Russian gulag museum says facing closure

Russian gulag museum says facing closure as Kremlin clamps down on exposure to Russia’s shameful past.

The rights group running Russia’s only museum in a preserved former Soviet labour camp warns that the facility is facing closure as authorities grow increasingly hostile to probing the country’s totalitarian past.


The Perm-36 museum — named after the notorious prison camp where it is housed — has seen operations grind to a halt after local authorities cut off key funding “without explanation”, the non-governmental organisation Memorial said.

“Visits are not taking place, electricity to the museum is cut and all the employees have been put on unpaid leave for an undetermined period,” said Robert Latypov, head of the local branch of Memorial, one of Russia’s most prominent human rights organisations.

“If the museum closes then it will be a harbinger of the arrival of an ideological dictatorship,” Latypov told AFP on Tuesday.

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has increasingly taken on the mantle of the Soviet Union and prides itself on its victories while downplaying the millions of deaths under Stalin’s forced industrialisation, collectivisation and prison camps.

Perm-36, the penal colony located about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the Urals city of Perm, in particular housed many political prisoners convicted for “anti-Soviet” views as recently as the 1980s.

Putin, himself a proud former agent of the dreaded KGB security services, has voiced opposition to debate on history and is overseeing the creation of a single school history textbook to be used by the education system.

– Totalitarian legacy –

The potential shuttering of the museum has sparked widespread outrage with some 40,000 people signing an online petition in support of the institution.

“Perm-36 (museum) became famous throughout the entire globe,” the petition says. “Its very existence was proof that Russia is moving forward and abandoning its totalitarian legacy forever.”