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Vacation in a gulag: are you ready for the ultimate Siberian holiday?

By The Siberian Times reporter
27 March 2014

Tourist camps to be built at Stalinist camps where millions perished in the Soviet era, under new plan.

'it is insulting to the hundreds of thousands people, families who lost their relatives in these camps'. Picture: Sakha news

The controversial scheme comes from the regional tourist department in the Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, the largest region in the Russian Federation. 

Famous for diamonds and gulags, the first has produced untold wealth for the country, and now the second maybe an earner too. Regional tourism chief Yekaterina Kormilitsyna said: 'Today the gulag has every chance of attracting tourists. This project will preserve the historical heritage not only of the region, but of the entire country.' 

While contentious, many Russian and foreign visitors to the Sakha Republic are keen to visit not only the notorious Road of Bones, the Kolyma Highway, constructed by political prisoners from Stalin's repressions, but also the derelict gulag camps as well. In this sense, the idea of tourist camps is fulfilling a demand while also giving an opportunity to educate visitors about a dark chapter in the country's history. 

Nadezhda Kladkina-Klysheyko, head of the administration in remote Topolinoye, urged a go-ahead for the plan of turning defunct labour camps into modern-day attractions for visitors. A brainstorming session urged tourist ventures based at Senduchenskiy camp and several other sites.

But the idea has been attacked by human rights group Memorial and some media with complaints that 'it is insulting to the hundreds of thousands people, families who lost their relatives in these camps'.

Vacation in a gulag: are you ready for the ultimate Siberian holiday?

'Thousands perished during construction of a highway that now links Yakutsk to Magadan on the Russian Pacific coast'. Picture: Sakha news

Co-chairman of Memorial Yan Rachinsky said: 'The idea of commercial approach makes me slightly dumbfounded since first and foremost this is a memorial, in the same way that one cannot  imagine commercial usage of Auschwitz or Babiy Yar - even though naturally these places bring interest from tourists.'

He stressed: 'I cannot imagine the camps becoming areas of mass tourism. Perhaps it does make sense if some tours have visits to these camps sites as a part of their programmes, if they can make it tactful.'

The fear is that a commercial rather than education use could overstep a line about what is acceptable. He expressed concern too about creating a 'pseudo-historical fiction' and a 'false sense of what happened'.

He was quoted saying: 'It's not right. It's the same as a German concentration camp becoming a calling card for Germany.'

The name gulag derives from GULAG, an acronym for the Soviet organisation administering the network of prison camps established by Stalin. Writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn helped raise worldwide awareness of the horrors of the camps in books like The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Comments (5)

Noi che abbiamo il problema della sovrapopolazione delle carceri potremmo risolverlo in questo modo, una minoranza di delinquenti e criminali tiene in scacco un'intera società, spacciatori, violenti, ladri e mafiosi di ogni livello vorrei fossero mandati a quelle latitudini per riflettere sui loro misfatti.
leandro carra, italia
05/04/2014 05:04
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do museums and memory centres there; this is a part of the history that mustn't be forgotten, for the sake of people living now and the future generations
Anna, Estonia
31/03/2014 14:15
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Incredulous,inappropiate and entirely unnecessary. Dismiss this concept of tourist campsites at these "Infamous Gulags" where so much inhumanity was practiced on so many human- beings. Yes, all these sites of past human misery must be available to tourist but only to those visitors who are willing to travel a few kilometres out off their way. With so many beautiful scenic areas for Caravan Parks and Campsites throughout Siberia,why campsites need to be built next to these past "Barbwire Confinements of Political Freedom "is simply mind boggling. My guess is that these decision makers have never travelled through Siberia,or done any serious research regarding the numerous magnificent lakes,valleys and forest that often sidle the main siberian highway . Definitely need to "Lock-up" the initiators of such a scheme to protect them from themselves. Patrick.
Patrick Travers, Perth Australia
29/03/2014 19:31
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Incredulous,inappropiate and entirely unnecessary. Dismiss this concept of tourist campsites at these "Infamous Gulags" where so much inhumanity was practiced on so many human- beings.
Yes, all these sites of past human misery must be available to tourist but only to those visitors who are willing to travel a few kilometres out off their way.
With so many beautiful scenic areas for Caravan Parks and Campsites throughout Siberia,why campsites need to be built next to these past "Barbwire Confinements of Political Freedom "is simply mind boggling.
My guess is that these decision makers have never travelled through Siberia,or done any serious research regarding the numerous magnificent lakes,valleys and forest that often sidle the main siberian highway .
Definitely need to "Lock-up" the initiators of such a scheme to protect them from themselves.
Patrick.
Patrick Travers, Perth Australia
29/03/2014 19:30
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I think people should organise museums/memorials with as much information, photographic and video and other evidences as possible so that the knowledge about people that died there and about those times was preserves for next generations.

I myself would definitely pay to go on such trip and I would bring my children with me.
Marika, USA
27/03/2014 22:23
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