penny of the money raised and perhaps even more from our own pockets will be spent on the production and rewards for the backers. We're calling in huge favors from professional crew members and asking them to work for a fraction of their regular rates. We also have some exciting ideas for how to make the doc even better should we raise more money in addition to this contribution and other grants that we have from the Hoover Institute, Stanford University, IMR (Institute for Modern Russia - headed by Pavel Khodorkovsky), University of Texas, and private contributions.

    Last updated:
  • The most common picture of life in the Gulag comes from the writing of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Varlam Shalamov. Such works tend to uphold the male camp experience as universal. But the experience of women, while it bears much in common with that of their male counterparts, often diverges from it. First, it is important to note that hundreds of thousands of women were also arrested by the Soviet NKVD, interrogated, tortured, and sent to the infamous labor camps. There they endured the arbitrary rule of the camp hierarchy, toiled at hard physical labor, and suffered from extremely low rations, horrible hygienic conditions, and dismal medical care. They also were exposed to ubiquitous sexual violence: hardened criminals often "played cards for women," and rape and gang rape were common occurrences--forcing many women to find a "protector," a man whose exclusive access to her would render her "off-limits" to others. Furthermore, female prisoners sometimes had to cope with pregnancy in abysmal conditions, and the inevitable separation from their infants, if they survived.
    Women's testimonies can especially illuminate the so-called "unknown Gulag," the world of the "special settlements," to which millions of individuals, of all Soviet (and some non-Soviet) nationalities and all social classes were deported. Women and children made up the majority of the these "special settlers." Like their counterparts in the camps, they, too, lived under the supervision of the NKVD, toiled under extremely harsh conditions, and were forbidden to leave their settlements. The women who survived tell us about the treatment they received by the commandant and overseers; the difficulty adapting to a new environment, far from their homes; the struggle to meet labor quotas in order to obtain the meager but necessary food rations; their efforts to feed their families, care for children and elderly relatives, and maintain some level of cleanliness.
    Male Gulag survivors tend to relate the facts of their existence in the camps and settlements--the measurements of their cells, the number of prisoners housed with them, the amount of work they could achieve, punishments they endured. Women, however, generally go beyond such details, describing the trauma of losing their children, strategies for keeping the family physically and emotionally alive, relations with their neighbors and (often hostile) locals, and the effect that their detention and branding as an "enemy of the people" had on their identity. Their connections to others, the relational aspects of their identities, often lie at the center of their experiences and their memories, and lead them to recount aspects of life in the Gulag not typically addressed in male accounts.


    Обшая картина жизни в Гулаге известна нам из произведений Александра Солженицына и Варлама Шаламова. В этих работах отражается, в основном, мужской опыт выживания в сталинских лагерях. Но опыт сосланных и осужденных женщин, хотя и имеет много общего с мужским, часто резко отличается от него. Во-первых, сотням тысяч женщин, которые были арестованы советским НКВД, гораздо труднее было пережить жуткие допросы и пытки, которыми охотно пользовались сотрудники всесильной организации. В лагерях женщинам пришлось столкнуться с правилами жесткой лагерной иерархии, тяжелейшим физическим трудом, голодом, полным отсутствием гигиены и медицинской помощи. Там их насиловали - сотни криминальных преступников, сидящих в тех же колониях, играли в карты на женщин. Индивидуальное и групповое изнасилование были обычным явлением, вынуждая множество женщин к поиску "защитника" – мужчины, который мог бы оградить ее от остальных, имея на нее эксклюзивное право. Женщинам приходилось иметь дело с беременностью в таких чудовищных условиях и с неизбежным расставанием с младенцами, если они выживали.
    Признания и исповеди женщин могут осветить так называемый "неизвестный Гулаг" - мир спецпоселений, куда депортировались миллионы советских и несоветских граждан всех национальностей и социальных слоев. Спецпоселения, в основном, состояли из женщин и детей. Как и их подруги по несчастью в лагерях, они жили под надзором НКВД, работали в крайне тяжелых условиях, и им не разрешалось покидать поселения. Женщины, которые выжили в этом аду, рассказывали нам об отношении к ним надзирателей, о трудностях адаптации к новым условиям далеко от дома, борьбе за выполнение трудового плана, от которой зависело получение пайка, невероятных усилиях прокормить семью, заботиться о детях, престарелых родителях и о попытке придерживаться хотя бы какой-то санитарии.
    Мужчины, пережившие Гулаг, чаще рассказывают о фактах существования в лагерях и спецпоселениях - размерах камеры, числе заключенных в ней, количестве работы, которую им приходилось выполнять, и о наказаниях, которые им пришлось вынести. Женщины идут дальше этих деталей в своих рассказах. Они описывают психологические травмы от потери детей, свои усилия по сохранению хотя бы минимального здоровья семьи, отношения с соседями и зачастую враждебными местными жителями. И, конечно, рассказывают о том, каково это – нести на себе клеймо "врага народа", клеймо осужденной, клеймо отверженной. Их воспоминания об отношениях с другими людьми, как правило, лежат в центре мемуаров, рассказывающих о тех аспектах жизни в Гулаге, которых обычно нет в воспоминаниях мужчин-заключенных.

    Last updated:
  • The film is for the broad international audience (as the lessons of the gulag are universal), and we also have a Russian version here: <>; (Аудитория фильма - международная, но мы будем делать и русскую версию фильма, потому что именно для россиян важнее всего осмыслить историю гулага и связь этой истории с современной политической ситуацией в России).
    password "video"

    Last updated:

Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10 USD

    You will get a THANK YOU in the credits of the feature length documentary and on IMDB. (This reward is fully tax deductible.)

    Estimated delivery
    6 backers
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $30 or more About $30 USD

    The above, PLUS: We will send you a code for a DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the feature length documentary. (This reward is fully tax deductible.)

    Estimated delivery
    6 backers
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35 USD

    ll of the above, PLUS: An electronic version of the forthcoming book by Dr. Paul Roderick Gregory, WOMEN OF THE GULAG (an e-book, Hoover Institution Press), with embedded video bits of the main characters. (Amount over $15 is tax deductible.)

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    1 backer
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40 USD

    All of the above, PLUS: A paperback version of the forthcoming book by Dr. Paul Roderick Gregory, WOMEN OF THE GULAG, autographed by the author + a signed DVD of the 20-minute version of the documentary. (Amount over $15 is tax deductible.)

    Estimated delivery
    1 backer
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50 USD

    All the above, PLUS: We will mail you a BLUE-RAY DVD of the feature length documentary. (Amount over $30 is tax deductible.)

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    7 backers
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150 USD

    All of the above, PLUS: We will include your name in the SPECIAL THANKS (instead of other credits) section of the credits of the feature length documentary. (Amount over $30 is tax deductible!)

    Estimated delivery
    0 backers
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500 USD

    All of the above, PLUS: We will include your name in the SPECIAL THANKS (instead of other credits) section of the credits of the feature length documentary. (Amount over $30 is tax deductible!)

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    0 backers
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000 USD

    All of the above, PLUS: We will upgrade your credit to ASSOCIATE PRODUCER (instead of other credits) of the feature length documentary. (Amount over $30 is tax deductible!)

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    1 backer
  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000 USD

    All of the above plus special invitation and VIP seating at the theatrical premiere. Meet the director and crew. If you are in Southern California, invitation for 2 to attend a special dinner with the director and producers in Los Angeles. (Amount over $30 is tax deductible!)

    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    1 backer

Funding period

- (60 days)