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PERM 36 MEMORIAL MUSEUM FOR THE HISTORY OF POLITICAL REPRESSION

18.11.2006

The “Perm 36” Memorial Museum was created on the site of the former labour camp for particularly dangerous state criminals VS-389/36 as part of the museum-archive complex “Memorial to the victims of political repression”. The complex was created in 1994 by the Perm Regional Branch of the “Memorial” Society and the Perm Regional Administration. The museum is in the village of Kutchino in the Chusovoi district.

The former labour camp itself was established in 1946 and is virtually the only camp which has been deliberately retained to be a living reminded of the days of the GULAG. From 13 June 1972 when the first group of prisoners from the Mordovian political labour camps was brought there, this camp was the main political labour camp in the USSR, There were 995 prisoners of conscience held in the camps, among them virtually all the leaders of the dissident, human rights and nationalist movements, including many members of different Helsinki Groups.

As well a being a unique monument of Soviet repressive history, Perm 36 is also particularly important as a record of the last decades of the political history of the regime. The entire system of Perm political labour camps, and especially “Perm 36”, was created at the beginning of the 1970s in order to crush intensifying resistance and free thinking and to ward off the collapse of communist ideology and the totalitarian state. During the last years this camp held the Soviet Union’s only special regime unit for political prisoners. It differed from other political labour camps in that the prisoners were locked up around the clock in cells, but unlike prisons, they were forced to work. They were taken out for their walk in prison-style courtyards, cut off, surrounded with iron bars and with barbed wire on top. The camp was surrounded by a multi-unit system of guards and prohibited zones.

Over the almost 8 years that the special regime unit functioned, from 1 March 1980 when 32 special regime prisoners were transferred from the Mordovian Sosnovka labour camp, until 8 December 1987 when the last 18 prisoners were taken to the Tsentralny settlement, 57 people were held in it, 37 of them Ukrainian. These were: 17 members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group – Oles BERDNYK, Mykola HORBAL, Mykhailo HORYN, Vitaly KALYNYCHENKO, Ivan KANDYBA, Yury LYTVYN  (who died in hospital in the town of Chusovoi on 4 September 1984), Levko LUKYANENKO, Valery MARCHENKO (who died in a prison hospital in Leningrad on 7 October 1984), Vasyl OVSIYENKO, Bohdan REBRYK, Petro RUBAN, Ivan SOSULSKY, Vasyl STUS (who died in a punishment cell [kartser] during the night between 3 and 4 September 1985), Oleksa TYKHY (who died in the prison hospital in Perm on 5 May 1984), Danylo SHUMUK, foreign members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group – the Estonian Mart NIKLUS, and the Lithuanian Viktoras LYATKUS, as well as the Ukrainian political prisoners Mykhailo Alekseev, Ivan HEL, Mykola Yevgrafov, Vasyl KURYLO, Oleksy MURZHENKO, Hryhory PRYKHODKO, Semen SKALYCH (“Pokutnyk” – “Penitent”), the Russian writer Leonid Borodin, the dissident Yury Fyodorov, members of the National United Party of Armenia Azat Arshakyan and Ashot Navasardyan, the Lithuanian Balis Gfyuskas, the Latvian Gunar Astra and others.

The following were held in the harsh regime unit: Semyon GLUZMAN, Myroslav MARYNOVYCH, Zoryan POPADYUK, Mykola RUDENKO, Yevhen SVERSTYUK, Oles SHEVCHENKO and hundreds of others.

After the liquidation in 1987 of the camp, its buildings and structures were handed over to the regional department for social security to accommodate a psycho-neurological centre. The barrack of the special regime unit which was separate was abandoned and began rapidly disintegrating.

It was on this unit that the Memorial Museum began, which due to its uniqueness and especially insecure situation, without restoration faced inevitable and swift decay. During 1994 and 1995 the Perm Regional Branch of the “Memorial” Society, with financial support from the regional administration,  the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and sponsorship from a number of businesses, as well as their own means, restored the barrack of the special regime unit. In summer 1995 an International Volunteer Service camp was held, with students from Russia, the USA, England, Scotland, France, Germany and Australia taking part in the repair and building work.

On 15 December 1995, through the resolution of the Perm Region Governor, the buildings and structures of the entire former camp No. 36 in its original borders was handed to the Museum. Between 1996 and 1999 all of them were restored and made into a museum.

On 22 March 2003 the special regime barrack burned down during repairs. The exhibits were then being stored in other premises. The barrack has been rebuilt and the exhibits are being restored.

The main aim of the Museum is to retain the unique complex of buildings of the former political labour camp. In its completed form the Museum will contain all the everyday, production and auxiliary structures, as well as the restored labour camp “komandirovki” (camp outposts in the forest) of Stalin times.

The Museum has material on the history of the repressions and resistance to the communist regime, and computer databases are being created – with lists of prisoners of the Perm GULAG of the 1930s – 1950s, victims of repression in the Perm region over all the years of Soviet rule, and prisoners of the Perm political labour camps between 1972 and 1991. On the site of the Museum there are annual international academic conferences and many visits.

 

Based on material from the Museum

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