Hotel of Gulag Officers, Medvezhyegorsk, Russia

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Hotel of Gulag Officers

Small, nondescript town of Medvezhyegorsk at the western edge of Russia was important for the first large-scale effort of forced labor in Gulag, the Belomorkanal. The idea of the long canal was to connect White Sea to Baltic Sea through lakes, and it was known as – you guessed it – Stalin Canal. Offices and accommodation for the higher officers of the BBLAG camp were situated in here, and the same building functioned also as a hotel for the guests of the construction site, for example Maxim Gorky. Building contained the best restaurant in Karelia, ballroom and sauna. It is said that on a clear day one could see from the tower  all the way to Povenets, more than 20 kilometres to the east, where the prisoners were building the canal. But the hotel had a dark secret under the surface. Over 20 000 people died at the poor conditions of the construction site. Now the building is mostly empty and stands as an unintended memorial for the injustices of forced labour of Gulag. Downstairs there is the museum of Medvezhyegorsk.

Two Tombstones, Vostochny, Inta, Russia

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Two Tombstones

At the Arctic region of Russia, west from the Ural mountains, lies a small town of Inta, built largerly on forced labour. Most of the inmates of the nearby Gulag camp that operated from the end of 1930s until 1957 were working in the mines or building the Pechora mainline railroad. Few kilometers to east from the center of Inta lies the ghost village of Vostochny, abandoned after the closure of the nearby brick factory. The graveyard of Vostochny is also more or less abandoned, although there are monuments to Latvian and Lithuanian victims of the Gulag. Otherwise, the tombs are dilapidated, like these two here, and  headstones have tumbled. Many former prisoners who survived the camp lived in the village, but because the graves are so decrepit, it’s impossible to who is buried here. Their memory has vanished.

NKVD Garage, Butovo, Russia.

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NKVD Garage

Near the former Butovo firing range, some thirty kilometers from central Moscow, stands a brick building that NKVD used as a garage. At the firing range more than 20 000 people, deemed as “enemies of the people”, were killed and buried during the Great Purges at the end of the 1930s. The area was sealed and guarded for many decades, and it was filled with trash to cover the traces. Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union preliminary excavations were made, and soon the orthodox church took the place over and made it a memorial cemetery for the Purges and the entire Gulag. The garage for the trucks that transported the bodies from the city to Butovo stands empty beside the shooting range.

Memorial Cross, Tomsk, Russia

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Memorial Cross

In the suburb of Kashtak-1 at Tomsk there is a beautifully situated cross that commemorates the people killed there during the Great Terror. At 1930s Kashtak was way out of the center of Tomsk and condemned people from Gulag transit camp and NKVD prison were brought there, killed and buried. Anyhow, already during Soviet era Tomsk grew near the area and builders began to find human bones on the construction site. After the collapse of the Soviet Union preliminary investigations revealed skulls with bullet holes in them. Comprehensive excavations were never made so nobody knows how many people NKVD executed & buried here, but estimations hover around 9000. The golden cross on a small ridge is only sign of them.