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: Olga Adamova-Sliozberg
Olga Adamova-Sliozberg was working as a labor economist at a ministry in Moscow when she was arrested in 1936, after the arrest of her husband, a professor of biology. As the wife of a political prisoner, she was sentenced to an eight-year prison term with strict isolation. After spending four months at Lubyanka she spent time at Solovki, Butyrka, Kasanskaya, and Vladimirskaya prisons, and was finally transferred to the Magadan camp in the Kolyma region. She was released in 1946 but then arrested again in 1949 and after spending time once more in Butyrka prison she was exiled to Karaganda. She was released from exile in 1954 and rehabilitated in 1956.