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: Alfred Martinovich Mirek

Alfred Mirek was arrested when he worked as an electrician in Moscow. He was sentenced to seven years in the camps. After some time in Lubianka and Butyrka prisons he spent two years, from 1942-1944, in Unzhlag working in the logging industry. After Mirek was released from the Unzhlag camp he returned to Moscow and was fully rehabilitated in 1956. In 1984 Mirek was again arrested and was incarcerated for another two years.

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