New educational project shows students what life in Gulag was like
What was life like in the Gulag camps, how many of these camps were there in the Soviet Union, and how could a person end up in one? These are just some of the questions explored by a new educational project designed for primary and secondary school students. It was created by the organisation Gulag.cz and is now being tested in one of Prague’s schools.
Ninth graders in a primary school in Prague’s district of Karlín are discussing what they know about the Gulag camps, the infamous Soviet labour camps where approximately 1.6 million people died under the Stalin rule.
The discussion is part of a special educational project called Gulag RX, designed by the group Gulag.cz, which has been documenting the remains of camps in remote areas of Siberia for many years now. Petra Černoušková is in charge of the project:
“In the beginning there were expeditions to Siberia due to my husband’s long-time interest in Russia. We have been thinking for a very long time how to use all this information and then we realised that it could be put to a great use in schools.”
Since 2009, Petra Černoušková’s husband Štěpán has organised four expeditions to abandoned camps in Siberia. Based on their findings and experiences, they started to create a unique educational project, which would explain the horrors of Soviet repression.
“There are other research projects we have done, where we have sought out survivors and collected their memories, so we have stories of people from Poland, Slovakia, Germany, but also from Russia, because they are mainly concerned with this topic, and of course stories from Czechs.”
The project provides teachers with access to videos, virtual reality and a research diary with comics and augmented reality.
Thanks to Gulag RX, pupils are “transported” to a Soviet camp and see the harsh conditions in which the prisoners lived with their own eyes.
The full programme is designed as a day-long school project but teachers can also use only part of it within their regular lessons, says Mrs Černoušková:
“For example the teacher might use just the introductory 10-minute video about what the Gulag was, and then have a discussion with the children, developing the topic further. Or they might use one of the human interest stories from survivors and use it to explain the topic of Soviet repression.”
All schools will be able to use the Gulag XR project for free from the beginning of next year.