Danzig Baldaev was employed by the GULAG. The son of an ‘enemy of the people’, he was subject to repression in communist Russia and sent to an orphanage for children of political prisoners. After serving in the army in World War II, he came to Leningrad in 1948 and was ordered by the NKVD to work as a warden in ‘Kresty’ – an infamous Leningrad prison – where he started drawing the tattoos of criminals. His collection of tattoos were recorded in different reformatory settlements across the former USSR between 1948–2000. Danzig Baldaev died in 2005. The images he drew are shocking but not entirely surprising if you have read the testimony of GULAG survivors such as Eugenia Ginzburg.
A startled Zek is now drowning in concrete — Baldaev remarks that this was a fate commonly inflicted by “criminal” prisoners upon workers- i.e. those who had been tossed in the Gulag as slave labour. ‘There is no way of knowing how many victims the concrete structures of power plants hold’ he notes.