Dir. Stanisław Mucha, TAG/TRAUM Filmproduktion, 85 min, 2017, Germany / Russia / (12+)

“Goulash?” asked the young woman, popping her head out from the hotdog stand on the icy Kolyma roadside. Director Stanisław Mucha’s question though, was about the gulag, and he was surprised that in this place, for years the location of Soviet prison and labour camps, the word would be unknown to someone. The filmmakers set out on an unusual journey across Russia’s Far East, from the harbour city Magadan, known as the  “Gateway to Hell”, all the way to Yakutsk, the coldest city on earth. With an ironic take on the absurdities, the film captures this region’s contemporary portrait – though always seemingly in the shadow of the forever-frozen past.

Political prisoners were sent to Kolyma from 1932. From 1932 to 1937, the head of the first Kolyma camp was the Chekist Eduards Bērziņš. Under his leadership the prisoners were forced to work in the gold mines and construct the Kolyma Road and the city of Magadan. Modern day population decline in Russia’s Far East is also being resolved by human relocation. In 2014, thousands of refugees from the Donbas region of Ukraine were re-housed in Magadan, Yakutsk and other areas.