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Perm-36: The Gulag Camp Frozen In Time

Visitors to the Perm-36 museum in the Urals can stroll through a well-preserved prison camp of the Gulag system established by Soviet leader Josef Stalin. But despite the authenticity of the site, the museum's new curators are downplaying the camp's role in the repressions of the Stalin era. (Photos by Tom Balmforth, RFE/RL)

A stanza of the Soviet hymn from the late Stalin period is written on the wall facing museum visitors as they enter from the prison guard headquarters.
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A stanza of the Soviet hymn from the late Stalin period is written on the wall facing museum visitors as they enter from the prison guard headquarters.

The prison guards' headquarters at the entrance to the camp
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The prison guards' headquarters at the entrance to the camp

The “strict regime” zone of the prison camp
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The “strict regime” zone of the prison camp

This detention unit, built in 1969, effectively served as a prison within the camp.
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This detention unit, built in 1969, effectively served as a prison within the camp.

A watchtower overlooks the “special regime” zone.
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A watchtower overlooks the “special regime” zone.

Anatoly Terentiev worked as a guard at Perm-36 from 1972-75. He says that the museum should not exist at all, and that the historians who used to run it represent a “fifth column.”
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Anatoly Terentiev worked as a guard at Perm-36 from 1972-75. He says that the museum should not exist at all, and that the historians who used to run it represent a “fifth column.”

A museum worker exits a barracks block built in 1946 under Joseph Stalin.
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A museum worker exits a barracks block built in 1946 under Joseph Stalin.

A walkway through the “strict regime” zone lined by silver birch trees. Laborers in the camps were predominantly tasked with logging.
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A walkway through the “strict regime” zone lined by silver birch trees. Laborers in the camps were predominantly tasked with logging.

A worker shovels coal in the furnace room. According to the new museum’s director, this is where Soviet dissident and veteran rights activist Sergei Kovalyov worked when he served at Perm-36.
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A worker shovels coal in the furnace room. According to the new museum’s director, this is where Soviet dissident and veteran rights activist Sergei Kovalyov worked when he served at Perm-36.

Although the museum focuses predominantly on the architecture of Perm-36, it also displays a harrowing exhibit on the Soviet repressions. Suspended from the ceiling is a portrait of Stalin. The exhibit is titled “Gulag: History, Work, Life.”
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Although the museum focuses predominantly on the architecture of Perm-36, it also displays a harrowing exhibit on the Soviet repressions. Suspended from the ceiling is a portrait of Stalin. The exhibit is titled “Gulag: History, Work, Life.”

Viktor Shmyrov, a local historian who founded the museum at Perm-36, announced the liquidation of his organization in March, effectively conceding defeat in a drawn-out battle to stay involved in the museum's management.
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Viktor Shmyrov, a local historian who founded the museum at Perm-36, announced the liquidation of his organization in March, effectively conceding defeat in a drawn-out battle to stay involved in the museum's management.

Perm-36 is one of three camps known as the “Perm Triangle.”
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Perm-36 is one of three camps known as the “Perm Triangle.”

The Perm branch of the Communist Party has posted roadside billboards across the region with the rhyming couplet: “The winds of history have picked up speed. Our Urals workers revere Stalin!”
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The Perm branch of the Communist Party has posted roadside billboards across the region with the rhyming couplet: “The winds of history have picked up speed. Our Urals workers revere Stalin!”

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