Are Urszula and the 18 million other prisoners who suffered in Stalin’s gulags being cleansed from Russian history and replaced by those fighting for independence in Eastern Ukraine? Recent events would suggest that this is what Putin is attempting.
Perm-36 situated in the Ural Mountains is the only surviving gulag which was opened as a museum. In the Stalin era it housed up to 3000 prisoners, but following closure it became a museum in 1996. Now the local authorities have taken back the site from the museum committee and removed all references to Stalin’s crimes. Viktor Shmyrov who was the director, says, “The new authorities have totally changed the content. Now it’s a museum about the camp system, but not about political prisoners. They don’t talk about the repressions or about Stalin.”
He continued, “The takeover by the Perm authorities is less about a rehabilitation of Stalin than a connection with the political situation in the country. We are already seeing the creation of a Stalinist-type state – enormous power is concentrated in the hands of one man. Under President Vladimir Putin there is no need now for repressions – the people have become obedient. The political system is returning to totalitarianism.”
On the other hand a new museum is opening in St. Petersburg dedicated to the nationalist Novorossiya project, the exploits of the pro-Russian separatist battalions in eastern Ukraine. These are based in Donbass and Lugansk.
The term “Novorossiya” is used to refer to territory near the Black Sea, which Russia seized from the Ottoman empire in the 18th century, and has been employed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to stir nationalist sentiments in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.