Days and Lives

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: Nina Pavlovna Aminova

Nina Pavlovna Aminova was a laboratory worker at a synthetic rubber plant in Yaroslavl when she was arrested in 1953 for criticizing Joseph Stalin and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky in a conversation with coworkers. As a political prisoner, she was sent to Sheksninskii camp in Volgograd in 1953 where she worked at a sewing factory. She was released in 1955 and fully rehabilitated in 1957. She returned to the same plant, got married and raised a son. Nina Pavlovna took part in “Popular Front” and “Memorial” movements and wrote poetry, including a poem which summarizes her experience in the camps.

Begin the Exhibit