Monday, March 11, 2013

The Soviet Gulag: Theme Park in Lithuania and Perm '36 in Russia

The history of the Soviet gulag system (labor camps run by the NKVD) goes from 1917 to 1991. In general, prisoners were common criminals, political prisoners and anyone who showed opposition to the state. They were used, among other things, as labor to build infrastructure, felling trees and extract minerals from mines. 


It was not until 1974, when Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn , a former Soviet prisoner, published a full story of the life in a Soviet camp in The Gulag Archipelago, which discloses the hidden reality of  hard labor prisons.

Gulag archipelago map (Photo: you save heritage)

Today, it is virtually impossible to visit most of these areas, as many of them are lost in Siberian taiga where there are no roads. There's just one in Russia, the Perm'36, open to the public as a museum. In addition, there is one prison bunker in Lithuania where they have created a "theme park" called 1984 where you can live the experience of a prison of the gulag.


You can see a complete photo gallery of these camps in Siberia here .


MUSEUM OF THE HISTORY OF POLITICAL REPRESSION PERM '36

Location here .
Official Website: http://www.perm36.ru
Hours: 10:00-17:00 (closed on Mondays)
Normal ticket: 50 rubles (1.25 euros)
Guided tour: 350 rubles (8.80 euros)
For groups an English guide can be requested for 1500 rubles (37.70 euros) per group.
How to reach the Perm '36?  Located 100 km away from the city of Perm (Russia), where it's quite easy to get by train (though long) from Moscow as it is in the Trans-Siberian route. Once in Perm you can rent a car and follow the route indicated on the map or go to the camp by public transport. We have two options: take a bus to Chusovoy (Чусовой), which costs about 200 rubles (5 euros), and from there take a bus to Kutchino (Кучино), or go by train to Chusovoy and there take the bus to Kutchino. 
If you prefer to go on organized tour from Perm (in English): http://www.uraltourism.com/perm36.php



The Gulag Perm '36 was founded in 1946 under the order of Stalin. It remained open until 1985, when Gorbachev decided to end the prison regime. Here, there were prisioners as Varlam Shalamov , author of Tales from Kolyma . Thanks to the persistence and work of former prisoners and historians, it was open to the public as a museum (the only one in Russia). 


In the museum, in addition to temporary exhibitions, we can find the permanent one about the repression in Russia and recreations of life in the camps, prisoners objects, the old buildings, etc. The last part of the visit is a video documentary about the gulag.


In this video, you can see a virtual tour of the place:




1984 - SURVIVAL DRAMA IN A SOVIET BUNKER

Location: here .
Official Website: http://www.sovietbunker.com
Entrance to the underground bunker Museum: 30 litas (8.70 euros) per person.
Participating in recreation: 1500 litas (435 euros) per group of up to 25 people. For more than 25, each additional person will pay 84 litas (24 euros.)

How to reach the 1984 bunker? It's 30 km away from Vilnius. You will have to drive or negotiate transport with the organizers. You can take the 102 to Nemencine and hence the road to Buivydžiai. At 5 km, just past the river, you will see a turning on the right signposted by a red sign indicating the bunker.


As they explained in the project site it was created to reach people the rawness of Soviet repression and prison life in the gulag. Museum admission allows the access to a secret underground bunker of two levels.



The price of recreation includes: 3 hours of representation in Russian with some English words, special clothes, Soviet prisoner lunch / dinner, a certificate and a gift from the shop. Upon arrival, participants were greeted by guards with dogs and they remove all personal effects, money, cameras, mobile ... and they are given a typical Soviet coats. Visitors are introduced as prisoners to a recreation of 1984, with typical decorated shops and televisions, they are forced to learn the anthem of the USSR, they are interrogated by the KGB and allowed to try to escape.



Attention to one of the input clauses: "The instructions must be followed without any objection. Disobedience can be punished physically or psychologically and the participant can be excluded from the show."


You know, if you want to be yelled at, beaten, interrogated, harassed by dogs and learn the Russian national anthem, this is your place.

1 comment:

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