The Tomsk NKVD Prison Museum: Issues of the Memorialisation of Gulag
Keywords:prison; memorial museum; political repression; Gulag; Memorial
This article examines the history of the Tomsk Memorial NKVD Prison (a museum of the history of political repressions) in Siberia, located in the basement of the former parochial school that was converted into prison cells and used between 1923 and 1944 to keep thousands of repressed inhabitants from Tomsk and the surrounding region. Thousands were executed by shooting. The article concerns the activity of the Tomsk Memorial society, which has played a major role in the establishment of the museum and its further development in recent years. The author refers to materials from the Archive of the Shatilov Tomsk Regional Museum of Local Studies, media publications, electronic resources on the museum’s website, and data discovered during field research in Tomsk. The history of the museum demonstrates the role played by the favourable situation during Perestroika, which combined public demand and active participation of the authorities and even representatives of the Federal Penitentiary Service and KGB. In the post-Soviet period, the museum fell victim to financial problems that neither the authorities nor the employees of the museum have been able to solve. In addition to economic problems and problems with property documents, the museum has had to face the fact that the basement of the former prison was converted into flats after World War II. The loss of the prison interior made it very difficult to work on the exhibition. The public’s attitude to the museum needs to be analysed. It transpires that the former prison often attracts more interest from visitors than the exhibition about Soviet repressions and the Gulag. The study also compares the Tomsk Memorial NKVD Prison with similar memorial museums in other cities.
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