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Russia opens gulag museum in rare tribute to Stalin’s victims

FRANCE 24 screengrab | This Russian museum is a rare memorial to some of the millions who suffered under Communist rule

A new museum that captured the horrors of the Soviet gulag labour camp system recently opened in Moscow, in a rare memorial to some of the millions who suffered under Communist rule.


The hi-tech museum traces the history of the Soviet Union’s brutal camp system and allows visitors to watch nearly 100 newly recorded interviews with descendants of its victims.

"In the USSR, the terror was denied for a long time even at a family level; forgetting was the only way to survive," said Lyudmila Sadovnikova, who created the audiovisual displays.

"We cannot deny history or cover up how it really was."

The state-run museum was opened on Oct. 30 but the official day of commemoration was ignored by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has often played down Soviet regime crimes in the past.

Instead, Putin has focused on Communist supremo Joseph Stalin's role in defeating Nazism and focus on industrialisation rather than the 20 million people who are estimated to have died under Stalin's rule.

The day of commemoration was officially established in 1991 as researchers and activists have worked on uncovering the crimes of the Stalin era.

In October, Putin backed a plan to put up a public monument in Moscow to the victims, calling the repression "one of the most bitter, difficult pages of Russian history".

Yet under Putin, discussion of oppression under Stalin has often been sidelined in lieu of stressing Russia’s role as a superpower and heir to the Soviet Union.

In March, activists running a museum at a former camp in Siberia were ousted from the site and the local government took over, reportedly watering down the focus on the evils of the labour camps.

The four-storey exhibition that opened on Oct. 30 in central Moscow -- the largest ever museum on the gulag in Russia -- includes documents signed by Stalin sending thousands to camps.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



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