Dignity As a Key Concept of Women's Autodocumentary Texts about GULAG

The feeling of self-esteem is formed in a person’s mind due to their perception of the capability to preserve information about their deeds and thoughts in the society’s memory, due to understanding the importance of their personal experience and passing it on to next generations. Concept of dignity plays the key role in the recollections about Soviet labor camps as it’s directly connected to the strategy of survival of all prisoners and female prisoners in particular. Thus, preservation of autodocumentary texts about GULAG is a paramount task of a humanistic society.

The concept of dignity is closely connected to concepts of initiation and humiliation that often coincide in their representation. The majority of texts is dedicated not to the everyday descriptions of prisoners’ lives, but to the fight of their inner self with constant obvious and subtle acts of depersonalization.

In addition to ontological component, women's autodocumentary texts also store very important information about social and gender specifics of dignity. Appearance, youth, ability to become a mother /child loss, physical violence, same-sex relationship — these are just some of the covered themes. Many recollections cover not only preservation of dignity in life, work, human relations, but also in death, burial and memory of the deceased. So, the fact that authors point out the main aim of their narration — bearing witness, preserving the memory of the deceased by the survivors — is no accident.

GULAG recollections capture a complex picture of authors’ psychological perception of both sides of their position and mental outlook: enemy, humiliation and crime — on the one hand and right, dignity, personality — on the other; authors are trying to make sense of the events that occurred in their life and find a rational explanation of them. It leads to a philosophical confrontation — preserve life or preserve dignity — which raises a question, whether it is possible to preserve one's life not having preserved your dignity? Can a person, having preserved their dignity, preserve their life too?