Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives presents an in-depth look at life in the Gulag through exhibits featuring original documentaries and prisoner voices; an archive filled with documents and images; and teaching and bibliographic resources that encourage further study. Visitors also are encouraged to reflect and share their thoughts about the Gulag system.
Soviet citizens during Stalin's reign lived in constant fear of arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment. Once arrested, the accused had no rights to protest their incarceration and no access to a fair trial. Prisoners were either sentenced to death or to years of hard labor in the Gulag.
Prisoners performed back-breaking physical labor in inhospitable climates and received food rations that barely sustained their nutritional needs. Work defined life in the Gulag, but some prisoners occasionally found ways to avoid the hardest labor which gave them some feeling of control over their difficult situation.
Gulag prisoners suffered from terrible living and working conditions in the Gulag. They froze in poorly heated barracks after working in sub-freezing temperatures; battled against hunger; and suffered from treatment that stole their dignity.
The atrocities of working and living conditions in the camps went unnoticed as Soviet authorities promoted the Gulag as a progressive educational prison system to the general populace and prisoners. Posters displayed at the camps reinforced labor—at whatever cost—as a heroic and honorable contribution to the state.