Zona by Carl De Keyzer: Siberian Gulags turned into prison camps

Zona is a photo project of famous Belgian photographer and journalist Carl De Keyzer. In the early 2000s Carl visited 40 former Gulags turned into prison camps in Krasnoyarsk region (Siberia, Russia). Among them were men, women and youth camps (14-18 year old boys). Also transit camps where prisoners wait to be transferred to a specific camp.

In his book Carl De Keyzer writes:
'What I saw there was quite surprising. I read Solzhenitsyn 15-20 years ago, so I had a very grim idea of these camps, if they still existed anyway. I had an idea of black and white, dark pictures, torture. But the camp itself is sort of a Disneyland. You come into a gate decorated with metal soldiers made by the prisoners, there are huge murals, famous Russian paintings about glorious moments from the middle ages or even earlier, and at the entrance also there’s a huge steam train on top of the gate, there’s a wooden windmill, Don Quixote, there is a pyramid, Egyptian style. 

There’s all kinds of things, ornaments that were really very surprising, like wooden houses to keep the guards in, just like you would see at the entrance of any cheap amusement park. Everything was in colour, all the walls and interiors, mostly light blue, light green. Psychologically chosen colours, I guess, to put prisoners’ minds at rest.'

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Women prisoners' camp in Egorovka
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Transit camp in Nizhniy Ingash
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A prison camp in Krasnoyarsk
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A women camp in Krasnoyarsk

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Concert rehearsal: a gypsy dance group will perform. This is the first year that music is allowed

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Prison cinema theater

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Honeymoon room

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Prisoners are looking at paintings made in the camp. Every year, during a 2 week vacation spent in a camp building, prisoners can paint, have a sauna, TV, ping pong, and live in more private rooms

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Another camp in the town of Reshoti (500 km from Krasnoyarsk). First service in a newly built Orthodox church, consecrated by the bishop of Kansk

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Prisoners checking at the hospital ward

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Prisoners recovering in TBC hospital ward. The Bible is lying on the bed
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Metal check after work in TBC hospital ward

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Hospital camp. Construction
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Another women camp
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A wood factory in one more camp

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Serving lunch
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A shoe factory

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Competition for the ice city

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Prisoners village of Hayruzovka. Awaiting to meet the chief of the camp
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Hard regime. Murder section

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Prisoners village of Egorovka. A new born baby. Families live together in wooden houses without fences at 4 hours truck distance from the main camp, where schools are located
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Taking care of pigs

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An aluminium factory

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Prisoners are repairing the roof
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A youth camp

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The Photographer: Carl De Keyzer



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