“Guilty of Being Free”: An Intellectual vs. Soviet Penal System (Prison Letters and Drawings of Sergei Parajanov)


Sergei Parajanov was one of the most innovative directors of postwar Soviet cinema, which made him suspect to the Soviet authorities and eventually led Parajanov to serving a prison sentence. This article discusses how the trauma of Parajanov’s prison experience was reflected in the textual and visual output (letters, drawings and collages) that he created during his imprisonment out of the materials at hand. The study relies on comparative-historical and semiotic methods. Parajanov’s homosexuality made his position in prison precarious and ambiguous. He went through a variety of occupations and laboriously navigated both the prison hierarchy and Soviet penal system’s vigilant control. However, by his own count, Parajanov crafted 800 objects during his imprisonment. The article explores the recurring motives such as the crane hook, halo, and a hunched posture. This imagery is placed in the context of Parajanov’s everyday life in prison and is interpreted in the light of his textual documents from that period.

Author Biography

Tigran S. Simyan, Yerevan State University, Yerevan, Armenia

Tigran S. Simyan, Dr. Sci. (Philology), Professor of the Department of Foreign Literature, Yerevan State University (Yerevan, Armenia). SPIN-CODE: 1313-4922, WoS Researcher ID:  AAV-9516-2020, Scopus AuthorID: 57202389615.


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How to Cite
Simyan, T. (2022). “Guilty of Being Free”: An Intellectual vs. Soviet Penal System (Prison Letters and Drawings of Sergei Parajanov). Changing Societies & Personalities, 6(1), 197–216. doi:10.15826/csp.2022.6.1.170