You gotta be in the right mood to enter this dark small book. But it is unlike anything else you've seen. The author was a guard in the Soviet Union's gulag prison system in the 1950s. Danzig Baldaev traveled across the gulag, documenting the horrors, perversions, and peculiarities of this vast subculture in meticulous pen and ink drawings. Unschooled as an artist, Baldaev has his own distinct style. He drew some incidents that he witnessed himself, but most of the drawings were based on the accounts by others he met. The events were gruesome, but often with an odd cultural twist — much violence was committed by imprisoned gangsters, who ran the prisons according to gang rules. Baldaev's drawings with captions try to decipher these strange rules and customs. In effect, this is a contemporary ethnographic report on the underground culture that really ran the Soviet gulag. It is miles from where you live, and seems unbelievable that this alternative empire could have existed at the scale it did, but here are eyewitness reports, drawn in obsessive detail.
Drawings from the Gulag
by Danzig Baldaev (artist), Damon Murray (editor) and Stephen Sorrell (editor)
2010, 240 pages, 6.9 x 7.8 x 0.8 inches