Days and Lives

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Days and Lives takes you inside the brutal system of forced labor concentration camps and the internal exile institution called the Gulag. Soviet authorities found the Gulag to be a useful tool in neutralizing, and often physically destroying, all real or imagined opposition to the Communist Party's dictatorship beginning in 1917. Since it also served as the main Soviet penal system, political prisoners were imprisoned with violent criminals. In the Stalin era, some 18 million people passed through the prisons and camps of the Gulag, and perhaps another 6 or 7 million were sent into exile. More than one and a half million prisoners died in the Gulag at the hands of their government. Even those who survived struggled to rebuild their lives when they were finally released.

In this exhibit, one former Gulag prisoner will accompany you through themed sections. Each section explores one piece of this brutal institution by presenting individual experiences, photographs, documentary films, and historical context to describe life in the Gulag.

Prisoner: Aleksandr Borin

Aleksandr Borin was born in a Jewish family in 1913. Before his arrest he worked as an airplane constructor and engineer. Borin was accused of participation in a counterrevolutionary terrorist organization. He was sent to a camp in Samara and then to a “sharaga” (the type of special scientific Gulag camp chronicled in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle) in Taganrog.

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