The Gulag Museum (Russian: Государственный музей истории ГУЛАГа) is located at the 127 473 Moscow, 1st Samotechnaya per., 9, building 1. GULAG (Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-Trudovyh Lagerei) which translates as Chief Administration of Corrective Labor Camps was a series of camps that existed in the Soviet era. In recent times, Gulag has come to represent the system of political repression itself.
The tour of the museum starts with the map that shows the Gulag camps. Visitors are told about the of political repression in the country at that time. Visitors get to read the letters, documents, and memoirs of the inmates of the Gulag camp. They also video recordings of people who lived in the camp recounting their experiences living in the camp (with English subtitles).
The tragedy of families including Zhdanov, Antonov- Ovseenko, and Okudzhava are retold by museum staff as they educate visitors on these families one after the other. There is also the story of unknown families, this is not left out.
The museum also exhibits the personal belongings of the victims of political repression. Visitors also find documentaries about the victims and the treatments they received during that period. You will also find dark rooms that echo the severity of the labor and living conditions during the Gulag period.
The museum is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 7pm, the ticket office is open from 11am to 6pm. On Thursday, the museum is open from 12pm to 9pm and the ticket office is open from 12pm to 8pm. The tickets cost 300 Rubles for adults and 150 Rubles for students. The museum is closed on Mondays just like most other museums.
The museum hosts excursions, concerts, readings, and theater performances regularly. Dates for special events are listed on their website prior to the event. The museum also houses publishing and volunteering center, a visual anthropology studio, a research center, and a storage facility.
The Gulag museum was founded by Anton Antonov-Ovseenko, a writer, historian and political figure. He is the son of Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko, a Bolshevik military leader. He was inspired to found the museum after his father was executed in 1938 and he was arrested as the “enemy’s” son. He spent 10 years in six labor camps. He finally founded the museum in 2001. The museum’s first exhibition opened in 2004. He contributed to the creation of a bigger museum until his death in 2013.
The Gulag camps held over 14 million people from 1929 to 1953. The Gulag was created under Stalin’s leadership. It was the Soviet Union’s main punishment system.Robbers, thieves, murderers, rapists were sentenced to the Gulag. It also held political criminals (people who were against or spoke against the government).Even though some people were imprisoned for political crimes, a significant number of inmates were imprisoned for petty crimes and for making jokes about the government. In the 1950s an order to destroy the prisoners led to the execution of about 5% of prisoners in all camps by firing squad. The reason for the order is unknown. According to archival Soviet data, a total of 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag camps between 1934 to 1953. There is however no data for the period, 1919 to 1934.
The effects of the hard labor on victims was enormous. Sergei Korolev, former lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Space Race period between the Soviet Union and the United States between 1950 to 1960. He was arrested for funds mismanagement (he spent money on unsuccessful projects) and was imprisoned for almost six years, and also spent months in the Kolyma labor camp. His jaw was broken by interrogators when they tried to have him confess to crimes he had never done. He also lost all his teeth while in prison. He later became an important figure who was recognized as the brain behind Soviet achievements in space exploration. He suffered from many health conditions and he died of a heart attack at the age of 59. His death was linked to the torture he was subjected to at the camp earlier. Had he not had his jaw broken a routine surgery to remove a stomach cancer should have gone smoothly and he would have lived. He is known as a hero and the founder of Soviet Union’s Space program. It was only after his death that his contribution to the space race was revealed.
In 2015, the museum moved to a bigger building. The opening day coincided with Russia’s Remembrance Day for the victims of political repression.
MISCELLANEOUS IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The museum still accepts photographs, memoirs, camp artifacts, letters, documents and personal belongings of camp victims. Also, they are always requesting for oral testimonies from victims who are still alive or relatives of victims who have accounts of some of the incidents during the Gulag era. This is a project dubbed “My Gulag”.
The museum also intends to create a Memory Garden that will exhibit stones and other artifacts from the gulag camps.
The museum is difficult to find. It is recommended that visitors use digital guides and not confuse the new museum with the old one.
The museum also has a cafeteria for visitors.
Due to the historical significance of this museum it is highly encouraged for everyone to make a trip here and if possible to have a guided tour.