Become prisoner by choice

Not for the fainthearted, one of Stalin’s notorious labor camps in Siberia has once more opened its doors.

­The open-air facility in Russia’s Kemerovo region offers visitors a firsthand experience of the terrifying conditions in the Gulag.

Those opting for maximum authenticity can put on inmates’ uniforms, get a prison tattoo and spend several hours locked up in a cell.

The tattoo is temporary, but visitors’ impressions of this unusual museum are likely to last. Experiencing the daily routine of a Soviet labor camp firsthand has probably never been brought so close, with barbed wire, barracks and security control towers surrounding the complex.  Visitors can be taken to the camp head’s office, and see what prisoners used to eat.

The creators of the museum tried to restore just one small part of the gigantic Gulag structure that existed in the USSR back in the 1930s-1950s.

What it looked like can be seen from the rare photographs and archive papers on show here.

Up to 14 million people passed through the Gulag camps from 1929 to 1953, over one million prisoners died.

One of the most poignant personal reports telling the world of the horrors of the Soviet police state and Stalin’s prison camps is The Gulag Archipelago. The author, Nobel Prize-winning writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, spent eight years in labor camps.

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