Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Summer 2021

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Roxanne Easley

Second Committee Member

Jason Knirck

Third Committee Member

Dan Herman


With the death of Stalin and the immediate return of millions of Gulag survivors into Soviet society, Khrushchev’s government was confronted with the problem of maintaining the legitimacy of the communist system while at the same time addressing the legacy of mass repression in the Stalin years. Beginning briefly with the consolidation of the Gulag system in 1926, this work ties together narratives of official policy makers, Gulag returnees themselves, and contemporary Soviet historians to examine Gulag reform in the Khrushchev era in a wholistic manner. Using primary and secondary source material, this study analyzes policies of destalinization with specific regard to Gulag reform and how it impacted the lives of both Gulag returnees and those still within the system. It likewise argues that while Gulag reform did occur in a meaningful capacity, little was done to facilitate the smooth transition of Stalin’s victims back into Soviet society after individuals were released from the camps themselves during the mass amnesties of the early Khrushchev years.

Available for download on Monday, August 03, 2026