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: Eugenia Ginzburg

Eugenia Ginzburg and her husband were both Communist party officials living in Kazan with their two sons in 1937 when she was arrested for being a member of the party and for “participation in a Trotskyist terrorist counter-revolutionary group.” She never saw her husband or eldest son again. After years spent in prison and at several camps, including the notorious Kolyma, she was sent into exile at Magadan where she was reunited with her youngest son after twelve years of separation. Ginzburg was released from exile in 1955.

Begin the Exhibit