Gulag

A bleak view of my beloved Russia’s past I had yesterday when visited the Gulag museum here in Moscow, My biggest learning was that there actually were so many of these Stalin-time Soviet labour camps, and most of them not in Siberia, but scattered around Moscow. According to Wikipedia, in March 1940, there were 53 separate camps and 423 labor colonies in the USSR. The camps were used for petty criminals as well as political prisoners. Approximately 14 million people passed through the Gulag labour camps from 1929 to 1953. A further 6-7 million were deported and exiled to remote areas of the USSR, and 4-5 million passed through labour colonies. The total population of the camps varied from 510,307 in 1934 to 1,727,970 in 1953. According to a 1993 study of archival Soviet data, a total of 1,053,829 people died in the Gulag from 1934 to 1953.

There is a special exhibition running at the museum at the moment, The Commissar Vanishes: The Falsification of Photographs and Art in Stalin’s Russia based on a 1997 book by David King about the censoring of photographs in Joseph Stalin‘s Soviet Union through alteration via airbrushing and other techniques. The most famous  example of Stalin retouching is probably this photo and subsequent falsification of Lenin addressing the troops in front of the Bolshoi Theatre, May 5, 1920 – with and without Trotsky and Kamenev on the steps to the right.

 

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