The project - About Jens Alstrup
Kolyma: The white crematorium
About Jens Alstrup
Jens Alstrup with his bike crossing a river in Kolyma, 1997
In 1996, I was together with the mayor of Yagodnoe and an old woman at the consecration of the small monument at the death camp of Serpantinka, some 50 km from Yagodnoe. The old babushka (grandmother) told me how her parents were taken away from their home by NKVD soldiers one morning in 1939 and then brought to this very place and shot. That was my very first personal meeting with one of the victims of Stalin's crimes and it made an indelible impression.


I am first of all a self-taught historian. From my very early years, I have always been interested in history and politics. With time, I have centred this interest more and more on human rights with special focus on the Kolyma camps.

Teaching yourself can be quite a challenge. A topic like Kolyma must be taken seriously and not fowled up by a halfwit. But take a look at these web pages and see whether you think I have dealt with it seriously enough.

The Memorial organisation in Moscow have taken a look at my material and they have a clear position on the value of my work. They support me wholeheartedly. Professor Adlis in Magadan takes me seriously too, as do many other interested parties in Russia. I think they are the best judges I could find.

My interest in Kolyma

The reason I arrived in Kolyma was that I wanted to establish a sports record to become the first person ever to cross Russia from one end to the other on a bicycle - as far there were roads to cycle on. I did get my record, but as my expedition developed, the record faded more and more in favour of my passion for Russia. I find it a wonderful country and a great nation. With time, I have become very focused on its history and its people.

I did establish my bicycle record and I am happy I did. But I am not a bicycle rider who is interested in history. I am a person deeply committed to read and research history who by coincidence happened to establish a record. Fortunately, it turned out that the record was a very "Soviet" thing to do. It has opened many doors that otherwise would have remained completely shut, not least the interviews I have had with former guards from the camp system.

My motivation for the project

I have meet victims of dictatorship and repression. Their experiences have been my main motivation to complete this research. I hope their suffering, which for some continues even today, will not be forgotten. I feel I have a strong responsibility to ensure it will not.

It is of course the victims who have my primary attention. But I also try to cover the history of the guards and the system itself. They are part of the history, for better or for worse. The most important thing is, if we understand the functions and attractions of the system, we will have an invaluable tool to prevent it all happening again.

We should all do we can to prevent dictatorships. Telling the history of Kolyma is the best I can do for this cause. I hope you will be able to do something too. If I you choose to support me, I will be very grateful.

Thank you very much for reading these lines.

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The authour on the way through Kolyma on his bicycle expedition in 1997 (link). It is a rough region and it was extremely difficult to make my record. Photo: Jens Alstrup 1997.
Jens Alstrup on his bike in Siberia, 1997
Da jeg var i fin form og på vej ind i Sibirien fra Russisk Fjernøsten. Cyklingen gav mig en plads i Guiness Rekordbog 1999, som den første, der har krydset hele Rusland på en cykel. Det har givet mig en masse referancer og kontaktpersoner, der har været mig til gavn i dette projekt, som ellers intet har med cykling at gøre. Foto: Jens Alstrup, 1997.