Kharkiv: Izd. Tsentral’nogo DOPRa #1, 1926. Item #1239
59 pp: ill. 35x22,5 cm. In original illustrated wrappers. Spine repaired, tears, some small fragments of covers’ edges, stains and ink marks occasionally.
One of 50 copies. Extremely rare survival of the time, the magazine of a House of Social Forced Labor (DOPR). Covers, texts and illustrations were created by hand and then lithographed on glass. According to its cover, the magazine was produced since 1923.
The imprisonment as a form of criminal punishments was partly eliminated in 1920. Re-education through labor was considered as a progressive method and was soon widespread over the country. Convicted people were divided into two groups: dangerous individuals, completely isolated in special wards, and not dangerous ones, brought up in conditions of socially useful labor. DOPR was a chain of institutions established for forced labor. This one was located on the Kharkiv outskirts. Just like working communes for homeless children, DOPRs had workshops and vegetable gardens. In 1929, the USSR announced a resolution ‘On the Use of Labor of Criminal Prisoners’. The next year all previous re-educational labor institutions were closed and the GULAG system was established.
This curious magazine was produced in a technique steklografia. Despite the paper shortage in the country at the time, the edition came out in a pretty large format but compact layout.
Prose and poetic materials were written by prisoners promoting the DOPR as a well-organized institution with good conditions. Some texts overviewed the everyday life of DOPR. It contained a library, movie projector, theatrical and art groups, sports club. It also held educational classes and produced their own periodical. Every cultural activity was described in articles like ‘Provided with Films’ or ‘More about Likbez’. The edition included an announcement of professional courses for fitters, electricians, woodworkers, automobile and motorcycle engineers, agricultural workers. An article ‘The 9th Cell’ provided some statistics about club activities in this DOPR, including a number of books bought for local library, lectures held and chess games played.
The texts were created in different handwriting and were illustrated with drawings, caricatures, designs of theater characters, but also a comic strip and a rebus. The general atmosphere of the magazine was highly positive, so it is interesting to find a drawing of a stabbing murder supplemented one crime case. Another violence was depicted under a story about how Soviet proletariat had overthrown the bourgeoisie. Apart from them, there are nice images of prisoners playing football, a comic strip about a woman going to be a politically active person. The magazine followed the state campaign of women’s liberation and published short notices about a free and deliberate woman in a communist country.
According to various monograms, at least four prisoners took part in the design. Despite the fact that some drawings demonstrate a low level of art skills, the same people were most likely early Ukrainian tattoo masters who firstly worked with DOPR inmates.
A final article is hardly expected in this kind of periodical because it is a skillfully written review of a performance shown by a Kharkiv Blue Blouse group to prisoners. Differing it from Vsevolod Meyerhold or Boris Glagolin’s popular approaches, the author complimented simple props and costumes, impressive tricks that were closer to the mass audience. This article emphasized the fact that the edition was known outside the DOPR itself.
Not found in Worldcat.