Czech and Slovak researchers have received a wealth of documents from the Russian authorities about the fates of thousands of Czechoslovak citizens imprisoned within the Soviet Union during and after the Second World War. The access only pertains to military archives, and involves around 38,000 Czechoslovak soldiers fighting on behalf of Nazi Germany – mostly ethnic Germans, Slovaks and Hungarians. I spoke with Adam Hradilek of Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, which received a copy of the documents this week, and began by asking
Historians from the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes have
gained access to several thousand documents from Russian archives relating
to Czech and Slovak soldiers fighting in exile who were interned in Soviet
gulags by the communist regime during WWII.
This is the first time that Moscow has released these sensitive documents for study outside Russian territory. They were acquired by Museum of the Slovak National Uprising which has given Czech historians access to them as well.
According to the head of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising Stanislav Mičev close to 70,000 Czechs and Slovaks were interned in Russia between 1941 and 1945, among them two generals and 159 lieutenants. Over 4,000 of them never came home.
Gulag.online is a freshly-launched interactive virtual museum of the infamous Soviet system of labour camps. The unique project comes from the group Gulag.cz, which documented the remains of camps in remotest Siberia and converted the results into maps and a 3D camp tour that are accompanied by the testimonies of Czechoslovak survivors. Gulag.cz is headed by Štěpán Černoušek, who worked at Radio Prague’s Russian section in the early 2000s. When we met, I asked Černoušek where his interest in all things Russian had come from.
Thursday sees the launch of the Gulag Online virtual museum created by the Czech association Gulag.cz. The group mapped abandoned Gulag camps in remote parts of Siberia on three expeditions and used the material gathered to create the internet museum, which includes a tour of a 3D Gulag camp, panoramic photographs and the testimonies of Czechoslovak survivors of the Soviets’ system of labour camps.
The Gulag Online Museum presenting a 3-D reconstruction and virtual tour of the former Soviet labour camp system will be launched by the Czech association Archipelago in March or April of 2016, its head Štepan Černoušek has told the Czech News Agency. The aim of the project is to allow internet users to learn more about the infamous system and specific sites on the internet. The organiser said that while most people knew the names of Nazi concentration camps, and that museums had been built at sites annually visited by hundred of thousands of people, the names of Gulag labour camps such as Pechora, Kolyma, Norilsk or Yermakovo were far less known. He added that no museum had been built at the locations so far.
Fascinating panoramic photos of abandoned Siberian Gulag camps have just appeared on the Czech website www.gulag.cz. The pictures were taken on the third trip deep into the Taiga by the association Gulag.cz and capture long overgrown labour camps along an uncompleted stretch of railway – a construction project that saw thousands of prisoners, including Czechs, die in appalling conditions. The founder of Gulag.cz, Štěpán Černoušek, explains the thinking behind the unique virtual tour.
A documentary drama on a notorious Communist-era state prosecutor and judge is set for general release in the Czech Republic next week. Murderer by Profession: The Suffering of Karel Vaš features a rare interview with Vaš, who was a key player in some of Czechoslovakia’s notorious show trials of the early Communist period and died last year at the age of 96. Among his best-known victims was war hero General Helidor Píka, whose intercession with the Soviet authorities to have Czechoslovak soldiers freed during WWII may well have saved the life of Vaš, who was being held in a Gulag camp. The film is largely the work of historian Pavel Paleček, who wrote, co-directed and produced it. Its makers say they plan to screen the film at schools and to have it shown at festivals.
A short ceremony was held in Prague on Friday morning to commemorate the thousands of Russian émigrés who were illegally abducted by the Soviet secret police at the close of World War Two. The abductions began as soon as the Red Army began to liberate Czechoslovakia in 1944, and continued long after the Soviets arrived in Prague in May 1945. It's one of the most mysterious chapters in Czechoslovakia's 20th century history, but their fate has not been forgotten.