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.
“We decided to make these panoramic pictures, like Google Street View, in these abandoned camps in the deep Taiga.
“This is the result of our last expedition, which took place in September this year.”
What were the conditions like in Siberia when you were taking these photos?
“The conditions were quite hard. The first days, at the beginning of September, it was very hot and there were a lot of mosquitoes, which was horrible. It was almost impossible to take pictures and document these camps, because there were so many mosquitoes and flies.
“Then in one week the weather completely changed and winter began. It was below zero degrees, it was snowing and it was very cold.”
Is there a strong Czech connection to the Gulag camps in Siberia?
“This is the topic of Czechoslovak citizens in the Gulag. Because around 30,000 Czechoslovak citizens were repressed in the Soviet Union in Gulag camps.
“We would like to use this virtual tour of the Gulag, or virtual museum of the Gulag, which we’ve made to show and to present this subject of Czechoslovak citizens in the Gualg.
“And not only Czechoslovaks. We also cooperate with partner organisations in Poland, Hungary and the Slovak Republic. This project we call Central European Memory of the Gulag, and it’s supported by the Visegrad Fund.”
Is the current version of your website, which you’ve just launched with the panoramic photos, the final form of the site?
“No, it is not the final version – it is like a demo version, it’s the first version of the project.
“We are going to make it bigger and bigger. We would like to add more information and more panoramic pictures.
“Also we would like to connect these panoramic views to the projects which I spoke about, and to connect it with for example recordings of witnesses or former prisoners of the Gulag – to connect it with their testimonies, for example.”
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