How to Transmit the Experience of the Gulag by Means of Historical Exhibition: The Right of Correspondence in Memorial Society in Moscow

Sofia Tchouikina


In contemporary Russia, nongovernmental organizations are in charge of the museification of the former Gulag camps and of the commemoration of the victims of Soviet-era repressions, while the state’s action in this sphere is barely present. The exhibition The Right of Correspondence is organized by the International Memorial Civil Rights Society in Moscow. It is devoted to the communication of Soviet political prisoners with their relatives and friends in the 1920s–1980s. The uniqueness of the exhibits is attested by the fact that they were kept in family archives during the Soviet period and then were donated by the families to Memorial. The first part of the exhibition is devoted to the camps of the 1920s and to Stalin’s Gulag (1930–1956), the second part to imprisoned dissidents of the post-Stalin period (1956–1986). This essay analyzes the contribution of this exhibition to contemporary historical and sociological discussions about the Gulag. The organization of the correspondence shows the dysfunctions of the Soviet penitentiary system. It also brings to light the long-term influence of the Gulag on the lives of the families of political prisoners and on society at large. The message of the exhibition is different from the dominant trend of the politics of history in contemporary Russia, which is increasingly normalizing the Stalinist period. In Russian.


Politics of History in Russia; Historical Exhibition; Gulag; Letters from the Gulag; Political Prisoners in the USSR; Mass Repressions in the USSR; Soviet Dissidents

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