The Museum’s mission is telling about mass repression thus motivating people to reflect on the value of human life.
The Museum collects and studies materials from state and family archives as well as recollections of participants of events and things that belonged to them and items found in the former camp locations.
The Museum’s permanent exposition shows the stages of the punitive system formation in 1918-1956 and the way it influenced people’s lives. Temporary exhibitions help immerse visitors in certain historical episodes and reflect thoroughly on the phenomenon of mass repression.
Museum’s educational programs and publications help understand complex historical events, theater productions and creative events provide emotional experience related to the topic, and discussions help people form their attitude towards mass repression.
The Museum suggests supporting victims of mass repression, getting to know your family history, and sharing your knowledge to keep the memory for future generations.
The Museum was established in 2001 by Anton V. Antonov-Ovseyenko, a prominent historian, publicist, and public figure who endured imprisonment in Stalin’s camps as a son of an “enemy of the people.” The founder of the Museum is the Moscow Department of Culture. In 2004, the first exposition was presented in the building on Petrovka Street. In 2012, Roman Vladimirovich Romanov was appointed the director of the Museum.
The Museum opened its first exposition in 2004 in the halls of the building in Petrovka Street. A part of this exposition reconstructed the details of the daily life in a camp showing fragments of a barrack for prisoners, solitary confinement, and inner court watchtower. The main exhibition space took only 100 square meters.
In 2012, according to the Decision of the Moscow City Government, the Museum got a new building in the 1st Samotyochny Lane. It had 4 times more floor space than all the museum buildings in Petrovka Street. It took two years to implement the massive reconstruction and re-equipment that fulfilled the Museum's needs. The first exposition in the new building opened on 30 October 2015.
The building was constructed in 1906 by the architect Nikolay Ivanovich Zherikhov. For more than a hundred years, this building provided apartments for rent, then it had communal flats, a dormitory and a car repair shop in it. Its windows witnessed bombardments, the construction of the metro, and the growth of several generations of Moscow families. In the 1990s, the building happened to be deserted.
The restoration of the main façade facing the 1st Samotyochny lane recovered its former historical appearance. The other three facades are lined with copper which darkens slowly due to oxidizing and patinating affected by precipitation.
The opening of the permanent exposition called “The GULAG in People’s Lives and the National History” happened on 10 December 2018 on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.