CONTROL: The compelling and tragic stories of six women as the last survivors of the Gulag.
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: February 7, 2020

Kino Regina, a cinema run by Finland’s National Audiovisual Institute, is cocooned inside the walls of Oodi, Helsinki’s spanking new, innovative library complex. At least, it’s called a library, but it’s much more than that. A kind of high-tech “«living room for residents,» it has, in addition to its «Book Heaven» of literature-stocked shelves on one floor, tools from sewing machines to laser cutters and 3D-printers, which residents can freely use to make clothes and jewelry or solder spare parts in an environment of mutual knowledge sharing. Filled with rugs inspired by Finnish classics and other public art, Oodi is a cosy, calm space that feels genuinely geared toward nurturing visitors’ wellbeing and inclusion, far removed from for-profit dehumanisation — a utopia of communality, or at least a rare oasis in a Europe turning toward the far right (the library was partly conceived of as a bulwark against populism, equipping its citizens with the confident know-how to navigate a disorienting future). Strolling through Oodi, it’s easy to imagine a version of reality in which an entire political system of collectivism functions smoothly. So the venue of Regina for festival Helsinki DocPoint’s screening of Women of the Gulag, Marianna Yarovskaya’s collection of testimonies of six women who survived life inside the most brutal network of institutions that sprung from the Soviet order, added an additional level of thought-provoking and tragic tension between the lofty ideals of communism and its abhorrent applications.

Women of the Gulag, a film by Marianna Yarovskaya

Ruled by terror

Famed Soviet poet Anna Akhmatova said that when those interred in gulags return, «two Russias will look each other in the eye: the one arresting, and the one arrested». Her quote opens a film portraying a

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