Bericht von Alexander Sokurov über seinen Besuch in der Gedenkstätte Perm 36

Es folgt die englische Übersetzung des Berichts. Das Original finden Sie hier.


On the 10th May, the world-famous director Alexander Sokurov visited the «Perm 36» Museum. After an excursion, he spoke to journalists about his impressions and about why he thinks it important to preserve this museum space for present and future generations.

I’ve been to different museums in many different countries of the world. I’m probably even more of an advocate of museums than cinema because I believe that they are an absolutely fundamental phenomenon for national culture and a phenomenon which goes beyond politics. This is that very sphere of activity to which Russia is most predisposed to.

I’ve had occasion to work in various museums and archives from Japan to Latin America. Museums and archives in the Soviet Union and Russia work on an extremely high level. We have an excellent foundation of professional experience. In this respect we don’t to envy the West in this respect. Recently I worked at the Louvre and must say that I was very disillusioned.
That which we see today is so unique and so unparalleled, that it’s hard to comment. On the one hand, it’s very challenging on an ethical level to walk through this territory and through this museum, you’re constantly feeling guilty for this sense of being a voyeur, for this is a place where people were tormented. On the other hand, they are terribly important illuminating lessons for people and society which tends to forget and to exaggerate its own accomplishments and victories.

Whatever my own appraisal, undoubtedly a subjective one, it appears that the decision to preserve the museum was the only correct one. Soviet practices have not disappeared, it is still as if we live in the same country. Occasionally I visit courts and prisons as part of my public duties, and in the Soviet times I would also have occasion to visit prison colonies. To be honest, I don’t see any difference between that which is shown here at Perm 36 and that which happens today in prison.

The place is simply too raw to be called a museum. One needs to find a new definition. I’ve been to Auschwitz, and it, like Perm 36, can’t be called a museum. It is something else, something which our culture can’t find a definition for yet.

With all the possible different interpretations and all different points of view, the main thing is this location…above all, it needs to be preserved. It needs to survive and then with the combined efforts of those who are able to conceptualize the museum practices and bring them to fruition on a serious level, and think to conceive how this can be done so the place serves as a lesson for the whole nation.

This location is a very Russian one. All this lager history is Russian history. Generally speaking, it speaks of our shame and our immense guilt before 20th Century civilization for that which happened and which persists. This is what we have not lived through, not mourned, not reflected about and has not been absolved.

One would like this location to be fuller of the world of objects. Each thing preserves in itself a kind of aura. The sense doesn’t leave the object. This world of objects is lacking as I see it. After all, for us, what is most important is that the habit of reciprocal torment, a horrible disease of our Russian traditions, this abuse of people and heartlessness, isn’t transmitted to the young generation which is entering into a period of terrifying political struggle.

An immense amount of people once again are ready to become jailers, ready once again to repeat the division of our country into two. There is an uncontrolled anger coming from the people and now there is little in common between them. Many young people are entering the social and political space. They won’t start to enter into details when they’re being suppressed by the full force of erroneous laws. This turmoil will reach you here too; not only St Petersburg and Moscow will be in its grip. But I’m afraid that it will arrive in a more ruthless form and all this will cease being a museum and will be used for its intended purpose.


The creation of the «Gulag Archipelago» and the composition of literary works can not stifle this hydra alone. It can be eliminated only by pursuing it step by step in a detailed and even obsessive way. This system needs to be described and mention should be made of all those who were involved from both sides of the barricades.

The situation of Perm and Perm Region reflects the general mood of the country, and so the need for this museum is evident. If you don’t need it here, then we, as the Russian Federation, our national consciousness does need this place.

We need it as a sign of memory of those who suffered torments here, who suffered here, who ended their days here and experienced cruelty and abuse. This has stopped becoming just your thorn in the flesh, your problem. It has become Russia’s problem, at least that part of the country which is not indifferent regarding the life of Russian people. Some of us care about these things. You here in Perm let your colleagues, your readers know that we are not all indifferent. You are part of the Russian world and Russian history with new young governor and not a distant province.


Similar places have long ago set up house in your lands, on the shores of your wonderful rivers and lakes. For a long time now those lagers have been drinking blood. Don’t let people forget this. Gather together, keep your strength, defend it, don’t let people overwhelm you in the daily routine: don’t let them trash this issue with words, demagoguery, foolishness and speculation.


Translated by Giuliano Vivaldi