The Gulag Museum
12 July, 2016
The Gulag Museum
If you’re in need of a change from the art galleries and conventional museums of Moscow, why not visit the museum dedicated to the “Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies”, otherwise known as the GULAG. From 1929 to 1953, over 18 million people spent a period of time in the camps across Russia. Many remained in operation until the end of the 1980s. Today they stand as a symbol of political repression. The sinister atmosphere of the museum will hit you even before you walk through the main entrance. Most of the windows of the upper floors of the building have been blacked out to give the museum a grim appearance from the street.
As you enter, you will see an exhibition about the early roots of the gulag. It shows the size of a typical cell painted out on the floor and a bed from a prison to help visitors imagine the reality of prison life. Nearby are a selection genuine cells doors from the gulag. On the wall there is an interesting map showing all of the camps spread across Russia and how many were imprisoned there. The map reveals the vast scale of the programme.
The main texts are written in both Russian and English. However, like many museums in Russia, the smaller details of the exhibition are in Russian only. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to take in even for those with no Russian.
Furthermore, a main part of the exhibit comes in the form of video interviews with former prisoners, nearly all of which have English subtitles. They provide accounts of life in the gulag, from the reasons people were sent there, their experiences in the camps, and life after “rehabilitation”. This puts a human touch on what could otherwise be a cold and gloomy exhibition. It is interesting to see how people from such different walks of life all had the gulag experience in common.
Location and opening times
The nearest tube station is Dostoevskaya, located around a 10 minute walk away. Tickets cost 300 roubles. However, if you visit on the last Sunday of the month, entry is free. The museum is open every day except Monday 11:00-19:00 (last entry 18:00). On Thursday the opening hours are 12:00-21:00 (last entry 20:00). The museum is also closed on the last Friday of every month.