Chistyi Lane (1934–1937) — Life Between Arrests

Address: 8 Chistyi Lane, Moscow

Memorial plaque on the house at Chistiy Lane. Photo: Memorial Society Photo Archive

Memorial plaque on the house at Chistyi Lane. Source: Memorial Society Photo Archive

For almost two and a half years, from the moment of his return from the Visherskii camp and his marriage to G. Gudz' until his second arrest on January 12, 1937, Varlam Shalamov lived at his parents-in-law’s residence. Their apartment was located on the fourth floor of house number 8 on Chistyi Lane. Shalamov’s daughter Yelena was born there and Shalamov wrote his first stories there during the nights.

Shalamov after his return from the Visherskiy camp. Photo: shalamov.ru

Shalamov after his return from the Visherskii camp. Photo: shalamov.ru

Seventeen years later, after his return from the Kolyma camp, Shalamov became nostalgic for Chistyi Lane despite his divorce with his wife. He had relatives there whom he loved. A family member, whom Shalamov liked the least, his ex-wife’s oldest brother who worked for the secret police in the 1930s, lived there as well. Shalamov was convinced that he exposed him to the secret police in 1937. The brother-in-law was very surprised to see Shalamov return from Kolyma. He called the police as soon as he noticed Shalamov staying at the apartment, and not living “101 kilometers away” as he was ordered to do. Shalamov’s former wife B. Gudz' died in 2006 at the age of 104.

On October 30, 2013, a memorial plaque for Varlam Shalamov was installed on house number 8 on Chistyi Lane. This memorial was installed through the initiative of International Memorial, the GULAG History State Museum, and the editorial staff of the website Shalamov.ru. The creator of the plaque was the sculptor G. Frangulyan. This plaque is the first memorial in Moscow that directly points to the mass repression of Soviet citizens. The words “Varlam Shalamov lived in this house between arrests” are written on the plaque.

Sergey Solovyov