Stalinist KGB Terror Goes Multimedia With CD-ROM on Gulags

 RIGA, Jun 14, 2001 --Agence France Presse  
 Forget musty old tomes which collect dust on shelves, a Latvian researcher has issued a CD-ROM with interviews and footage about the fearsome Siberian gulags to mark the 60th anniversary of Soviet deportations.

The forerunner of the Soviet KGB rounded up tens of thousands of people from the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on June 14, 1941 to send them to labor camps in Siberia, and Ingvars Leitis wants to make sure young people do not forget it.

"This is for a new generation that won't read about it in books," said Leitis, who hopes that despite a lack of interest in history young people will be more attracted to the video footage of a handful of camps and interviews.

"The old people that care don't know what a CD-ROM is," he told AFP. "It's for the next generation, it's their history too and they must not forget it."

Leitis released last week the first CD in what he hopes will be a series, with part of the material coming from a 13,000-kilometer bicycle trip he made across the Soviet Union under the guise of a journalist in 1975.

Inspired by Nobel-prize winning author Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's account of the Soviet labor camps in the "Gulag Archipelago", Leitis told authorities he was researching Siberian villages and visited exiled Balts to collect stories there.

Soviet forces deported or executed more than 250,000 people from the Baltic states after it seized the countries at the outset and end of World War II.

After Leitis returned to Latvia the KGB got wind of his true intentions.

"They told me that if I went there again I would not come back," he said.

Leitis kept an archive of hundreds of hours of interview footage a secret until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

BNS (agence Baltic News Service),

The first interactive CD-ROM containing information about Soviet atrocities in Latvia following its occupation in 1940 has been released in Latvia.

The CD-ROM dealing with Soviet crimes against humanity, the Latvian people and the Latvian state during the period of repressions following Latvia`s occupation by the Soviet Union was Wednesday presented in the Occupation Museum in the Latvian capital Riga.

Professor of History, Heinrihs Strode, who works for the museum, at the presentation told reporters about a request made to the commission of historians studying controversial pages in the history of Latvia.

It was suggested that the commission, formed by Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, should summarize in another CD-ROM the testimonies by surviving victims of Soviet political repressions in Latvia.

The CD-ROM presented Wednesday was published in a small number of copies at the expense of Ingvars Leitis, a local enthusiast, who has been studying Soviet crimes against humanity since 1975, when Latvia still was a part of the Soviet Union.

Leitis said for now the CD-ROM will not be distributed among schools and libraries due to the lack of funds but in five years the information will be available in the Internet. Nevertheless, he has donated first ten CD-ROMS to the Latvian library network.

To study Soviet atrocities, Leitis visited many of Latvian settlements in Siberia, making inquiries illegal under the Soviet rule. He also made several expeditions to Gulag sites and destinations of deportations beyond the Arctic Circle and filmed several documentaries during these trips.

The 8.5-hour CD-ROM (5 hours of video and 3.5 hours of audio) comprises 450 various articles and documents.

The CD-ROM in question is just a beginning -- a pilot project preceding a larger project which will seek to make available to general public testimonies of those, who survived labor and death camps, and deportations.

Crimes Against Humanity. Latvian Site