In 1946 an artist named Nikolai Getman was imprisoned in the Soviet Union's GULAG. During the 1920s, the Soviet Union developed a system of extreme repression and terror that inflicted forced famines, purges, executions, and arrests on the people of the Soviet Union. Under Josef Stalin, forced-labor camps in Siberia became the pillar of that system. They were one of the principal techniques by which Stalin exerted absolute control over the lives and decisions of the Soviet people. An estimated 50 million people died as a result of Stalin's inhuman policies of terror and repression.
Getman's "crime" was that he had been present in a cafe with several fellow artists, one of whom drew a caricature of Stalin on a cigarette paper. An informer told the authorities, and the entire group was arrested for "anti-Soviet behavior". Getman spent eight years in Siberia at the Kolyma labor camps where he witnessed firsthand one of the darkest periods of Soviet history. Although he survived the camps, the horrors of the GULAG seared into his memory. Upon his release in 1954, Getman commenced a public career as a politically correct painter. Secretly, however, for more than four decades, Getman labored at creating a visual record of the GULAG which vividly depicts all aspects of the horrendous life (and death) which so many innocent millions experienced during that infamous era.
Getman's collection is unique because it is the only visual record known to exist of this tragic phenomenon. Unlike Nazi Germany, which recorded and preserved in detail a visual history of the Holocaust, the Russians prefer not to remember what happened in the GULAG. Not a single person has been punished for the deaths of the millions who perished there. If film or other visual representations of the Soviet GULAG existed, they have been largely destroyed or suppressed. The Getman collection stands alone as a most important historical document.