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: Galina Ivanovna Levinson

Galina Levinson was born in Moscow to a Jewish father and a Russian mother. She was a student at the Kuibyshev Institute for Engineering and Construction when she was arrested as the wife of an enemy of the people. Her husband was friends with Stepan Radomyslenskii, a son of an important party official Zinoviev, who became a target of public political prosecution in 1936. In 1937 she was sent to Temnikovskii camp in Mordovia. Her term officially ended in 1942, but because of the war she was required to work at the camp as a "free employee" until 1946.

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