Perm-36, Russia’s only Gulag memorial, has announced its first exhibit since the state seized it from a local nonprofit. What was a museum of Soviet political repression will now showcase the technical means used to keep prisoners detained, focusing more on the guards than the inmates.
Viktor Shmyrov, the director of the nonprofit that until recently managed Perm-36, told the BBC that the museum is being maintained, but its public presentation is getting a complete overhaul. “Now it’s a museum about the camp system, but not about political prisoners. There’s nothing said about the repressions or about Stalin,” Shmyrov said.
“Now Perm-36 will be a museum dedicated to the difficult and noble work of the Gulag’s valiant workers, and about the technologies they used to protect the great [Soviet] people from the fifth column and various Nazis from Ukraine.”
Launched in 1992 on the grounds of a former prison, Perm-36 is the only building complex from the Stalinist Gulag still standing in Russia today.
For almost 18 years after the collapse of Communism, the building was independently operated as a museum by a local nongovernmental organization. In 2014, however, officials decided to reclaim it for the state, seizing control of the grounds. On March 2, 2015, after months of failed negotiations with the state to keep the prison open as a public museum of Stalinist political repression, the nonprofit announced its own dissolution.