The introduction provides an overview of the history of the Soviet labor camp system, describes the way the Gulag postal and censorship systems operated, and offers extensive information about Formakov’s biography. It details Formakov’s career as a provincial writer and journalist and discusses the history of Dvinsk/Daugavpils, the city in which he lived and worked before his 1940 arrest and a center of Old Believer culture. It also places the story of Formakov’s arrest and imprisonment in the larger context of Latvian history, noting the purge that took place immediately after the Soviet invasion of Latvia in 1940, the horrors of the Nazi occupation, and the waves of arrests that occurred after the Soviet Union reoccupied the area in 1944. A final section considers Formakov’s relationship with Solzhenitsyn. Formakov served as one of the witnesses who provided testimony about the labor camp system for Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago.
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