Thursday, November 11th, 2021 Plumbing the Depths: The Moscow Canal as Cultural Icon & Atypical Gulag Site

Thursday, November 11, 20214:00PM - 5:30PMOnline Event, Online Event


Russian History Speakers Series


This presentation will trace the history of the construction of the Moscow Canal by forced labor. Building on this foundation we will then explore the myriad cultural products and programs that were produced and implemented during the waterway’s construction by the very same “canal soldiers” who were building the canal. These cultural elements emanated from a desire to spatially inscribe, showcase, and glorify Stalinist ideology through a major Gulag construction project, the likes of which was never seen before. Arguably this impulse continues to infuse and affect the project’s legacy as succeeding generations of its observers and users attempt to reconcile the Moscow Canal’s deathly past with its evolving future.

Cynthia Ruder is Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Kentucky where she teaches Russian language, literature, and culture. Her first book Making History for Stalin: The Story of the Belomor Canal explored the construction of this waterway with special attention paid to the concomitant volume published to celebrate it The History of the Construction of the Stalin White-Sea Baltic Canal. Her most recent book Building Stalinism: The Moscow Canal and the Creation of Soviet Space unravels the nexus of gulag-culture-memory by examining the spaces and places they occupied within the context of a Gulag construction project and contemporary Moscow. In her current project she hopes to translate and annotate booklets in the Library of Reforging series authored and produced in the Dmitlag camp that constructed the Moscow Canal to give voice to those gulag inmates from whom little is often heard.


Cynthia Ruder
Professor, University of Kentucky

Lynne Viola
Professor, University of Toronto

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