ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Ivan Chistyakov

ELKOST Intl. Literary Agency handles world rights in  THE DIARY OF A GULAG PRISON GUARD, on behalf of MEMORIAL international historical and civil rights society (2004 Right Livelihood Award winner, 2007/2008 Nobel Peace Prize nominee).


Ivan ChistyakovWe know very little about the man. Apart from his notebooks we have only a blurred snapshot on the back of which there is a note: “Chistyakov, Ivan Petrovich,  repressed in 1937-38. Killed at the front in Tula Province in 1941”. All other information has to be gleaned from the diary.

How old was its author? Over 30, evidently, because he mentions that he has already lived half his life, and that he had been at the front. Even if that refers to fighting right at the end of the Civil War in 1920-21, he would have had to be at least 18-19 years old then.

Before being conscripted into the army (to his great misfortune he was drafted into the interior troops) Ivan Chistyakov lived in Moscow, not far from Sadovo-Kudrinskaya  Square on the inner ring road. He took the tram to work, in his free time went to the theatre, played sports, enjoyed sketching, and in general lived much like any other relatively educated Soviet city dweller of the early 1930s. (Their way of life is characterised in the prose of such writers as Yury Olesha, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and Mikhail Bulgakov.)

Ivan Petrovich Chistyakov had a thoroughly ordinary Russian name, but was less fortunate in having non-proletarian social origins. He probably had secondary vocational education, and was expelled from the Communist Party during one of the thoroughgoing purges of the late 1920s and early 1930s when ‘socially alien elements’ were deprived of their Party card. (Chistyakov believed he was sent to BAM because the authorities already regarded him as suspect.)