Murmansk, Salekhard, Igarka, Iakutsk,
Magadan, Komsomolsk, Baykal-Amu.
Stalin’s GULAG blistered
like herpes across the groin of Siberia,
like the Katorga camps of the czars before him.
This is not Sonja Henie, not Stockholm,
not Drottnignholm Palace, no spring cruise
on Riddarfjärden, no Stadsholmen promenade.
Not Stockholm Syndrome. I do not love my captor.
The term “ GULAG ” is an acronym for the Soviet bureaucratic institution, Glavnoe Upravlenie ispravitel’no-trudovykh LAGerei (Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps), that operated the Soviet system of forced labor camps in the Stalin era.
Katorga (Russian: ка́торга; IPA: [ˈkatərgə]; from medieval Greek: katergon, κάτεργον, “galley“) was a system of penal labor in the Russian Empire. Prisoners were sent to remote penal colonies in vast uninhabited areas of Siberia and Russian Far East where voluntary settlers and workers were never available in sufficient numbers. The prisoners had to perform forced labor under harsh conditions.
Sonja Henie (8 April 1912 – 12 October 1969) was a Norwegian figure skater and film star. She was a three-time Olympic Champion (1928,1932, 1936) in Ladies’ Singles, a ten-time World Champion (1927–1936) and a six-time European Champion (1931–1936). Henie won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies’ figure skater. At the height of her acting career she was one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood.
Riddarfjärden, literally The Knight Firth, is a bay of Lake Mälaren in central Stockholm. Stockholm was founded in 1252 on an island in the stream where Lake Mälaren (from the west) drains into the Baltic Sea (to the east). The island is today called Stadsholmen and constitutes Stockholm’s Old Town.
Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon described in 1973 in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.
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