GOLD - Lost in Siberia
The documentary ‘GOLD -lost in Siberia’ by the Dutch filmmaker Theo Uittenbogaard and writer Gerard Jacobs is a travelogue in time and space. It literally follows the road from the port of Magadan to the goldfields in the Kolyma-district in the Far East of Siberia, and tells the reasoning behind its construction, starting in the early 1930’s, culminating during the ‘time of repression’ and onwards till Stalins’ death. For the first time in their lives, told by the last survivors; the indigenous Tungus-people, ex-convicts and bystanders in the 1990’s.
The film was shot in the summer of 1993 in Magadan, Ust-Umshug, Susuman and at the Severovostok Zoloto gold mine plant by the first foreign film crew to be admitted to the Kolyma in the small window of opportunity called ‘perestroika’ when the Soviet Union eventually ceased to exist. Until then, and in the 60 years before that, the Kolyma-district was off limits to any foreigner, and was put under direct control of the Soviet Secret Services (NKVD / KGB) under the cover name Dalstroj Mining. With reason.
After the first finds by adventurous prospectors in the early 20th century, Kolyma turned out to contain not only enormous -the worlds’ richest- gold deposits, but also uranium ore and other rare metals. A find, to be kept a state secret. Since the exploitation of this Kolyma trove was considered vital to the development and power of the fledgling Soviet state under Joseph Stalin.
Kolyma became synonymous of the sinister euphemism "being sent to Siberia". For, after the initial enthusiasm of young and dedicated Soviet pioneers, who volunteered to migrate to the Kolyma and work there for the communist cause, dropped out and left, due to the harsh circumstances and bitter cold.
As a result, shiploads of arbitrarily accused, sentenced and convicted, so-called "Enemies of the People" from all corners of the Soviet Union, were dropped ashore, at the for the purpose built port city Magadan, at the Nagayev Bay, to construct a 600 Km road that would connect the port to the gold fields of Susuman.
A road "creeping up the mountains, sinking into the swamps" -as the films' narration tells. Carved out of the permafrost, with just picks and shovels. By mostly innocent men and women not at all fit for this hard labor in these circumstances. At temperatures that are considered to be the coldest in the world. A road the ‘Kolyma-trakt’, that claimed so many deaths in its construction, that it was sinisterly labeled "Road of Bones".
The last survivors of the road workers camps Sevvostlag -plus the singer Vadim Kozin, admired by Stalin and nevertheless exiled-, and some witnesses who went to Kolyma voluntarily, earlier out of idealism, or later out of opportunism, tell their side of the story in this documentary.
All filmed against the back-drop of the natural beauty of this part of Siberia. The natural habitat of indigenous reindeer nomads from the Tungus people, who lost their independence, identity, language and livelihood during the Soviet era, by sinking deeper into alcoholism and oblivion.
Premiere and Award
- ‘GOLD -lost in Siberia’ premiered at the Netherlands Filmfestival Sept 19th, 1994.
- ‘GOLD -lost in Siberia’ was awarded a 'Mention Speciale' at the FIPA Documentary Filmfestival in Nice, France in 1995.
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