ARCHIVES Danyliw Seminar 2018
Institute of Ethnology (Ukraine)
Oksana Kis is a historian, anthropologist, author, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. She is the president of the Ukrainian Association for Research in Women's History and vice-president of the Ukrainian Oral History Association. She has taught at universities across North America and Ukraine.
Faith as a Shield: Ukrainian women’s religious practices as resistance to total dehumanization in the Gulag.
In the 1940-50s the number of Ukrainians sentenced to long-term imprisonment in the Gulag camps numbered in the tens of thousands, making them the second most numerous ethnic group. Women accounted for 30.6 percent of inmates by 1945, meaning that the number of Ukrainian women imprisoned was significant. Addressing a lack of research on Ukrainian women’s experiences in the Gulag, this paper examines the role of Christian faith and various religious practices in the lives of Ukrainian female survivors. Using the personal testimonies of these women along with analyses of official documents and demographic data, Kis explores Ukrainian women’s strategies of survival, coping, and resistance within the Soviet concentration camps. This paper argues that spiritual practices act as a form of non-violent resistance to the dehumanizing effects of camp regime aimed at the destruction of a prisonner’s personality and identity.