Komsomol Camp Shmidt


Komsomol’ lageria Shmidta (Komsomol Camp Shmidt) is a Soviet propaganda volume that highlights the role of crewmen of the S.S. Cheliuskin who were also members of the Komsomol (Young Communist League) in the rescue of the ship’s crew in 1934. The Cheliuskin left Murmansk for Vladivostok in August 1933 and sailed nearly to the entrance of the Bering Strait before getting caught in the ice in November of that year. The ship then drifted for three months in the pack ice of the Chukchi Sea before suddenly sinking when the hull buckled near Kolyuchin Island in February 1934. All aboard, apart from one man, survived on the ice before being rescued by aircraft in March and April, after which they were flown to Vankarem on the Soviet mainland. (Otto Shmidt, the Soviet scientist who led the expedition and for whom Camp Shmidt was named, who was then seriously ill, was evacuated to Alaska). The author, Alexander Pogosov, was a mechanic and member of the Komsomol who was assigned to the Cheliuskin, who noted that he was not a professional writer. Fyodor Reshetnikov, another crew member, contributed all the sketches and illustrations for the book. Pogosov based his account on a diary he kept while on the voyage and throughout the subsequent rescue and salvage efforts. This included entries he made while living in a tent on the ice in the temporary Camp Shmidt, where all surviving crew, scientists, explorers, and construction staff remained until their rescue. Pogosov helped to build the airstrip on which the rescue planes landed. The Komsomol was heavily politicized and considered a Communist Party training ground for raising reliable future workers and officials. By associating members of the Komsomol with the heroic rescue, propaganda volumes such as this were intended to build the moral and political stature of the Communist Party and its leaders among the general population. Several gratuitous references to Stalin and the Komsomol organization reflect the heavy-handed requirement in this era that all Soviet authors lavish praise on the national leader and the Soviet system. Many books such as this were probably in large part ghost-written. They often seem scripted in predictable fashion, irrespective of the biographical details of the actual participants in the events recounted. A table of contents is included at the end of the book.

Last updated: December 11, 2017