Disclosing Violence in the Soviet Union and its Colonies: The Case of Soviet and Post-Soviet Lithuania
This paper aims to present how the culture of violence was produced, maintained and exercised in the Soviet Union and what impact it had on its former colonies after the collapse of the communist system. It argues that two main types of violence existed in the Soviet empire: a) the violence and repression, produced by the Soviet state, maintained and justified by its legal and political system; b) the violence, which was born and spread as the consequence of the Gulag system. This second type of violence was produced by criminal subculture and prison experiences, which touches a big amount of the Soviet population personally. The violent nature of the Soviet Empire still influenced the Post-Soviet societies after its collapse. It led to some conflicts, based on national or ethnic background. Due to this legacy, the crime rates increased – sometimes, dramatically. Violence became part of the cultural Soviet and post-Soviet discourse, and the symbolic forms of criminal subculture, born in the Gulags, became visible in the post-Soviet mass media and pop culture.
Monika Kareniauskaitė is currently a PhD candidate in Vilnius University, Faculty of History (Vilnius, Lithuania). By the end of the year 2015 she will be working as a research assistant at the Gedenkstätte Berlin-Hohenschönhausen (Berlin, Germany) in the framework of the international research program “Memory Work”, supervised by Die Bundesstiftung zur Aufarbeitung der SED-Diktatur (the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship). From 2013 to 2014 Kareniauskaitė worked as a research fellow at the University of St. Gallen, Department of Russian Culture and Society (St. Gallen, Switzerland). Her PhD thesis titled “Crime and Punishment in Lithuanian SSR” investigates the concepts of “violence”, “law”, “crime”, “punishment”, and all fields of criminality and criminal justice in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania. The dissertation is an inductive case study with a comparative aspect. Its purpose is to analyze not only one Soviet Republic, but the more general phenomenon of the Soviet system of criminal justice.