Excursion To A Former Gulag
Dolinka Travel Blog› entry 61 of 83 › view all entries
Zhandos and I met mid-morning and hopped a city bus to the bus station, where we caught another bus bound for the town of Shakhtinsk. About 25-30 kilometers outside of Karaganda, we came to a perpendicular intersection where we got out and waited for another bus to take us to Dolinka. Now a sleepy village in the steppe, Dolinka was home to KarLag, one of the largest concentration camps, or gulags, from Stalin's regime of political prisoners. The morning was cold and a thick frost covered everything from the tree branches to the pebbles on the side of the road. It added to the eerie atmosphere of the village.
The museum was about a block and a half from the road where we got off the bus, and was rather small.
We walked from the museum building to a large decaying building that had been the main administrative building for the camps in the area. Aside from the blue painted door, it gave a sinister impression. I asked if we could go in and although the guide responded that it was dangerous, we entered through the back and into the basement. There I got much more of a feel for the place. It was quite spooky to look down the dark, deserted hallways with crackling paint and debris along the corridors. Zhandos told me that one room was the location of where the commanders would make their sentences to the prisoners. I think the place gave him the creeps, and he was glad to get out. It was certainly a haunting experience, but I felt I needed more history to truly comprehend what happened here.
As we approached the bus stop after saying goodbye to our guide, I noticed a purple building across the street. We walked over and Zhandos told me it was a place where the prisoners would eat. In addition to its color, it certainly didn't fit in with the rest of the town's architecture and I suggested it should be included in the tour as well as any other buildings nearby that could have been associated with KarLag. Apparently all the structural remains of the actual camps or other buildings were either off-limits or destroyed. Overall, though, it was an interesting visit and I'm glad I stayed to get another perspective of the area.
Back in Karaganda, I had lunch at a cheap stolovoy, or canteen, and hung out in town. In the evening I met Zhandos's girlfriend and we talked for awhile.