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: Anna Larina

Some prisoners were arrested simply on the basis of their associations with other people. Anna Larina was arrested in 1937 as the wife of an “enemy of the people.” Her husband, Nikolai Bukharin had been one of the highest ranking Communist leaders in the Soviet Union and one of the competitors for power after Lenin’s death. Stalin gradually shoved Bukharin aside until having him arrested in 1937, subjected to one of the great Moscow “show trials” and executed. Anna Larina was also arrested and remained in the Gulag system until the mid-1950s.

Begin the Exhibit