New Books Network

Mark Vincent

Criminal Subculture in the Gulag

Prisoner Society in the Stalinist Labour Camps, 1924–53

Bloomsbury Academic 2020

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network June 30, 2020 Samantha Lomb

Most Gulag scholarship focuses on political prisoners and, as a result, our knowledge of the camps as a lived experience remains relatively incomplete. Criminal...

Most Gulag scholarship focuses on political prisoners and, as a result, our knowledge of the camps as a lived experience remains relatively incomplete.

Criminal Subculture in the Gulag: Prisoner Society in the Stalinist Labour Camps, 1924–53 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) draws on Gulag journals, song collections, tattoo drawings and dictionaries of slang, to explore the lives of the recidivist criminals and criminal gangs that originated in the Gulag under Stalin.

Join us to listen as Mark Vincent maps the Gulag ‘penal arc’ of prisoners across initiation tests, means of communication, the importance of card playing, punishment rituals, tattooing rituals, and conflict between the vory v zakone and the other prisoners and camp staff.

Mark Vincent is an independent scholar who obtained his PhD in 2015 from the University of East Anglia, UK.


Samantha Lomb is an Assistant Professor at Vyatka State University in Kirov, Russia. Her research focuses on daily life, local politics and political participation in the Stalinist 1930s. Her book, Stalin’s Constitution: Soviet Participatory Politics and the Discussion of the Draft 1936 Constitution, is now available online. Her research can be viewed here.