04/20/2014 03:07 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Gulag-Themed Holidays Are All the Rage in Sunny Siberia


The Siberian Times reports  that the latest travel fad is "Gulag Tourism." Gulags if you remember from 12th grade history, were Soviet-era forced labor camps. They were in existence from the 1930s until 1960. Criminals and political prisoners were forced into the camps as a result of the USSR's repressive judicial system. Between 1929 and 1953, it's estimated that 14 million people were prisoners.

Here's a map of gulag locations:


Yekaterina Kormilitsyna, Regional Tourist Chief of Yakutia, has announced a new initiative to get tourists to visit Sakha Republic, the largest region in the Russian Federation. According to Kormilitsyna: "Today the gulag has every chance of attracting tourists. This project will preserve the historical heritage not only of the region, but of the entire country."

While contentious, many Russian and foreign visitors to the Sakha Republic are keen to visit not only the notorious Road of Bones, the Kolyma Highway, constructed by political prisoners from Stalin's repressions, but also the derelict gulag camps as well. In this sense, the idea of tourist camps is fulfilling a demand while also giving an opportunity to educate visitors about a dark chapter in the country's history. 

The idea to send busloads of tourists to the former forced labor camps has been met with a chilly reception by families who have lost loved ones and relatives in the camps over the years. However, so-called "dark tourism" has been on the rise in recent decades and there's clearly a market for it. 

Photos via Sakha News.