The permanent exhibition The GULAG in People’s Lives and the National History is the first in-depth representation of the history of the repressive system in the USSR in the 1920-1950s starting from the first concentration camps and until the closure of camps after the Stalin’s death.
The exhibition shows the Solovetsky Special Designation Camp (Solovki) as a prototype for the system of corrective-labor camps and the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal (Belomorkanal) as the first mass use of the forced labor. Moreover, it shows the exponential development of the NKVD.
Some halls are dedicated to work, life, and death in camps; they show the everyday life of prisoners and their survival strategies. In addition, the Museum exhibition illuminates issues implicitly related to the GULAG, for instance, the Great Terror and forced deportations.
The exhibition tells about fates of children during the times of the repression – those whose parents were executed by shooting or sent to camps and those who found themselves behind barbed wire got under tremendous pressure from both their peers and staff members in children's institutions.
Being a part of the exhibition, the GULAG interactive map provides a view on the geography of the GULAG. This map enables a visitor to trace the development of the whole system and each camp in time and space, and VR-technologies help us see the insides of the preserved camp infrastructure.
The exhibition approaches the GULAG history through the human perspective. In contrast to the official historical narrative presented through documents, statistics, and chronicles, here we see the personal lives of people who went through the repression. The interactive multimedia format creates the effect of involvement and enables a visitor to experience what witnesses of the epoch felt and experienced.
The actors participating in performances of the Theater of Nations provide voiced-overs of the stories of the repressed people: Chulpan Khamatova, Liya Akhedzhakova, Inna Churikova, Maksim Vitorgan, Yulia Peresild, Yevgeny Tkachuk, Avangard Leontyev, Andrey Smolyakov, Aleksandr Feklistov, Maria Shashlova, Anatoly Lobotsky, Igor Gordin, Aleksey Vertkov, and Ingeborga Dapkunaite. The People’s Actor of Russia and the Art Director of the Theater of Nations Yevgeny Mironov did the voice-over of the story by the former GULAG prisoner and the novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.