Lyal S

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July 18, 2019
Russia has a long, complex and fascinating history and if you happen to be in Perm, you can take the 2 hour drive to Perm 36, the last intact Gulag (Soviet forced labour camp) in the Russian Federation. It’s well worth the visit for anyone interested in Soviet political history, human rights and the conditions of detention of political prisoners who were often incarcerated together with common criminals.

Before travelling to Perm, I easily made an appointment with Evrasia Tourist Agency through e-mail. Evrasia’s guide, Alexander Shchepetkov, came to pick me up right on time at 10:00 a.m. on Monday 24 July 2019 at the Hotel in a comfortable airconditioned sedan. It took precisely 2 hours from my hotel in Perm to get to Kuchino, we spent precisely 2 hours there at Perm-36 Gulag, and took precisely 2 hours to drive back, for a 6-hour excursion. The natural scenery there and back is all forest, river and lakes.

Alexander is an excellent English speaker and, with a background in political geography, he has thoroughly immersed himself not only in the fascinating details of Perm-36, but also in the contextual historical conditions of the time. Eager to share information and perspectives, my 6-hour excursion with Alexander turned into more of a fascinating 6-hour excursus delving into the nuances of Soviet policy on political dissidents as well as Perm-36's significance in today’s Russia. Alexander is to be highly commended for the generosity of time, energy and spirit he demonstrates during the whole excursion. He not only guides you through this historical journey that began in 1943 with Perm-36's establishment (and earlier with Lenin’s creation of the Gulag system) until Perm-36 was closed in 1987, reopened in 1994 as the Museum of the History of Political Repression, but he enlightens you on the background and behaviour of both political prisoners and common criminals detained in Russia’s last standing Gulag.

Before going, it's good to read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn if you have not already read it in your youth.