Russian Gulag museum forced to shut by authorities

MOSCOW (AFP).- A Russian museum dedicated to the Gulag has been forced to close, its director said Friday, in the latest case of authorities putting pressure on those researching the Soviet-era camps.

«We no longer have access to the museum, and yesterday there was an attempt to seize the exhibits, probably at the request of the town hall,» Nikolai Arakcheyev, director of the institute in Yoshkar-Ola, western Russia, told AFP.

A source in the local culture ministry told AFP on condition of anonymity that the building had been closed because it was in a state of disrepair and was «a danger to visitors».

The ministry was not immediately able to provide a comment on the record.

The director of the museum rejected the idea the building was dangerous and said only the roof needed repairs.

Arakcheyev, a former soldier, worked for several years in the local branch of the NGO Memorial, which specialises in human rights and Soviet-era repression.

For decades he has been trying to find and catalogue the remains of victims of Stalinist repressions in nearby forests, where they were shot in the hundreds.
Arakcheyev said his activities angered local authorities.

«They want to destroy the museum, which is a source of historical truth and freedom,» he said.

This month, Yury Dmitriyev, a respected Russian historian who has also researched Stalin-era mass graves, was charged with sexual assault following an earlier acquittal on similar charges.

He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In June, a Russian researcher said he had discovered Moscow ordered the destruction of prison records including some relating to the Soviet Gulag, after he submitted a request for archive material.

Under President Vladimir Putin, a former spy, Russian authorities have moved to downplay the horrors of Soviet imprisonment of millions, including political dissidents in prison camps.

PHOTO: In this file photo a visitor examines the multimedia displays showing Stalin’s funeral, during the opening ceremony of a museum dedicated to the Soviet Gulag labour camp system, on the National Day commemorating the victims of Stalin-era repression on October 30, 2015 in Moscow. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV.

FOTO:En esta foto de archivo, un visitante examina las pantallas multimedia que muestran el funeral de Stalin durante la ceremonia de inauguración de un museo dedicado al sistema de campos de trabajo forzado del Gulag soviético, en el Día Nacional conmemorativo de las víctimas de la represión de la era de Stalin el 30 de octubre de 2015 en Moscú. AFP PHOTO / VASILY MAXIMOV.gulag-2

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